Showing posts with label Rand Paul. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rand Paul. Show all posts

Friday, July 3, 2015

Kentucky Republicans Aiming for Early March, Proportional Caucuses

It still has to pass the Kentucky Republican State Central Committee, but the plan to switch the delegate selection process from a primary to caucuses for 2016 is taking shape in the Bluegrass state. Tom Loftus at the Louisville Courier-Journal has the latest on the special state party committee's efforts:
And planning for the caucus goes on. The head of the special committee, Scott Lasley, a political science professor and chairman of the Warren County Republican Party, said the plan will likely schedule the caucus for a Saturday or a Tuesday in early March.  
Lasley said delegates will be allocated proportional to the vote received by the candidate — it will not be winner take all.
Though the caucus switch is at least partially intended to help out home state candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, the cost of the switch -- $500,000 to $1.2 million from state party coffers -- and the logistics of the caucus voting make the outlook for the late August State Central Committee vote on the change less than 100%.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

On Rand Paul, the Republican Presidential Nomination and Delegate Selection Rules

Jim Rutenberg has a look in today's New York Times Magazine at one advantage the Rand Paul campaign may have in a protracted race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination: its knowledge of and ability to strategize about the Republican National Committee's intricate delegate selection rules. As Rutenberg describes it in one segment:
The process by which presidential candidates are nominated is, at its most basic level, a race toward a magic number of party delegates — in the Republican Party’s case, 1,235 required to win — amassed state by state and, in some cases, congressional district by congressional district. Getting them depends not only on the speechifying, door-to-door vote-hunting and million-dollar ad buys we associate with campaigning, but also on a bewildering array of procedural minutia: obscure national bylaws that overlay a mind-bending patchwork of local rules that can vary drastically from state to state, some of which award delegates not based on votes received in primary elections but on back-room wrangling at local party conventions and meetings that take place weeks or even months after votes are cast.
FHQ has a few thoughts on this and Rand Paul campaign strategizing in general. First, as Rutenberg points out later in the article, the RNC has tightened its rules since 2012. The objective was to cut down in 2016 on some of (what the national party viewed as) the shenanigans the Ron Paul campaign and its supporters pulled in the last campaign. This affects three areas of the nomination process for the 2016 cycle. First, there are no more non-binding caucuses. Any statewide presidential preference vote -- like a vote at precinct caucuses -- now has to guide the delegate allocation in states like Iowa or Minnesota or Maine (among others).1 That means that even if there is "back-room wrangling at local party conventions and meetings" later in the course of the caucuses/convention sequence, it will only affect who a delegate is, not to whom that delegate is bound. The preferences expressed in the first, statewide step -- the precinct caucuses -- is the one that guides subsequent steps. While the selection of delegates is still open in district conventions and at the state convention, the allocation part is mostly done after that first step. [FHQ will revisit that "mostly" momentarily.]

To make sure that the binds created during the primary or first step caucuses phase stick, the RNC also altered the process voting on the nomination at the convention. These are the other two ways in which the national party tightened its rules for 2016. First, even if a delegate bound to, say, Mitt Romney preferred Ron Paul, said delegate could not vote for Ron Paul at the convention in 2016. Rule 16(a)(2) directs the secretary of the (national) convention to "faithfully announce and record each delegate's vote in accordance with the delegate's obligation under these rules, state law or state party rules." If a candidate is bound, then, the secretary of the convention will recognize the binding rather than the delegate's preference if there is a conflict. What happens in those precinct caucuses is the guide.

That rules change is further buttressed by the increased threshold a candidate must meet to have his or her name placed in nomination. According to Rule 40, a candidate must in 2016 control delegations from eight states rather than the five that were required in 2012 to be formally nominated.

Together, those three changes makes any "wrangling" less meaningful when it comes to the nomination part of the national convention. Delegates can also affect planks on the platform and other party business, but the nomination is the big ticket item for the convention. And the RNC has closed a number of loopholes.

FHQ spoke with Rutenberg about this story, and we raised and discussed the change that closed off the non-binding caucuses loophole. One other factor we also chatted about that did not make the article was what would happens when candidates who have won some delegates withdraw from the race. What happens to those delegates? Would they become a set of free agent delegates possibly circumventing the prohibition on non-binding caucuses through a side door? The quick answer is yes in theory. However, there is a bit of nuance to this. Here is where that "mostly" from before reenters the discussion.

The interesting thing is that states and Republican state parties have in some cases been reading that change to the binding rules quite literally. That is why Iowa Republicans were concerned about the Ames Straw Poll. There was some worry that that would qualify as the first, statewide vote and thus delegates would have to be bound based on its results. Other comments from people within state parties have seemingly indicated that the thinking is delegates are bound based on the results of the primary or caucuses period. That there are no exceptions even for the delegates bound to candidates no longer in the race in April, much less at the July convention. In other words, if Carly Fiorina were to win delegates in Iowa but withdrew after the SEC primary on March 1, those Iowa delegates would still be bound to her at the national convention. FHQ does not read the RNC rules that way, and I'm willing to bet that Rand Paul and his campaign are not either. That is particularly true if Fiorina in this example were to release her Iowa delegates. They would become free agent delegate slots.

All of this does seem to open the door to some wild possibilities. On the one hand, non-binding caucuses are out, but on the other 2016 offers this supposedly wide open race for the Republican nomination. That means all those candidates could win some delegates and that even if some of those candidates withdraw, their delegates could be meaningful in helping to champion a candidate who does not hold the delegate lead based on the delegates he or she won alone. To make this clearer, Rand Paul, for instance, could wrangle to control those released delegate slots in the same district and state conventions his father's campaign exploited in 2012 to overcome a 2016 deficit in the delegate count to hypothetical leader, Jeb Bush. I mean, come on. This sounds like a dream come true for the three of us rules nerds out there wandering the wilderness, fingers crossed, hoping for just such a scenario.

Yet, here comes FHQ to throw some cold water on that notion. All this does is raise the importance of the delegate rules at both the state and national level. And it is those very rules that are very likely to limit the number of delegates who are free agents in the first place. The total number of delegate slots allocated to one candidate but filled after released in the selection process by a delegate aligned with another candidate is likely to be small. Just how small depends on a couple of factors.

First, it bears repeating that the earliest states -- carve-outs excluded -- have to allocate their delegates to candidates in a proportional manner. That said, part of the proportionality rules allow state parties to set a minimum threshold of the vote that a candidate must receive in order to be allocated any delegates at the congressional district or statewide level. That threshold can be set as high as 20% (Rule 16(c)(3)(i)). 20% is a high bar in a multi-candidate race. That means that losing candidates -- already more likely to withdraw -- are even less likely to win any delegate slots that can be exploited by other surviving candidates down the road in the process.

Secondly, the field is going to winnow the deeper the nomination process gets into the calendar. Those candidates most likely to drop out are the candidates who may be shut out of delegates within the proportionality window (March 1-14; again, the carve-outs are excluded). That means that a significantly winnowed field (two or maybe three viable candidates if history is our guide) and the end of the proportionality window are going to hit nearly simultaneously. And that translates to there likely being many fewer released delegate slots to sweep up from the beginning stages of the race.

There may be some free agent delegates in the 2016 Republican nomination process, but they are likely to be more like John Edwards' delegates in the 2008 Democratic nomination race: free to choose from among the remaining candidates but very unlikely to be decisive. Chaos could happen, but history (with an admittedly small N) and the rules suggest otherwise.

And if chaos does occur, I hope those 2012 Santorum folks now on Rand Paul's 2016 team don't count delegates like this.

1 Minnesota Republicans are in pursuit of a waiver from the Republican National Committee to continue the caucuses/convention practice as they have in the past.

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Kentucky Republicans Support Move to 2016 Presidential Caucuses

On Saturday, March 7 the Republican Party of Kentucky Executive Committee met and voted unanimously in favor of switching from a presidential primary to a caucuses/convention system in 2016.

The shift was requested by US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to accommodate his potential simultaneous runs for renomination to the Senate seat he now holds and for the Republican presidential nomination. Kentucky law prevents a candidate from appearing on a ballot more than once. Trading the May presidential primary for separate caucuses was the easiest path to circumventing that law, allowing the concurrent runs for both offices. Sen. Paul now avoids having to go through the courts to challenge the law or attempting to exploit more intricate possibilities.

The exact date of the caucuses is not known at this point. The Kentucky Republican Party Executive Committee was voting on just the switch in delegate selection mode and not the rules that will govern the caucuses. That change will come later at the August meeting of the full Kentucky Republican Party Central Committee following a 13 member caucus-planning panel.

That said, the Republican Party of Kentucky holds precinct caucuses during the month of March in presidential election years as a part of the party's state convention process. See Rule 5.03:
5.03. Precinct Committee Elections: The Precinct shall be the basic organizational unit of the Republican Party of Kentucky.
(a) Timing of Elections: In the year in which the President of the United States shall be elected, all precincts shall hold elections for Party office not earlier than March 1 and not later than March 31. Each County Committee shall provide written notice to State Republican Headquarters on or before the second Friday in January of the date, time and location of such elections. Any County Committee that fails to submit said notice by the deadline established in this rule shall hold said elections on the third Saturday in March beginning at 10 AM local time at a location approved by the County Committee and submitted to the State Republican Headquarters on or before January 31. Failure to submit written notice as provided in this rule mandates that the Executive Committee of the RSCC implement a mechanism for Precinct Committee elections. [Emphasis FHQ's] 
Whether there will be a uniform date for precinct caucuses or if the rules will be altered to affect such a change remains to be seen. This does mark the first time since the 2000 presidential election cycle that Kentucky Republicans have opted for a caucuses/convention system in lieu of the May primary. Kentucky Democrats made a similar move in 1984.

UPDATE: More on the vote from the AP's Adam Beam.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rand Paul's 2016 Ballot Options in Kentucky

It warms FHQ's heart every time there are attempts made to find a workaround for the ballot issues Rand Paul faces in Kentucky next year. Josh Voorhees from Slate is the latest to volunteer his assistance to Paul 2016 (both for president and Senate). The thing about these pieces when they periodically pop up is that they either way over-complicate matters or miss pretty obvious alternative routes for the junior senator from Kentucky to take in running for two offices in 2016.

There are two parts to this, primary and general election. And there are different issues attendant to working around the "name can't appear more than once on a ballot" problem that are specific to each phase.

Let's look at the primary phase first.

In a perfect world -- from the Paul camp's perspective -- the Kentucky state legislature would pass legislation to create a separate presidential primary and move that election up to an earlier point on the primary calendar. That way, the senator would not appear on the consolidated primary ballot twice. However, Democrats in the Bluegrass state weathered the 2014 storm and managed to hold the Kentucky state House. Additionally, majority Democrats in the House subsequently balked at the idea of creating and funding a separate presidential primary just to benefit Senator Paul's political ambitions.

Given that partisan stalemate, what options are available to a dual Paul candidacy in 2016?1

The quickest, easiest fix is the one that Rand Paul was talking about on election night 2014. If the presidential primary cannot be separated from the other primaries, then Kentucky Republicans could simply shift the mode of delegate allocation from a primary to caucuses. That may be the best outcome for Senator Paul, but it may not be ideal to Kentucky Republicans who want to see the nomination process opened up to a broader Republican electorate.

Again, that's the easiest route, but let's assume that there are enough people against a primary-to-caucuses shift on the Kentucky Republican State Central Committee to block this move. All's lost, right? No. As Voorhees points out, Rand Paul could just sit the May Kentucky primary out and play the presidential nomination game in all the other states. He could, but that would be a rather strange, if not ridiculous, path to take. That strikes FHQ as a last, last resort, ranking after even the court challenges options.

Let's think about this for a second. It seems to FHQ that it was all the rage in late 2011, and my god, stretching into primary season in 2012, to devise some way for a Republican candidate not in the then in the race to enter, challenge the sure-to-falter/moderate Mitt Romney and win the nomination at the convention.2 But some of those lessons apply here.

One thing that FHQ has not seen discussed in the context of this Paul/ballot problem is the possibility of a write-in campaign during the primary. Its absence from the discussion may be for good reason: Kentucky law prohibits it. No candidate who is on the ballot elsewhere is eligible to be a write-in candidate.3 Voters can write the name "Rand Paul" in on the ballot in droves, but those votes would not be counted because Paul would not be eligible (having already appeared on the ballot as a senate candidate).

The other viable option -- if we're still assuming there is a consolidated May primary in Kentucky -- is to use the uncommitted option. If the race is still competitive in mid-May and Rand Paul remains one of the viable alternatives, then his campaign could urge supporters to vote the uncommitted line included on the Kentucky ballot -- the presidential preference portion of it anyway -- by law.4 This is not a foolproof fix -- there could be other uncommitted delegates not aligned with Paul -- but one would imagine that the Paul campaign could organize this and have its potential delegates file as uncommitted rather than for Paul. They would not be bound on the first ballot at the convention, but that is not likely to matter anyway (see footnote 4).

This seems far superior and more effective than sitting the Kentucky primary out. And such a move is not without precedent. The Obama campaign urged its supporters in Michigan to vote for "uncommitted" in 2008. The then-Senator Obama had his name removed from the Michigan ballot when it was clear that the Wolverine state would hold a non-compliant presidential primary in mid-January 2008.

As for the general election, that is a tougher nut to crack.

The write-in option is still a no-go here, there is no uncommitted option on the general election ballot, and skipping a state is not really all that workable in a fall presidential race. But game planning for the general election before the nomination is wrapped up is a bit of a double-edged sword in Rand Paul's case. To some extent it is counting your chickens before they hatch, but this ballot issue is something he would face in the primaries and the general election. There is just an easier fix in the primary phase that will not necessarily help with the general election part of the problem.

Not that these laws are enforced anyway, but Kentucky is one of the states that does not levy penalties against would-be "faithless electors". If Paul manages to get the Republican nomination there are some potential avenues opened to his campaign on that front.

If we're after a workaround for Rand Paul, though, that is much easier in the Kentucky primary. Well, it is doable in the primary. The general election is a different matter.

UPDATE (2/24/15): US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supports the effort to shift the Kentucky presidential nominating method from a May primary to March caucuses. That would seemingly add some heft to the idea ahead of the Kentucky Republican Party Central Committee meeting on March 7.

1 FHQ will only focus on the options that do not go through the courts. Due to the time it would take to adjudicate a conflict between Paul and the Kentucky secretary of state's office, that is a channel of last resort for Paul. There are other more viable options available to the senator anyway.

2 Of course, no one else entered the Republican nomination race and Romney won the nomination.

3 This is relevant to the general election as well.

4 Those are big ifs. FHQ realizes talk of a brokered deadlocked convention is quite popular with such a wide open Republican race, but the invisible primary will winnow the field and with more than 30 primaries and caucuses potentially slated for the month of March, the 2016 Republican nomination race is likely to be over sooner rather than later. That more than likely means the nomination race will come to its conclusion before a May Kentucky primary.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kentucky Republicans Eye 2016 Caucuses OR How Kentucky Republicans Already Have Caucuses

It has been over a week since Manu Raju reported that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has had preliminary discussions with the Republican Party of Kentucky (RPK) about the possibility of the state party switching from a primary to caucuses as a means of allocating delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention. Such a move would help a now-latent Paul presidential campaign circumvent state law barring him from appearing twice on the May 2016 Bluegrass state primary ballot (once for renomination to run for his US Senate seat and also for the presidential preference vote).

The basics of this story are simple enough:
  • Democrats retain control of the Kentucky State House in the 2014 midterms.
  • The majority Democrats also signal that they would block attempts to change the law, allowing Senator Paul to run simultaneously for both a senate and presidential nomination.
  • Paul and Kentucky Republicans consider a shift to caucuses to accommodate the senator and to avoid Paul breaking the law.
Outside of that outline, though, some of the commentary on this has been a bit off.

First of all, this is something of a no-brainer reaction from Kentucky Republicans and Senator Paul. The barrier separating a law change -- a Democratic majority in the Kentucky State House -- survived  the midterm elections. It is not as if states and state parties have not done things to benefit their favorite son presidential candidates during the nomination phase of the campaign in the past. Typically, that has resulted in calendar maneuvering at the state legislative level. In 2011, Utah Republicans considered moving the primary in the Beehive state to an earlier date to help Mitt Romney. In 2005, Governor Mike Huckabee signed into law a bill moving the Arkansas presidential primary from May to February for a 2008 cycle that saw Huckabee run for run for the Republican nomination. Similarly, Illinois legislators pushed through a bill in 2007 moving the Prairie state primary up a month to February to boost Senator Barack Obama's chances in the Democratic nomination race. In 1988, the entire South (a group that included Kentucky) shifted their nominating contests up in the hopes of building momentum behind a southern Democratic nominee (who could win the White House).1 There are plenty of other examples, but this type of supposed machinations from the states is not new or all that controversial.

It also is not the sort of move that would potentially draw legal challenge from Kentucky Democrats (as Raju mentioned in passing in his Politico piece). FHQ is still trying to figure that one out. Challenge what? The shift to caucuses? Paul's name being on a caucuses ballot (president) and a primary ballot (senate)? The former is not something that would last long in the courts. State parties have the freedom of association rights to select the mode of delegate allocation (primary or caucus) and who can participate (open, closed or some hybrid primary type). More often than not the courts side with the parties. Idaho Republicans, for instance, abandon the traditionally late presidential primary in the Gem state for early March caucuses for the 2012 cycle. Nebraska Democrats took a similar path four years earlier. Kentucky Democrats could challenge Paul appearing on two ballots, but would find that a likely uphill climb because 1) there is not typically a ballot at caucus sites and 2) the language of the Kentucky law is a bit quirky naming only voting machines and absentee ballots  (Again, neither of those would be involved in caucus proceedings.).

Counter to what Jazz Shaw had to say at HotAir about the potential move in Kentucky, Kentucky Republicans would not have to reinvent the wheel in shifting from its business-as-usual primary to caucuses as a means of allocating delegates. Kentucky Republicans have used the primary as means of allocating delegate slots to presidential candidates. Yet, they -- the RPK -- also have had a caucuses system in place for the purposes of selecting delegates to fill those allocated slots. Rule 5.03 of the Rules of the Republican Party of Kentucky lay out the rules regarding the timing of those first determining events (precinct caucuses). They are to occur between March 1 and March 31 of a presidential election year. The only thing Kentucky Republicans would be likely to do is to clean up some of the language to have the precinct caucuses all coinciding on the same date, say, March 1. Making the switch would not be difficult for the party, but participation would certainly go down relative to a primary.

One final thing FHQ has not seen mentioned in association with this story is the fact that there have been concerted efforts on the part of (Ron) Paul supporters across the country over the last few years to take over control of state parties and/or to change the nomination processes in those states to caucuses. The elder Paul did quite well in 2012 caucuses/conventions. Hypothetically, such a move would potentially help Rand Paul too, though one would imagine him likely being quite successful no matter what type of contest his home state decided to adopt.

This one will be an interesting one to watch develop from an institutional standpoint. The question is, does the RPK opt to shift and move to an earlier date where there may be other regional partners on the same date or try for an earlier calendar position where they may not get lost in the shuffle because of contest crowding and other candidates avoiding a likely Paul win for other states on the same date? The benefits are not as clear on that front as they are for Senator Paul avoiding breaking current Kentucky state law.

1 Kentucky Democrats had actually moved up in 1984, abandoning the May primary for set of March caucuses. In 1988, the state government moved the primary up to an earlier March date (only to move it back for 1992).

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Death of the Ames Straw Poll?

Here we are a little less than three years away -- a long time in politics -- from the likely August 2015 Ames Straw Poll; an event that is often heralded as the beginning of the Republican presidential nomination process. Of course, the real beginning of the 2016 Republican presidential nomination process was sometime either late on November 6 or in the wee hours of the morning of November 7 when the 2012 election was called for Barack Obama. Never the less, many look upon the late summer event in Iowa in the year immediately prior to a presidential election year as important; a point at which people are actually casting ballots for would-be/actually-are candidates in the state that quadrennially kicks off the new primary season.

Non-binding on the actual nomination race or not, some -- Governor Terry Branstad (R-IA) -- are now calling for an end to the process.

To which FHQ responds, "Not so fast." Here's why:
  1. It is a little early to be talking about death knells for 2016 campaign events.
  2. As Republican Party of Iowa Chairman AJ Spiker rightfully pointed out, Branstad will not be the one making this decision.
  3. The 2016 Republican nomination race is wide open from our vantage point here in November 2012. It may not be in 2015 (but probably will be to some extent).
  4. Calling for or forecasting the end to events in Iowa is an age-old past time in the political sphere.
There are probably other reasons too, but let's focus on these interrelated four.

At least during the 2012 cycle folks waited until February 2011 to start questioning the utility of the Iowa caucuses. Built on the same house of cards reasoning -- that social conservative Iowa Republicans would select someone who was too conservative to do well in the remaining primaries and caucuses and by extension the general election --  some continued to question Iowa's usefulness at the beginning of the Republican nomination process after Michele Bachmann won the 2011 straw poll. That reasoning is predicated on the false notion that these events -- whether the straw poll or the first in the nation caucuses -- have to be or should be predictive of the final outcome. This is the wrong way to think about the role of either event. Both the straw poll and the caucuses due to their positioning are not predictive events. They are winnowing events. Sometimes the stars align and the straw poll and more often the caucuses crown (or as luck would have it, "pick") the nominee.1 But that is not always the case. And it doesn't have to be. Leave the picking to other states. Iowa's power has always been in winnowing the choice set.

The only real, definitive bit of information that we have to have at this point in 2012 about the future of the Ames Straw Poll is that the Republican Party of Iowa is not going to unilaterally disarm.2 That is certainly true given the discussions of who may run on the Republican side in 2016. There continue to be discussions about how deep the Republican bench is and if that comes to fruition -- if Rubio, Bush, Christie, Jindal, Ryan and Paul all run or even if half of them run -- then Iowa Republicans are not going to discontinue the straw poll.

Well, the party would not end the straw poll unless there was clear evidence that all of the candidates, especially the big name candidates, would skip the event. Even then, the party may persist with the straw poll. But that scenario isn't likely to happen because if all or half of those candidates listed above run, it will only take one opting into the straw poll process -- as is or tweaked in some way, shape or form -- to bring the others in. The Ames Straw Poll is or would be too big of a deal to miss from an organizational standpoint. 2016 is not shaping up to be a John McCain (2008) or Mitt Romney (2012) sort of cycle for the Republicans; a cycle where a seemingly more moderate candidate is the frontrunner -- nominal or otherwise.3 Unless all of the above pass on 2016 for some strange reason, then all will be motivated to participate in the straw poll. That is more true in light of the fact that there does not seem to be a true social conservative on the short list of candidates. In Ben Domenech's taxonomy, Rubio (or Bush) is the establishment candidate, Jindal is the populist, Christie is the moderate and Rand Paul is the libertarian. That leaves room for one dark horse, who could be a social conservative, but absent such a candidate, all of the others would have some selling to do to the social conservative Iowa crowd.  That portion of the caucusgoing electorate would matter, but would likely be split to varying degrees unless one of the candidates emerged or had emerged prior to the straw poll as a clear frontrunner.

The bottom line is that, yes, like Craig Robinson, I agree that the candidates will be the ones deciding the future of Ames Straw Poll. If they show up, it matters. If they don't, then it won't. But depending on how the eternity that is the next two and a half years of the invisible primary progresses, there will likely be incentives for the candidates to throw their hat in the ring. That comes with some consequences -- a poor showing could mean lights out -- but the reward of meeting or exceeding expectations could be greater than that risk of not.

It's just too early folks. Call me in late 2014 to discuss the death of Ames. November 2012 is too early.

1 Much of this has to do with the extent to which a consensus frontrunner has emerged by the time of either the straw poll or the caucuses. If that consensus exists as it did in 2000, for instance, then the majority/plurality of Iowa caucusgoers often make the pragmatic choice whether it overlaps completely with their ideological position or not.

2 Terry Branstad might want to discontinue the practice, but the RPI does not and will not.

3 Another way of thinking about this is that there was 1) no clear frontrunner and 2) the overall field was viewed as weak in both cycles. Both factors seem to have applied in 2012, but neither seems to fit the conditions of 2008.

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