Showing posts with label first in the nation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label first in the nation. Show all posts

Saturday, July 22, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] A second state-run primary option in New Hampshire?

The following is cross-posted from FHQ Plus, FHQ's subscription newsletter. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to unlock the full site and support our work. 


Talk about burying the lede. This came in over the wires from NBC News this morning...
New Hampshire Republicans would prefer to keep their primary in late January, after Iowa, rather than see [New Hampshire Secretary of State David] Scanlan have to leapfrog Iowa because of Democrats’ maneuvering. Republican state Rep. Ross Berry, who chairs the House Election Law Committee, said he is considering “contingencies” that might prevent that.

Berry said he is considering introducing legislation that would allow Scanlan to set two different primary dates, one for each party. He called it a “last resort option” that would give Scanlan a new tool if he makes the determination that Iowa’s Democratic caucus is functionally the same as a primary.

“We don’t want to get caught flat-footed on it,” Berry said. “If the secretary of state says, ‘You know what, I’m cool with Iowa mailing in their stuff,’ we have no problem, I see no reason to change things,” he continued.
The rest of the piece is standard fare for stories covering the back and forth over the calendar between Iowa Democrats and the New Hampshire secretary of state. It builds up the tension that seemingly exists without getting too far down into the weeds to explain that there probably is not much tension there at all. As the piece notes, it is not unusual for New Hampshire to string this decision out. Long-time and former Secretary Gardner pulled the trigger on a choice for 2008 the day before Thanksgiving in 2007 and waited into November again in 2011. In both cases, a decision was made roughly two months before January primaries in both cycles. Regardless of the timing of a decision from Scanlan, the choice boils down to answering one simple question. And Iowa Democrats are not showing their cards at the moment (even if the state party's actions seem to tip their hand).

But still, even if the early state calendar tension is on a low simmer (at most), the notion that there is a proposal for an emergency legislative fix in the Granite state is newsworthy. Well, it is newsworthy on the surface anyway.

Digging in a bit, creating an option for the secretary of state to schedule a second presidential primary would bail out Democrats currently at odds with the national party over the DNC’s new calendar rules for the 2024 cycle. That New Hampshire Republicans would even consider that is enough to raise eyebrows. And that is without considering the costs associated with a second state-run presidential primary election. The state footing the bill for that is one thing that is almost unbelievable, but creating a carve-out for (what some perceive as) Democrats’ collective own-goal in a battleground state would seem to be a bridge to far for Republicans in control of the levers of power in the state.

But it also goes to show just how far at least one Republican is willing to go to preserve the first-in-the-nation tradition in the Granite state.

Of course, none of this appears necessary at the moment. There are questions surrounding the scheduling of the all-mail Iowa Democratic presidential preference vote. [The Democratic caucuses will be on January 15.] But why would Iowa Democrats go to the trouble of devising this bifurcated caucus/preference vote process in an incumbent cycle if they were just going to break the rules. The system is one that allows Iowa Democrats to have their cake and hopefully (from their perspective) eat it too. The caucuses will remain first (the same night as Iowa Republicans), but the delegate allocation (through the preference vote) can conclude later than that at a time that is either in the Democrats’ early window (with a waiver from the DNC) or on or after March 5. It is a system designed to preserve tradition and comply with DNC rules. It is also a system that allows Iowa Democrats to stay out of the way of business as usual in the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office.

So maybe NBC News did not bury the lede here. Maybe they just got an interesting quote from a legislator in New Hampshire with a proposal for a novel rip cord the state could pull in case of emergency. The only thing is that there does not appear to be an emergency in the near term or on the horizon.

All there actually is is an inability in the press to dig in on this story and describe what is happening between Iowa and New Hampshire. Less than meets the eye.


Friday, July 21, 2023

Another way to look at current support for the First-in-the-Nation primary in New Hampshire

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • How about an update on some quiet calendar and rules stories from around the country that maybe have not seen much of a spotlight? We dig into a few 2024 things in Delaware, Georgia, New York and South Dakota. All the details at FHQ Plus.
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below for free and consider a paid subscription to support FHQ's work and unlock the full site.

In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Six in ten New Hampshire residents support a New Hampshire law that requires the state's Presidential Primary to be held before any similar contest.
It was interesting the ways in which this finding was reported. At home in New Hampshire, WMUR headlined an article, "New UNH poll shows most support law requiring New Hampshire hold first presidential primary." 

Meanwhile, national outlets like The Messenger honed in on the crosstabs focused on Democrats in the Granite state, "Poll: Less Than Half Of New Hampshire Democrats Support First-In-The-Nation Primary Law."

Neither is untrue. Neither is off-base. It is just interesting to what each opted to draw attention. 

FHQ would offer another interpretation. Yes, Democrats in the state appear to be divided over the first-in-the-nation question, but in years past that number likely would have been far, far higher. Again, the first-in-the-nation primary has been one of the few things where Democrats and Republicans in New Hampshire have seen eye-to-eye as politics has become more and more polarized. And many Democrats are still with Republicans in the state on the matter according to this survey. But all/most of them are not. Not anymore anyway. Not at this time.

That is a big deal. A national party -- in this case the Democratic National Committee -- taking a stand on the early calendar has triggered a marked dip in support for one of the biggest institutions New Hampshirites hang their hats on in the national spotlight every four years. 

Now, it is fair to ask whether the numbers would have trailed off as much if Democrats were looking at a competitive nomination fight in 2024. But they are not. And that buttresses the argument that if ever there was a time to make big calendar changes, it is during an incumbent reelection cycle. This is just one poll and there is so much yet to play out in this New Hampshire/DNC drama before next summer at the Chicago convention.

...but this is an interesting poll result. 

Much of the current negativity around the DeSantis campaign may be legitimate. It may also be overblown. Campaigns at this level are often on a knife's edge. But whether it is real or not, one of the things to eye (as a real operationalization of that) is how much emphasis Team DeSantis puts on Iowa. Yes, Trump and DeSantis have been "eyeing Super Tuesday states," but that is not anything that is new. However, if the DeSantis campaign and affiliated groups begin to put all or most of their eggs in the Iowa basket, then that could be a sign that the campaign's options (on a number of fronts) are waning. Wooing evangelicals in the Hawkeye state (before a gathering there) may or may not be evidence of that. But it is something to watch in the coming days.
This week Never Back Down, the super PAC affiliated with the DeSantis effort, is scaling up its activity in the Hawkeye state, host of the first-in-the-nation caucuses next January. Again, this is a super PAC and not the campaign itself, but it is somewhat telling.

From around the invisible primary...

On this date... 1988, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in Atlanta. 2016, Donald Trump gave his acceptance speech in Cleveland, completing his path to the Republican presidential nomination.

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Iowa Democrats' Last Hail Mary and Calendar Chaos

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • Be on the lookout for a fun new post later today. If you have been on the fence about subscribing to FHQ Plus during our first couple of months, this one might be one to get you off of it. Come check out FHQ Plus.
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below for free and consider a paid subscription to support FHQ's work and unlock the full site.

In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters was on NPR's Morning Edition this morning updating the state of the Republican race in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. And he closed with a comment on how the DNC primary calendar change has thrown a kink into business as usual at this time in a presidential nomination cycle in the Hawkeye state:
"Now, the DNC voted to boot Iowa out of the early window, but their calendar is currently in chaos. Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican, has until the end of the week to sign a bill that could deny Iowa Democrats their kind of like last Hail Mary to try and stay in the early window."
Folks, this, very simply, is a fundamental misreading of the current situation in Iowa. And it is not a new development. The combination of amendments to the bill Masters cited and the draft Iowa Democratic Party delegate selection plan means that the bill no longer hampers Democrats in the Hawkeye state or nationally. Under the plan, Iowa Democrats will caucus in person on the same night as Republicans in the state. But those proceedings will not have a presidential preference vote component. That will occur in a separate vote-by-mail process that is completely unaffected by the bill currently under consideration in Des Moines. 

The only thing that might hold the Iowa Democratic Party back from implementing such a plan is the Democratic National Committee, and the national party will only step in if Iowa Democrats opt to conclude that all-mail preference vote before February 3 -- the date of South Carolina's Democratic primary -- of before March 5 without a waiver. 

A possible waiver is the key factor in the Iowa 2024 calendar story right now. It is the main reason Iowa Democrats did not include a specific date for the all-mail presidential preference vote in the draft plan. The state party is not angling for first. It is pushing for a spot in the early window when Georgia and New Hampshire are unable or unwilling to comply with the DNC's waiver requests when their deadline to act comes on Saturday, June 3. That is the Hail Mary and the bill has nothing to do with it. 

And as for calendar chaos? Please. There is some drama in the 2024 calendar coming together, but this is not chaos. Everyone outside of Iowa and New Hampshire is behaving as if Iowa and New Hampshire will be first and second in the Republican order. And most folks in those states are doing the same. Is there an issue between Iowa and New Hampshire set off by the DNC calendar change? Sure, but odds are that will get ironed out with minimal trouble. Most of the pressure on that front is self-imposed anyway

There are a number of things that one could tease out of this interview with New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. Some have already tried to stir the pot some in an effort to make stories where there just is no there there. The one thing that goes unsaid in that NH Journal piece is that Buckley is against the proposed constitutional amendment to protect the first-in-the-nation status of the presidential primary in the Granite state. If the amendment were to fall short of the two-thirds necessary for ratification in a public vote, then that failure could be used against New Hampshire in future cycles. 

That is not wrong. 

Seth Masket is good here on how the number of candidates may or may not affect Trump's chances at claiming the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. A couple of things...
  1. He notes that Trump 2023 is in a position not dissimilar to Hillary Clinton's in 2007-08 in her Democratic nomination fight. The former president is in a good spot, but not an unbeatable one. Still, he also is not far off from where Clinton was in 2016 either. Ultimately, there was a unified opposition to Clinton in 2015-16, but it was not a large enough bloc to prevent a Clinton nomination. There is not a unified Trump opposition at this point. At this point.
  2. This really should be repeated and repeated and repeated: "Yes, it matters if a lot of candidates each have 5 to 10 percent of the vote, but that doesn’t tend to be how these things play out. You tend to see three or four candidates with the bulk of the vote, and the rest hovering just above zero. (At the beginning of January 2016, only four of the 17-ish Republican presidential candidates had above 5 percent. At the beginning of January 2020, only four of the 20-ish Democratic presidential candidates had above 5 percent.)" Maybe 2023-24 will be different, but there has been a very distinct tendency in how this has worked in recent cycles.

Invisible Primary quick hits:

On this date... 2015, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley announced his intentions to seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.


Monday, May 1, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- New Hampshirites Are Not Surprisingly Defending the New Hampshire Primary

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below for free and consider a paid subscription to support FHQ's work and unlock the full site.

President Biden announced his reelection bid last week and that has set off an inevitable chain reaction, one that focuses on the president's path to renomination and possible reelection. And the renomination portion leads to the calendar decisions the Democratic National Committee has made for the 2024 cycle. There, the emphasis has once again returned to the potential, if not obstacle, then headache the demotion of the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary in the calendar order will have on Biden in both phases of the 2024 electoral process win the Granite state. 

Understandably, that has once again brought the defenders of the first-in-the-nation primary in the Granite state back out to "warn" the president (and anyone else) about the mistake Biden is making in not only shunting New Hampshire back in the process, but in possibly keeping his name off the ballot in a likely rogue primary there. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D) took to the airwaves on Sunday in the midst of the renewed chatter about the DNC-New Hampshire standoff over the primary to discuss the possible negative impacts the president's decisions may have:
“It’s unfortunate, because I think it has an impact [on] the independent voters who are very important in New Hampshire, and who are going to be very important to any reelection of the next president,” Shaheen said. “And it also has an impact on Democrats up and down the ticket.” 
“The fact that we would now discount their [independents'] participation, I think, is unfortunate,” said Shaheen, who is not up for reelection until 2026. “And again, I think it has implications for Democrats in the state — hopefully not for the general election, but we don’t know that yet.”
Independent voters are important in New Hampshire politics. They offer a bit of an unknown in the presidential primary process there as well because registered independents can pick which of the Democratic or Republican primaries they want to participate in. And while the calendar decisions may impact independents in New Hampshire, they are unlikely to be any more or less affected by it -- or activated by it -- than Democrats or Republicans in the Granite state in 2024. All New Hampshirites, regardless of any registration affiliation, are likely to be upset to some degree about the change, but that is less likely to impact the primary than the general election.  

The reason for that has been made clear over the years. Independents tend to go where the action is in the New Hampshire presidential primary. And in 2024, the action will be on the Republican side. Look at 2012. President Barack Obama won around 49,000 votes in winning the New Hampshire primary as an incumbent. That was roughly 80 percent of the vote the 2012 primary. By comparison, John Edwards won around the same number of votes in the 2008 New Hampshire primary, but that was only worth a third place finish at about 16 percent of the vote. That was part of a significant (but typical) drop off in turnout from a 2008 to 2012 when an incumbent president was running largely unopposed. Turnout was back up in 2016 when the Democratic nomination was again active. 

The pattern holds on the Republican side. From competitive 2016 to uncompetitive 2020, Republican turnout dropped by a total approaching 50 percent. 

So, there may be some independents who show up to cast a vote of protest in the likely rogue Democratic primary in New Hampshire next January, but most will be far more likely to venture over into the Republican process instead. And that is a different, albeit not completely unrelated, story from how New Hampshire voters may behave in a general election. But even Shaheen concedes she does not know the impact there. 

None of this is out of the ordinary. New Hampshirites have often turned to blackmail over the years when the first-in-the-nation primary has been threatened. And it has been threatened anew for 2024 and in a different way than it has in the post-reform era. However, independents may be further down the list of blackmail items that can be used, successfully or otherwise, as the standoff with the national party continues. The simple truth of the matter is that New Hampshire was narrowly decided in 2020 and any small change could tip the balance the other way in 2024. That was just as much the case before the calendar decisions were made as it is now that New Hampshire Democrats are scrambling for a way out of the impasse.

Of course, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has been running for 2024 for quite some time because he has been doing the sorts of things that prospective and actual candidates for the White House do for quite some time. That was true before last month when South Carolina's junior senator announced his exploratory committee for the presidency and it will continue to be the case as his major announcement on May 22 approaches: 
“It is time to take the Faith in America tour not just on the road, not just to an exploratory committee,” the South Carolina Republican told the crowd of about 150 people, a comment which received a standing ovation. “It is time to make a final step. We are going to have a major announcement. You are going to want to be there.”
This can be said about Scott thus far: He has done a good job teasing out these various announcements to keep his name in the news.

Vivek Ramaswamy picked up some South Carolina endorsements during his bus tour of the Palmetto state last week, including a pair of state legislators from the Low Country. FITSNews is the only outlet reporting that, but one of the state representatives, Matt Leber, seems to have indirectly confirmed the endorsement by retweeting the story. No, that is hardly a groundswell of support, but the thing worth eyeing here is that Ramaswamy continues to basically build a White House run from scratch. It will be a campaign that builds more from the bottom up rather than the top down as, say, Trump is doing in the endorsement primary. Ramaswamy may or may not catch on in 2023-24, but his is a grassroots build out and state legislative and local endorsements are part of that, a valuable part. He takes the bus tour to New Hampshire this week, where Ramaswamy already counts one fairly big state legislative endorsement from the deputy majority leader of the state house, Fred Doucette.

Harry Enten at CNN picked up on a parallel point to one FHQ made last week. But instead of focusing on the different ways in which similar polling numbers for Biden and Trump can be read differently, he turned toward the similar positioning of Ron DeSantis and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. And similar though the poll positions of the two may be, how those numbers are being interpreted for both is very different. Good piece from Harry.

On this date... 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter and former California Governor Ronald Reagan (R) won big in the Texas primary. Louisiana Democrats caucused as well. 1979, George H.W. Bush announced his bid for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination. 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale (D) won the Tennessee presidential primary while Jesse Jackson took the primary in the nation's capital.


Saturday, April 15, 2023

From FHQ Plus: The Blurred Lines Between State and Party on the Caucuses in Iowa

The following is a cross-posted excerpt from FHQ Plus, FHQ's new subscription service. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to support our work. 


I dealt with part of the new bill to change the parameters of the caucus process in the Hawkeye state over at FHQ earlier today. But that bill — HSB 245 — moved past its first obstacle today and out of the Study Bill Subcommittee of the Iowa House Ways and Means Committee on a 3-2 vote, and it looks like it will face a full committee vote on Thursday. [NOTE: HSB 245 passed Ways and Means on a party line vote on Thursday, April 13.]

As some have noted the effort to require in-person participation at a caucus — to ban a proposed plan by Iowa Democrats to shift to a vote-by-mail process — is a move that would immediately be on shaky legal ground. Parties have wide latitude in setting the rules of their internal processes under Supreme Court precedent. And the caucuses are a party affair. The parties pay for them. The parties set the rules. The parties run them.

But the Iowa caucus operations have often blurred the line between state and party on the matter. The parties and the state government, regardless of partisan affiliation across either, have tended to work together to protect that first-in-the-nation status the caucuses have enjoyed over the last half century. There is a state law in Iowa, as in New Hampshire, but both 2008 and 2012 demonstrated that it is fairly toothless. The caucuses in neither case were eight days ahead of the next contest, as called for in state law, and neither party was hit with sanctions for the move.

Moreover, the state/party line has been blurred by the encroachment of same-day party registration at caucus sites in recent years. The state’s tentacles stretch into the caucuses, but that still does not change the fact that the precinct caucuses are a party affair, a party-funded and run operation. And that is kind of the ironic thing about the proposed 70 day buffer required between registration with a party and the caucuses in this bill moving through the Iowa legislature. It retracts those state tentacles to some degree, drawing a sharper line again between state and party domain.

In the end, the fate of this bill beyond the committee is uncertain. But one thing this episode demonstrates is the deterioration of the relationship between Iowa Democrats and Republicans on the one thing that has united them in the past: protecting the status of the caucuses. Republicans unilaterally introducing this measure without consulting the Democratic Party at all on the matter says a lot. And in the long run that will likely hurt Iowa’s efforts to retain its status in the future. 


Friday, March 31, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Donald Trump has been indicted

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

There may be a bit of a slow-speed white Bronco chase feel to all the coverage, but it cannot go without mention that former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury. Still, FHQ would like to take an opportunity to echo something that the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter said in reaction to the news:
We do not know. That will not mean that folks will not rush to fill the void and speculate. They will. But we should all be mindful of the unprecedented nature of all of this. Presidents who lose reelection have not tended to try for a third time in the modern era. Trump is. Former presidents do not often get indicted. Trump is the first. We are all testing this hypothesis as this thing develops. Folks on both sides of the aisle are reacting in what can be called expected ways. That helps to advance this some. What elites say in response to this event matters. Those are signals to rank and file partisans that may impact public opinion on the matter down the line. But this has also moved from hypothetical to real. Survey respondents will now be asked to react to a real indictment and not a hypothetical one. That may influence the sort of read we may get from those polls when they inevitably make it into the political bloodstream in the coming days.

But what we know now is that Trump is signaling that he is going to keep on keepin' on with respect to 2024, and Republicans for the most part are rallying behind him. 

There are a lot of elected Republicans in the state of Texas. That is a lot of potential endorsements to go around in the 2024 Republican invisible primary. Trump has gotten the jump on the rest of the field in the Lone Star state in the endorsement primary. It is not a 2019 head start, but it ain't 2015 either. That is yet another datapoint in the Trump 2023 is ahead of Trump 2015 but behind Trump 2019 story. All of those markers are going to end up somewhere between one of the two -- 2015 or 2019 -- poles, but where they all land matters. The closer Trump is to his 2019 version, the better the former president's odds of ultimately claiming the 2024 Republican presidential nomination will be.

New Hampshire is back in the news. Remember New Hampshire? That first-in-the-nation presidential primary state? Well, the General Court in the Granite state considered a couple of measures on Thursday. FHQ has discussed both earlier this year. A constitutional amendment to further cement New Hampshire's position on the presidential primary calendar and a bill to force the national parties to seat delegates chosen as a reflection of that primary. Both passed the state Senate on Thursday, March 30, the former with bipartisan support and the latter on a party-line vote with Republicans for and Democrats against. 

And that all makes sense. New Hampshire Democrats are willing to signal their support for the the state's continued first-in-the-nation status in the proposed amendment. That is just good politics at home and that has much has been true since December when the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee initially adopted President Biden's proposed early calendar rules. But they were less willing to go along with a bill that would dig their hole deeper with the Democratic National Committee. New Hampshire may be able to outlast the national parties on calendar positioning, but it is another matter altogether to dictate to a party how to allocate, much less seat, delegates to their national convention. That is something that is unlikely to hold up in the courts. That is a party decision and the national convention is the ultimate decision maker in the process. matter what any state law says. 

A tip of the cap to Dante Scala for the heads up on this one.

On a personal note, FHQ Plus, FHQ's subscription service, launched today. Subscribe and come check it out! [See below]

On this date... 1984, the Kentucky Democratic caucuses were held. 1992, Jerry Brown won the Vermont caucuses. 2012, President Barack Obama won the Arizona caucuses.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

New Hampshire Senate Republicans Add a New Layer to Budding 2024 Delegate Fight

The year is young and yet the multi-front battle between a variety of interests in New Hampshire and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) simmers on. 

National Republicans kept the presidential primary in the Granite state in its first-in-the-nation position for 2024. Democrats did not. And while the vocal proponents of the first-in-the-nation primary on both sides of the aisle in New Hampshire have stepped forward to vigorously defend that status, the various state-level actors involved are differently constrained in a matter that highlights well the complexities of a nomination system steeped in federalism and stretched across both governments and political parties. Republicans in the Granite state, for example, feel emboldened while the New Hampshire Democratic Party is stuck between a state law -- and the status it creates for the presidential primary -- and a national party that has taken formal steps to knock the contest from its typical perch in the process. 

But that does not mean Democrats in the state are powerless. Those in the state Senate joined Republicans in unanimously advancing a resolution defending the primary. That was not a move without risks for Democrats in the state. Non-binding though that resolution may have been, the fact that state Senate Democrats supported it en masse could be viewed by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) as another datapoint -- another act of defiance -- that continues to build a case against New Hampshire Democrats. That case may ultimately lead to increased penalties on the New Hampshire Democratic delegation should the party allocate delegates based on a primary that is presumed to go rogue in 2024.

However, that symbolic gesture may be as far as New Hampshire Democrats in the state government are willing to go. None of them signed on to new legislation introduced this week and sponsored by the entire Republican Senate caucus. It is one thing for Granite state Democrats to support the first-in-the-nation status of the New Hampshire presidential primary in spirit, but Republicans have now moved on to second order issues in the process in an effort to shore up the operation of the FITN franchise. 

All 14 New Hampshire Senate Republicans this week introduced SB 271, legislation that moves to protect delegates allocated and selected using the results of the presidential primary, rogue or not.

Here is the text [additions to existing law in bold italics]:
Delegates to National Party Conventions. Amend RSA 653:5 to read as follows:

653:5 Delegates to National Party Conventions. At every presidential primary election, the voters of the state shall vote their preference for party candidates for president and thereby choose the delegates to each presidential nominating convention to which the state is entitled. The New Hampshire delegates so selected shall be seated and have complete voting rights at any national party nominating convention.
That proposed change is apparently a bridge (of defiance) too far for state Senate Democrats, at least in terms of sponsoring the legislation. [Whether support is withheld during subsequent steps of the bill's consideration throughout the legislative process has yet to be seen.] In the near term, this is a costless act for Senate Republicans to attempt to advance this bill. The primary maintains its protection under current Republican National Committee (RNC) rules, and it matters little that there may be a law requiring delegates selected through the compliant primary to be seated at the Republican National Convention. 

It is New Hampshire Democrats who would be drawn into further conflict with the Democratic National Committee if this bill is adopted and signed into law. 

But here is the thing. The catch here is that this sort of legislation, if it ever becomes law, is unlikely to withstand any sort of legal challenge. A national convention determines the rules that govern it and the delegates/delegations that participate in it. State law does not; not in a direct way or as the final say in any event. 

National parties set the rules for a nomination process and then states -- both state governments and state parties -- react to that guidance. In the vast majority of cases state laws and state party rules conform to the national party guidelines. Sometimes they do not. And when they fail to -- when a primary is too early or delegates are allocated in a prohibited manner -- there is a price to pay. National parties have contingencies if not penalties in place to deal with state parties operating in such rogue state scenarios. Moreover, national parties further frown on state parties and affiliated actors in state governments who flaunt the national rules. This is the position Senate Democrats in New Hampshire are in with this legislation. It is one thing to symbolically defend the first-in-the-nation primary, but it is another to attempt to dictate to a national party/national convention how to run part of its process. Courts usually side with the parties in these situations over state law. The parties, after all, retain the first amendment right to freedom of association and that tends to prevail in these sorts of state law versus party rules disputes.

But there is a state law already protecting the primary in New Hampshire that conflicts with national party rules on the Democratic side now too.1 That, too, would seemingly invite a potential court challenge now. Perhaps, but the timing of these things -- the different parts of New Hampshire state law overlapping with the national party rules -- is different. A rogue primary is one thing. There are penalties in place to deal with that and those issues are typically dealt with prior to the commencement of a national convention. See, for example, the Florida and Michigan situation from 2008. 

Dictating in state law whether particular delegates shall be seated at a national convention run by a national party is another thing altogether. While the action of allocating and selecting the delegates happens well in advance of a national convention, the seating part obviously happens at said convention. The window for action is much smaller. And obviously -- and perhaps most importantly -- there are enforcement issues involved. Who under this proposed law is going to make the Democratic National Convention seat those delegates? Well, in the short window of time between any credentials fight over a rogue New Hampshire delegation, potentially at the convention in question, and a presidential candidate being nominated, the courts may be asked to step in. But again, those courts are likely to defer to the national party on the matter. 

And the last thing New Hampshire Republicans likely want to do is invite scrutiny of any law in the Granite state that defines nomination processes in conflict with national party rules. That sets a precedent that possibly undermines New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status even more in future cycles. 

SB 271 may or may not ultimately go anywhere. It is Republican-sponsored legislation in a Republican-controlled state government. But at the outset, it is another symbolic measure that puts state Democrats even more on the defensive. In other words, it is good politics locally, but is unlikely to carry weight outside the borders of the Granite state or in the long term if implemented. 

1 The first-in-the-nation primary law that has been in place since 1975 in New Hampshire has not directly come into conflict with national party rules since 1984 and has been directly protect in DNC rules in every cycle since. ...until 2024.

Friday, February 10, 2023

New Hampshire Senate Advances Resolution Affirming FITN Support

The New Hampshire state Senate on Thursday unanimously voted in favor of a resolution affirming the body's support of the Granite state presidential primary's first-in-the-nation status. 

All 24 senators voted aye on SCR 1:
A RESOLUTION affirming the general court’s support for New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary. 

Whereas, New Hampshire first held a primary election for president in 1916, and has held the first in the nation presidential primary since 1920; and 

Whereas, New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary is a historic and valued landmark in our state and our nation’s democratic culture; and 

Whereas, New Hampshire voters have consistently and proudly had one of the highest participation rates in the nation, cherishing their role in vetting presidential candidates through person-to-person, grassroots campaigning; and 

Whereas, the need to engage with voters across New Hampshire provides a necessary proving ground for candidates wishing to serve in the most powerful office in the world, not only testing their political skills but better preparing them for the Oval Office; and 

Whereas, attempts by national political organizations to alter the presidential nominating calendar and dictate election laws to the people of New Hampshire have been met with widespread, bipartisan condemnation; and 

Whereas, New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary has grown over the past century into a vital part of our state’s identity; now, therefore be it 

Resolved by the Senate, the House of Representatives concurring: 

That the general court of the state of New Hampshire hereby affirms its support for New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary, and its confidence in the secretary of state to ensure that New Hampshire’s primary maintain its legal and proper status at least one week before any similar nominating contest. 

That the general court expects all political parties to respect the results of New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary by seating the delegates selected by New Hampshire voters at their national nominating conventions.
The measure now heads to the House side of the General Court.

The concurrent resolution comes just days after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) adopted a set of presidential primary calendar rules that reshuffled the lineup of early states and New Hampshire's traditional place in it. Of course, this is merely a symbolic gesture on the part of the General Court, reasserting its position on the laws New Hampshire. However, the language at the end is of particular note: That the general court expects all political parties to respect the results of New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary by seating the delegates selected by New Hampshire voters at their national nominating conventions.

Granted, the street in this back and forth between the Granite state and the DNC runs two ways. Given the tenor of comments recently made by DNC members in Philadelphia at the winter meeting, it is not difficult to imagine the DNC countering that New Hampshire Democrats respect the rules of the process passed by the national party

In the end, this is a struggle that is likely to continue throughout the consideration of the New Hampshire Democratic Party's delegate selection plan in 2023. And if past is prelude, then legislative Democrats' support of this resolution will factor into not only the consideration of delegate selection plan, but in whether the DNC assesses penalties and how severe they will ultimately be. Florida Democrats, for example, urged leniency in 2007 when the DNC considered (and eventually levied) penalties against the state for planning a rogue primary for 2008. But Democrats in the Sunshine state quickly had the fact that legislative Democrats there voted in favor of moving the primary into violation of national party rules thrown in their faces before the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) voted to strip Florida Democrats of all of their delegates.

Again, this vote in New Hampshire is symbolic. It is not an apples to apples comparison to weigh it equally against the actions in Florida a decade and a half ago. The situations are different. In neither case will those legislative actions end up being (or having been) the deciding factor in any penalties decision on the part of the DNCRBC, but it would be foolish to think it will not be a part of the calculus. [And in defense of New Hampshire Democratic state senators, taking this position in favor of the presidential primary's traditional position is just good politics from a local standpoint. To vote against it would be to potentially invite future trouble at the ballot box.]

The back and forth continues.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

How Do New Hampshirites Really Feel About 2024 and the Presidential Primary Calendar?

FHQ will admit it. We almost took the bait. 


Another group of New Hampshire Democrats are voicing their displeasure with President Biden's proposed shake up to the 2024 presidential primary calendar. And once again, it looks like a doubling -- or tripling -- down on the same arguments that Democrats in the Granite state have used in defense of their first-in-the-nation presidential primary since the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) adopted the proposed calendar in December. And these Democrats are equally as justified in making that defense directly to the president as others have been over the last month or more. The calendar decision has not been finalized and will not be until the February DNC winter meeting at the earliest. 

But the national media keeps treating this as a national story. And it is! In that national story, New Hampshire Democrats keep digging in, seemingly making the situation worse with national Democrats. In that game it would behoove New Hampshire Democrats to quietly defer to the state law that requires the secretary of state in the Granite state to schedule the presidential primary there at least seven days before any other similar contest. That decision, after all, is out of their hands. So, too, are the changes to state law that the DNCRBC has requested New Hampshire Democrats push for with Republicans in control of the levers of power in the state. 

What continues to be in the control of New Hampshire Democrats is how they push for those changes. Elected Democrats in the New Hampshire General Court can propose legislation to change the date of the primary and to add no-excuse absentee voting. One Democrat has already proposed an expansion of absentee voting conditions (even if those changes likely fall short of what national Democrats have in mind).

Granted, the incentives are just not there to push for changes to the presidential primary date or to propose some alternative method of selecting and allocating national convention delegates. Those are both well within the power of New Hampshire Democrats to do, but to cede any ground -- any -- on first-in-the-nation status is to undermine the whole institution. And Democrats in the Granite state are not going to do that, especially before the decision has been finalized at the national level. 

So we are all left with this constant back and forth of bad optics for New Hampshire Democrats in the national media. A decision still has not been made and the vacuum keeps getting filled by the constant, yet natural, drip of New Hampshire Democrats lobbying the president or the DNCRBC in the lead up to when the calendar decision is to be made.

But rather than continue on that feedback loop where a new communication from Concord to Washington begets yet another national story about New Hampshire Democrats digging their hole even deeper with national Democrats, the focus should perhaps be elsewhere. 

Why is it that New Hampshire Democrats are doing this? Yes, yes. Defense of the presidential primary. Everyone gets that. But why are they doing this in this way when continued defiance only hurts them with the national party -- when it only seemingly brings the state party inescapably closer to sanctions from the national party? 

Much of this has to do with the fact that New Hampshire Democrats have two audiences to which they have to play. Every facet of the above story is about how the decisions state Democrats are making are playing with the national party audience (whether the national party as an organization or Democrats nationally). But how do these decisions play at home? In New Hampshire? 

No, FHQ is not talking about the DNC proposal. The vocalized response thus far seems to be against the changes called for the in the calendar plan adopted by the DNCRBC (but not yet finalized by the DNC). But how do New Hampshirites feel about the defense the Democratic Party in the Granite state is waging? 

Do they feel it is adequate? 

Do they feel it is even necessary? 

This strikes FHQ as a missing link in all the reporting on the New Hampshire Democratic Party response to the DNCRBC decision. The public reaction to the DNCRBC decision has been covered but feelings about the NHDP response have not. And that is important. It is important because NHDP continues to raise the negative ramifications of the national-level process and decision on electoral prospects for Democrats up and down the ballot in the Granite state. 

If New Hampshire Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in the electorate are of the opinion that the NHDP response to the national party is adequate, then it may not hurt Democrats in races other than the presidential race in 2024 or only affect them at the margins. [Yes, those margins can matter.] 

If those same folks in New Hampshire feel like the response from NHDP is unnecessary -- that New Hampshire is going to do what New Hampshire is going to do and go first anyway -- then it may not hurt Democrats at all in 2024. Republicans in the state are just screaming into the wind to no avail when raising the issue as a potential wedge. 

But we do not know those things. They are not part of the national narrative on this story. [And the New Hampshire press has incentives to tell this story as a defense of the primary and that alone.] So this story keeps getting told the same way every time it is revealed that some New Hampshire Democrat or group of them is making another pitch to some national Democrat or the DNCRBC. 

And it is not that FHQ is demanding a poll be commissioned. We do not even really have this information anecdotally. We are just being made to take a variety of New Hampshire Democrats' words for it that this calendar move -- whether New Hampshire Democrats defy it or not -- will be injurious to Democrats in 2024. 

Will it? There are ways to answer that and no one is really getting at them. least not yet.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Progress Report: New Hampshire's calendar status, post-deadline day

Part of the calendar package that the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) adopted early last month was a deadline for states that were at that time granted conditional waivers to be able to schedule primaries and caucuses in the pre-window period. That deadline -- January 5, 2023 -- was put in place as an early marker by which those states were to have shown state-specific progress toward the goal of moving their contests into the prescribed positions. 

Three of the five states -- South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan -- are in good shape after January 5 based on a variety of factors. South Carolina's state parties, and not the state government, select the date of the presidential primary, Nevada is on the prescribed date already, and the 2022 midterms left Democrats in unified control of state government in Michigan. That puts each on a glide path to compliance with the likely DNC rules for the 2024 presidential nomination cycle.

But the remaining two states have run into problems and failed to meet the January 5 deadline. The easy explanation is that both New Hampshire and Georgia have a Republicans problem. Republicans control state government in New Hampshire and the secretary of state's office in Georgia. 

However, both states were required to do different things by the DNCRBC before January 5 in order to retain their waivers. 

Georgia Democrats had to win over Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and convince him to move the presidential primary to February 13. They have failed to do so to this point. Yet, the secretary's office has provided the criteria by which the primary could occur earlier: 1) the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries must occur concurrently (as has been the custom in the Peach state and most states with state-run primaries, for that matter) and 2) the primary cannot be so early that it leads to delegate penalties from one or both national parties. February 13 does not work under those criteria, but a date later in the pre-window period may.

New Hampshire Democrats, on the other hand, had a much higher bar to clear before January 5. Although the secretary of state selects the date on which the presidential primary in the Granite state falls -- just as in Georgia -- the DNCRBC instead targeted the legislative process. The panel expected progress toward changing state law to specify the February 6, 2024 date on which the DNC has proposed to schedule the New Hampshire primary and to expand voting to include no-excuse absentee balloting in the state. Democrats in New Hampshire would have likely balked at those demands anyway, but had no real recourse with Republicans uninterested in making those changes in unified control of state government. 

But FHQ will not rehash all of that again. One can always go read about the New Hampshire defense of the first-in-the-nation law, the lose-lose situation in which the Democratic Party there finds itself for the 2024 cycle and what happened in 1984 when New Hampshire was in a similar predicament (and what that might mean for 2024).

Instead, let's examine where this process has been and where it is likely to go given that it looks like both the DNCRBC and New Hampshire Democrats may be digging in for an extended standoff.

Where this has been
I. In the lead up to the December 2 DNCRBC meeting it looked as if the panel might take the path of least resistance toward change: knock Iowa from its perch atop the calendar, move every other early state up and add an Iowa replacement to the mix. That set expectations high that New Hampshire Democrats would be able to easily protect their traditional first primary position. When the Biden calendar proposal was revealed and adopted by the DNCRBC, those high expectations were dashed and New Hampshire Democrats reacted swiftly and defiantly

II. But it was not just that South Carolina supplanted New Hampshire in the president's plan that rankled Democrats in the Granite state. Sure, that stuck in their craws, but the aforementioned hoops through which the DNCRBC required the New Hampshire Democratic Party to jump added insult to injury. The herculean tasks made it appear as if the DNCRBC had only provided the New Hampshire primary a waiver-in-name-only; a hollow protection of the state's first-in-the-nation status in the Democratic process given impossibly high requirements. Again, the reaction was (pre-Christmas) defiance.

III. Then came January 5. And the reaction was again defiance but this time mixed with a request that the DNCRBC not punish New Hampshire Democrats for being unable to meet "unrealistic and unattainable" goals. That was further buttressed by the New Hampshire Republicans in power from the governor to the legislative leaders and the secretary of state on down signaling that no changes were imminent. 

Where it is going
IV. However, since there are clear roadblocks to compliance in the cases of both New Hampshire and Georgia, an extension was granted. That grace period will provide both sides -- the DNCRBC and, in this case, New Hampshire Democrats -- some time to consider alternatives. 

V. Extension or not, all states conditionally granted waivers to hold nominating contests in the pre-window have until February 1 -- the night before the February 2-4 Democratic Winter meeting kicks off -- to complete all action on making the changes required by the DNRBC. That early February meeting is when the DNC is set to vote on the calendar proposal adopted by the DNCRBC in December. 

VI. Following the final DNC adoption of the calendar rules for 2024 state parties will spend the spring finalizing draft delegate selection plans, including when the state's nominating contest is scheduled to occur. Those plans must face a public comment period of at least one month before being submitted for DNCRBC review before the early stages of May 2023. 

VII. Thereafter, any points of contention -- any noncompliance issues in state delegate selection plans -- will be hammered out between the state parties in question and the DNCRBC before final approval is granted (or not) during the summer and into the fall. Noncompliance at that stage will trigger penalties. The automatic penalty for a timing violation is a 50 percent reduction in a state's delegation. But if the New Hampshire secretary of state schedules the presidential primary for any date other than the one prescribed by DNC rules and Granite state Democrats go along with it (defying DNC rules), then the party is likely to draw the Florida/Michigan treatment from the DNCRBC. It is also at the discretion of the DNCRBC to go beyond the 50 percent penalty and in the case of Florida and Michigan, both of which planned to and held noncompliant primaries in 2008, that penalty was a raised to 100 percent. [Of course, there are caveats to that penalty.]

FHQ will stop there. To go further is to speculate more than I am willing given the intended scope here.

The point is less to lay out the above timeline than it is to show that New Hampshire Democrats have already had around three opportunities to respond to the DNCRBC concerning the proposed changes to the calendar. They will have roughly four more chances to do so in the coming year both before the national party rules are finalized and after. 

How they respond (or continue to respond) matters.

There is a reason FHQ said this when the president's calendar plan was released on the eve of the December DNCRBC meeting:
"If I'm folks in NH, I'm real quiet right now other than to say, "There is a state law. We will defer to the secretary of state on the matter as the law requires." That's it. Quietly and happily go along for the ride and say you did everything you could to lobby for a change."
That drew the ire of some in New Hampshire at the time, but it reflects the DNC rules and the nature of how they have been interpreted over time. Those rules, specifically Rule 21, require state parties to have "acted in good faith" and to have taken "all provable positive steps" towards making any changes on the state level to bring the state's delegate selection plan into compliance with DNC rules. 

DNCRBC co-Chair Jim Roosevelt echoed the language in that rule when he recently discussed the New Hampshire and Georgia situations with NPR. 
"Hopefully there will be flexibility," said Jim Roosevelt, co-chair of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, of his colleagues. The committee is likely to meet and vote on granting the extensions in the coming weeks before a planned DNC-wide vote to approve or deny the new calendar at a meeting in Philadelphia in early February. 
Roosevelt said the DNC has worked with other states in the past as long as they can show they are making their "best effort" and taking "provable, positive steps."
Notice that. Roosevelt mentions both DNCRBC-side flexibility on providing more time but also in working with state parties that will meet them in the middle somewhere. 

New Hampshire Democrats have certainly leaned in on the law the state has on the books to protect its first-in-the-nation status in the time since the calendar proposal was unveiled. But whether they have to this point made their "best efforts" at change or taken "provable, positive steps" toward compliance is debatable (if not in the eye of the beholder). 

The DNC will likely adopt some calendar plan next month in Philadelphia. There may even be some changes to accommodate New Hampshire and/or Georgia. But if the New Hampshire primary remains tethered to the Nevada primary on February 6 in those adopted rules, then how New Hampshire Democrats react may go some way toward telling interested onlookers how the DNCRBC is likely to respond. 

Does the New Hampshire Democratic Party delegate selection plan submitted to the DNCRBC for review go along with the proposed February 6 date or leave that part open pending the decision of Secretary of State Scanlan (R)? 

Do Democrats in the New Hampshire state legislature make any moves to change the primary date (futile though those efforts may ultimately be)? Do they make some attempt to consolidate the Democratic primary with town meetings in March (as the primary was initially intended to be prior to 1975)? 

Does the New Hampshire Democratic Party offer to hold a party-run contest? 

Those are all signals of, if not outright, good faith moves and/or provable, positive steps. And those steps may in some cases still trigger a 50 percent delegate reduction, but it may also help the party avoid making the New Hampshire primary into a "state-sponsored public opinion poll" in the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination process. 

Continued defiance in the eyes of the DNCRBC will not help avoid that fate. 

But ultimately New Hampshire Democrats may bank on the fact that the DNC will eventually cave and not be able to enforce any effort to keep a swing state delegation out of the convention. Of course, a president who wanted to diversify the early calendar who becomes presumptive nominee with little or only token opposition and leads said convention may have some input on the matter. 

However, that is a ways down the road and both sides -- New Hampshire Democrats and the DNCRBC -- have some built-in off ramps (as laid out above) along the way. Will either or both take them or will the showdown continue into 2024?