Showing posts with label nomination reform plans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nomination reform plans. Show all posts

Monday, May 12, 2008

Would McCain Have Won Under the Ohio Plan?

I spent the weekend (at least in terms of this blog) looking at the potential presidential nomination reform plans that are being considered by both of the parties. The one plan that has some traction for the moment, is the Ohio Plan that the Republican Party Rules Committee passed last month. Next stop? St. Paul, where the plan will face increased scrutiny this summer at the GOP convention. And it may even face a hostile group of delegates if it reaches the floor for broad consideration. No, not because of those Ron Paul delegates. The Ohio Plan could encounter resistance from McCain delegates. Why, you ask? Well, victorious nominees rarely back plans that change the rules under which they won their nomination, especially if that means they (or someone similar to them) wouldn't have won. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And at a McCain-centered convention, delegates may be more willing to yield to their standard bearer on the issue.

Plus, let's remember that the GOP won't have the benefit of hindsight. Unlike the Democrats, the GOP can only alter its rules for presidential nomination during the preceding national convention. The Republicans then, won't know if having McCain wrap up their nomination three months prior to the Democrats will have an effect on the general election outcome (though they'll likely have a good idea whether the Democrats are indeed divided as a result of their longer process).

The question then, is would McCain have won the Republican nomination under the rules outlined in the Ohio Plan? First, let's glance at that map again:
Next, we'll have to willingly suspend our disbelief that such a plan could ever be put in place (and if you've been reading, you know FHQ has a laundry list of disbeliefs that will have to be suspended here). Let's also assume that if a candidate won a contest in 2008 under the current rules, they would have won the same contest under the Ohio Plan rules (at least among the competitive group of Republican contests--anything from Iowa to Texas/Ohio). According to the Ohio Plan rules, the same four states that led off the process under the current rules, would have kicked off primary season (Sorry Wyoming, Michigan and Florida). Iowa would have been followed by New Hampshire which would have been followed by South Carolina and Nevada. That wouldn't change any of the results we've seen under the current rules (but it would change the timing of the contests. None of these states would have been allowed to go prior to the beginning of February). Huckabee would have won Iowa. McCain still would have won New Hampshire and South Carolina and Romney would have won the Nevada caucuses.

Instead of Florida coming next, though, the process would shift from the "early 4" to a grouping of the least populous states (in teal above). In the process, McCain would have lost the advantage of that Florida win; a win that propelled him to the showing he had the next week on Super Tuesday. By the same token, Romney would have lost the influence of Michigan and Wyoming; wins that kept him viable heading into the next, contest-heavy week. With three different winners of four contests, there would be no clear favorite heading into the small state primary (Dare I call it Tiny Tuesday?) during the third week of February.

Among these 12 states' contests, McCain would have won one (Vermont), Huckabee would have won one (West Virginia) and Romney would have won five (Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Maine and Wyoming). The remaining five states (Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico and South Dakota) are states that have yet to hold contests during this cycle, so we don't know how those outcomes would have looked in a competitive environment.

What are the most likely directions those contests would have gone, though? Given Romney's success in the Prairie and Rocky Mountain states, the temptation is there to allocate him the wins in both Idaho and South Dakota. The difference is that the wins he actually got in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming were all caucus victories (Romney seems to have approached the 2008 primary season in much the same way that Barack Obama and his campaign did. They both focused on organization in those small, caucus states.). Idaho and South Dakota have primary systems in place and it is unclear how Romney would have fared in such a scenario in those states. Southern Idaho looks a lot like Utah, where Romney did very will on Super Tuesday and it is likely he would have won Gem state. South Dakota is bordered by six states, four of which Romney won, so I'll lump it in with the other Romney wins. That gives him seven wins out of those 12 small states.

As for the other three unknown states, McCain's home state advantage would likely have stretched into New Mexico, but Hawaii and Nebraska are tough ones to figure out. Nebraska likely would have been a Romney/Huckabee battle given the strength both had in the region. I'll be generous and throw Huckabee a bone on this one. Hawaii would have been a far away caucus; a set of circumstances that would have favored Romney. Of the 12 small states, Romney would have been a winner (or in good shape) in eight, while McCain and Huckabee each would have managed two wins.

That's a pretty significant win for Romney heading into the big states. Do those eight wins equal what Florida did for McCain, though? That's a tough question to answer. Romney looked good in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada before the actual primary season got underway in 2008, and though he had several foreseeable paths to the GOP nomination, just couldn't come through in the end. Projecting Romney's potential success in the early states of the Ohio Plan to the rest of the country, then, is not automatic, but nine wins in sixteen early contests is nothing to sneeze at either. He clearly would have had an advantage in money and delegates prior to the three "pods" of big state contests. That could have pitted McCain and Huckabee in a one-on-one battle for the number two position behind Romney instead of the Romney/Huckabee fight for the same distinction behind front-runner McCain that we actually witnessed. And that is a position Romney did not find himself in in 2008.

Under the Ohio Plan then, McCain would have been in trouble instead of being in control after the first month of the process. Would McCain give his blessing at (or before) the convention to a plan that would have potentially cost him the 2008 nomination had it been in place? That, too, is a tough one to answer. McCain is a maverick (or so they tell me), so he may be willing to buck conventional wisdom. The only recent precedent is the Bush convention in 2000. That convention discussed the Delaware Plan (minus the New Hampshire/Iowa exemption) but it ultimately failed. And even in a season of change, the Ohio Plan will likely face similar resistance at the St. Paul convention (whether McCain endorses it or not).

Recent Posts:
Tales from the Kennedy School Symposium on Presidential Primaries

The Delegate Race: Is Obama There Yet?

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tales from the Kennedy School Symposium on Presidential Primaries

Recently, I brought up Harvard's Kennedy School symposium on presidential primaries. The meeting brought together election law scholars, journalists and partisans all of all stripes to discuss whether and how best to reform the presidential process. Though a paper on the proceedings is to be released by the Kennedy School, it has yet to emerge and information on the meeting has been been lacking at best. Rick Hasen, law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and moderator/author of the Election Law Blog, was a participant and had this to say:
"It was very interesting to see the very wide spectrum of views represented at the Kennedy school event yesterday on reforming the presidential primary process. (The conversation was on the record, and a transcript will be posted by the Kennedy school at some point.) I would say I walked away thinking how difficult change is going to be, how intractable the positions of those supporting and opposing a system that allows Iowa and New Hampshire to go first, how different the Democratic and Republican party philosophies are on how flexible rule changes should be, and how little support there was among this very diverse audience for a congressional solution (at least one that is foisted upon the national political parties against their will). There was talk of congressional carrots, and there seemed to be a consensus that fundamental changes to the Democratic rules would take place if Sen. McCain ended up winning in November. There also seemed to be agreement that something had to be done to fix the administration of caucuses in some states, such as Texas. But as for this diverse group reaching a general consensus over (1) what, if anything, is wrong with the current system of nominating the presidential candidates; (2) how, if at all, the system should be changed, and (3) who should implement those changes, forget about it."

That jibes with what I've been saying all along in regard to reforming the presidential primary process: that big changes would be difficult to pull off. Small changes, especially to caucuses seem more likely. We've already seen one caucus state from 2008 discuss both switching to a primary and scheduling the contest early in the process (Kansas) in 2012 and another caucus state that was already early discuss switching to a primary (Minnesota). The Republicans, though, have advanced one plan already that they will deal with at their convention in St. Paul, MN this summer. And as Hasen mentions, a consensus had formed among symposium participants that the Democrats would move in the direction of big changes if their chosen nominee lost to McCain in Novemeber. Back in January I posted a link to a CQ article that outlined the most of the big plans being considered by both national parties (and within Congress).

I want to revisit those plans but lay them out visually (Yes, more maps.) to examine where the differences really lie. All of these plans involve grouping the states in various ways as a means of combating frontloading but differ on how they group the states and whether to exempt Iowa and New Hampshire.

Modified Delaware Plan:
This altered version of the plan originally proposed in the lead up to the 2000 GOP convention groups the states by population size. After Iowa and New Hampshire, the next group of states to go are the smallest 10 states and Washington, DC (in teal) sometime in March. The remaining three groups of states go over the successive three months, one group per month. The drawbacks of this plan are the travel strains put on the candidates and their campaigns. Retail politics in Iowa and New Hampshire is one thing, but extending that to an area stretching from Maine to Idaho would favor the front-running candidates (at least in terms of fund-raising) as they are favored in the current system.
Ohio Plan:
The Ohio Plan is the plan that the GOP pushed forward last month in anticipation of a broader hearing on the issue at the convention this summer. Iowa and New Hampshire maintain their traditional positions and South Carolina and Nevada would be next in line as they were in 2008. Following the exempt states, the smallest states go as they do in the Delaware plan. The remaining states are divided in a way that splits the groups' total electoral votes as evenly as possible. California and Texas will have the advantage over the other states in their "pods" while Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania are all lumped together in one group. The two biggest states, then, get the spotlight all to themselves while the next six largest states all go on the same day. That's a good number of the most populous states that will bring up the rear of the process every third cycle. When that group goes immediately after the pre-window states and the smallest states, it will put a lot of pressure on the candidates to be ready organizationally for all those big states as opposed to focusing much of the attention on California and Texas.
NASS Plan:
The plan that the National Association of Secretaries of States has been promoting places value on regional contiguity. There is a modified plan that removes the first-in-the-nation distinction from Iowa and New Hampshire, but the map below reflects the original plan from the NASS. This plan does offer a mix of both big and small states in each of the regions, and with the exception of the western region and California, all the big states are balanced out by other big states. California, in that scenario, could get all the attention or candidates could opt for an "everything but California" strategy. Given the way primary seasons of the past have progressed, this seems unlikely, but in light of Obama's small state strategy in 2008, this sort of strategy could gain momentum in the future. The regions would rotate--a different one going first each cycle--so when the western region went first, this strategy could play out. The one drawback to this system is that potential candidates could gain an advantage when their regions are first (similar to the favorite son success that some candidates have enjoyed in their home states.).
Dingell-Anuzis Modified Plan:
This is the plan that has been introduced in Congress. It divides the nation into six regions and splits primary season into six contests that are three weeks apart beginning in March and ending in June. Under this plan, Iowa and New Hampshire lose their favored, early positions. The contests are not simply made up of the regions though.
There are six contests, but a lottery determines what week anywhere from one to four states from each region will hold their contests. The map below shows one possible way that a lottery could split the states. The fifth week (in brown), for example, takes one state from each region: New Jersey from the Northeast, North Carolina from the South, Maryland from the Border states, Illinois from the Upper Midwest, Louisiana from the Southwest, and Oregon from the West. Believe it or not, the Michigan-based plan has Michigan going during the first week of the process during the first iteration.
Texas Plan:
Finally, the Texas plan splits the country into four groups of contiguous states (They are not completely contiguous, but as you can see in the map below, a group of three or more contiguous states in one region may be together with three or more contiguous states from another region--see states in green for example.). Again, Iowa and New Hampshire are stripped of their customary first positions, but are in the same group together and would go first with the rest of their group every fourth cycle. This is the group that is made up of the smallest states. The other three groups have most of the heavy hitters which have tended to get the attention.
For other symposium materials: See here and here.

Recent Posts:
The Delegate Race: Is Obama There Yet?

ABC News: Obama Now Leads in Superdelegates

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Kennedy School Symposium on Presidential Primaries Process

Next week Harvard's Kennedy School of Government will be holding a symposium to examine the presidential primary process.
"The first-of-its-kind, day-long event will gather Secretaries of State and other elected officials, political strategists, Democratic and Republican Party rules committee members and state-party chairs, congressional staff, members of the media, noted election law experts and governmental scholars to participate in an effort to consider improvements in the way future presidential nominating contests take place."
It will be interesting to see if the resulting published transcript reveals a consensus for a rotating regional primary system like the one pushed by the National Association for Secretaries of State (a partner in this effort). That may be a cynical approach, but as I have stated in this space on numerous occasions, pulling that off is going to be a nearly insurmountable task. The fact this is a bipartisan effort though, leaves room for some hope however, if change to the current system is the goal.

Oh and while you're over at the Kennedy School's site, have a look around. They have some neat things in their Election 2008 section. Elaine Kamarck's history of superdelegates was a good read.

Monday, January 21, 2008


CQ has a great article up about efforts on the part of the RNC to reform the presidential nominating process (eg: to keep frontloading in check). Here's the thing: The Democrats were the party of change on this front starting with the radical changes to the system for the 1972 cycle and tweaking those changes into the mid-1980s. After Bill Clinton took office though, and on through the present, it has been the Republicans who have been the most active in trying to reform the frontloaded system.* Starting in the lead up to the 1996 convention there was talk of a delegate bonus incentive system to motivate states to position their delegate selection events later on the calendar (see Busch 2000).

When that plan didn't pass muster, the GOP again tried to cure what was perceived to ail the nominating system during the 2000 Republican convention. The Delaware plan, as it was/is called, would allow the small states to go first, nurturing the retail brand of politics that has been the hallmark of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary for decades and then let progressively larger states fall in behind them sequentially. Of course this rehashes the same sorts of issues that plagued the Founders when they were trying to conceive of an appropriate legislature for a nation in its infancy. The divisiveness of big states vs. little states plus the reality of getting the state legislatures and states parties to fall in line behind the plan gave pause to an image conscious party attempting to show unity behind its nominee.

The Delaware plan lives on however and has again come up in the RNC's discussion of reform ahead of the party's 2008 convention in St. Paul, MN. CQ describes that plan and the at least four others (that are on the table):

"• Modified Delaware Plan: The latest version of the proposal initially approved but then rejected by Republican officials in 2000, the Modified Delaware Plan is being spearheaded by Republican National Committeeman John Matlusky of Delaware.

This plan would divide the nation into four “pods” that are organized by population. The least-populous states would be placed in one pod and vote first, followed in series by the next more-populous states. Under this plan, voting events would begin later than they have in 2008 and other recent election cycles and would be spread out over a four-month period.

The Modified Delaware Plan would preserve the early-voting traditions of Iowa, which could hold its precinct caucuses as early as the last Tuesday in January (Jan. 31 in 2012), and New Hampshire, which could hold its kickoff primary as early as the first Tuesday in February (Feb. 7 in 2012).

The states in the first pod would then begin voting on the second Tuesday in February (Feb. 14 in 2012) and would consist of Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Maine and Idaho. Six other jurisdictions that are not states but elect convention delegates — the District of Columbia and the territories of American Samoa, Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas Islands — also would be included in this earliest grouping.

Ohio Plan: Promoted by Ohio Republican leader Bennett, who made a presentation Thursday, the Ohio Plan would create a pod of small-population states that would be permitted to vote first in every presidential election year. It differs from the Delaware Plan in that the Ohio Plan’s three other pods would be based on region and not scaled according to state size. These groupings — one of states in the Eastern and Midwestern United States, one encompassing the South and other covering the West — would have roughly similar allocations of electoral votes, and would rotate their order in the nominating process every four years.

The Ohio Plan would allow Iowa and New Hampshire to go before other states — and it also would extend that special exemption to Nevada and South Carolina, which the DNC included as early-voting states for the current 2008 campaign to lend greater geographic and racial diversity to the early-voting period. Those four states only would be allowed to hold a primary, caucus or convention before Feb. 1 in the presidential election year.

• Dingell-Anuzis Modified Plan: For those who follow politics in Michigan, the state that generated this plan, that name is not a misprint. It is a bipartisan effort promoted by Debbie Dingell, a prominent Michigan Democratic activist whose husband is veteran Democratic Rep. John D. Dingell , and Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.

Debbie Dingell is a high-profile opponent of Iowa and New Hampshire’s primacy in the presidential selection process. The longstanding opposition among Michigan politicians to the overwhelming influence that Iowa and New Hampshire have long held over the presidential nominating process spurred a bipartisan agreement to hold the state’s 2008 primary on Jan. 15 — even though the move violated each major party’s scheduling rules setting Feb. 5 as the first date for most states’ contests, spurring the DNC to strip its Michigan affiliate of all its convention delegates and the RNC to penalize the Michigan GOP of half its delegates.

The Dingell-Anuzis plan is patterned after legislation sponsored in the U.S. House (HR 1523) by Michigan Democratic Rep. Sander F. Levin and in the U.S. Senate (S 2024) by Florida Democrat Bill Nelson . Democrats in Florida, who have gone along with a new state law setting its primary for Jan. 29 in violation of national party rules, also has been denied all of their national convention delegates by the DNC (while Florida Republicans similarly have lost half their delegates).

The Michigan-based plan would divide the nation into six regions, from which six “interregions” — made up of one or two states from each region — would be shaped. Each interregion would vote two or three weeks before the next interregion.

The Dingell-Anuzis plan would create a lottery 14 months before the presidential election to determine the voting order of the interregions. The same interregion could not go first in consecutive presidential elections.

Their plan also places Iowa and New Hampshire in their respective interregions and would not automatically permit them to vote early.

Modified NASS Plan: Sponsored by Republican National Committeeman Ron Schmidt of South Dakota, this is essentially the plan long promoted by the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the organization of state election officials. It divides the nation into four regions — the East, South, Midwest and West — and each region would be given an election date before which it could not vote (early in March, April, May or June). The region that votes first, in early March, would vote last in the next presidential election year, and the region that voted second, in early April, would then move up to first.

The major difference between Schmidt’s version and the NASS plan is that Schmidt’s does not allow Iowa and New Hampshire to vote first. The NASS version allows exemptions for Iowa and New Hampshire to keep voting earlier than the rest of the nation.

Texas Plan: This proposal, sponsored by Republican National Committeeman Bill Crocker of Texas, would divide the nation into four groups, with each drawing in a few contiguous states from one particular area of the nation and a few contiguous states from another area of the nation. One of Crocker’s groups, for example, would take in the Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and also the Southern states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

The states in the first group could hold binding nomination contests as early as Feb. 1, with the three subsequent groups to follow in early March, April and May. Like the NASS plan, Crocker’s proposal includes a provision that the group voting first in one presidential election year would vote last in the next election. This plan also would end the special privilege to go first that has long been accorded to Iowa and New Hampshire."

One plan not mentioned as being considered is Thomas Gangale's American plan (in PS, Jan. 2004). In that plan, the randomness of what's called the Dingell-Anuzis modified plan by the RNC plays some role, but the largest states have the possibility of being positioned as early as the fourth week of the process. So while the plan protects the smaller states from being completely ignored in the process, it doesn't automatically shunt the larger states to the back of the line. I've liked this plan since I first read it, but understand all the same that the American public may not go for what is essentially a lottery to determine which states go when. Simplicity seems to be what people want as there has been some support for the idea of a national primary through polls taken during this current cycle.

*This isn't to say that the Democrats have done nothing of late to reform the system. Some of the problems associated with frontloading find their root in the notion that Iowa and New Hampshire have too large a voice in the process. In answer to that the DNC included Nevada and South Carolina among the states exempt from sanctions attendant to positioning a delegate selection event ahead of the party's designated window (Feb. 5 is the earliest all non-exempt states were allowed to go during this cycle.). The reason they were included was to diversify the voices of the early states. That goal was accomplished but it also exacerbated the frontloading problem by bumping two states (and a group of states campaigned for two those spots given to South Carolina and Nevada in the summer of 2006) up in the process. Florida and Michigan were the two most notable states which took exception to this. So why is it that South Carolina and Nevada get a seat at the table occupied by just Iowa and New Hampshire previously and other states, which have their own issues to bring into the process get sanctioned for moving. That is the issue at stake for both parties as they eye 2012.