Showing posts with label pre-window. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pre-window. Show all posts

Monday, February 6, 2023

Raffensperger Weighs in on Early Georgia Presidential Primary

For the first time since the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) officially elevated Georgia in the discussions of early presidential primary states in December, Peach state Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) has publicly shared his thoughts. 

As the AP's Bill Barrow reports, Raffensperger likes the idea: 
“Georgia would be a great early primary state in 2028. It has a good cross-section of engaged voters from both parties."
And therein lies the rub. Georgia's fate on the Democratic calendar for 2024 remains unresolved and state Democrats have until June 3, 2023 to find a fix in order receive a pre-window waiver from the national party. But the problem is that the two national parties' calendars are misaligned more than usual for 2024. The RNC voted in April 2022 on amendments to the 2024 presidential nomination rules and opted to stick with the early calendar the party has used every cycle since 2008. 

That leaves Georgia on the outside looking in on that side of the equation. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada will once again be the four early states in the Republican process, and the national party now has no means of changing it. All rules changes had to be made by September 30, 2022. But once amendments were adopted by the national party last April, that was it. There is nothing the RNC can do at this point to change its calendar.

But as Raffensperger noted in his brief comments, things could be different for the Peach state when planning for 2028 commences. 

However, an early position in 2024 is still not necessarily out of the question for Georgia. There is just very little wiggle room at this point. The rules are locked in. But Raffensperger's office has set the criteria for cooperation from their office on the primary scheduling matter. In reaction to the DNCRBC calendar vote in December, Jordan Fuchs, deputy secretary of state set the parameters:
"We’ve been clear: This needs to be equitable so that no one loses a single delegate and needs to take place on the same day to save taxpayer funds."
Georgia can hold a single primary for both parties as early as March 1 under RNC rules. Any earlier than that and Republicans in the Peach state would be vulnerable to the RNC super penalty for timing violations. That would knock the Georgia delegation to the Milwaukee convention down to just twelve delegates. 

Democrats' efforts to push the primary up to the February 13 position prescribed in the new DNC rules are likely to be futile given those penalties. And now that Michigan has passed legislation to move into its February 27 spot -- not to mention that the DNC has now also adopted its rules -- flipping Georgia and Michigan in the order seems out of the question. 

However, if the DNC is serious about nudging the Georgia primary into the pre-window and it does not mind a Michigan-and-then-Georgia pairing to close the pre-window, then perhaps the Georgia primary could fit into the space between the Michigan primary on February 27 and Super Tuesday on March 5.

Saturday, March 2 would work. 

However, wedging Georgia into that spot creates a potential spacing issue with the Michigan and Georgia contests so close together on top of Super Tuesday. That spacing is less consequential on the Democratic side if President Biden seeks reelection and faces only nominal opposition. 

But that still leaves the issue of how a primary on that date fits into the Republican calculus both nationally and in Georgia. Peach state Republicans, of which Raffensperger is one, may like the idea of the Georgia primary playing a role similar to what South Carolina's did in the Democratic process in 2020. From the same Saturday-before-Super-Tuesday position, the Palmetto state primary catapulted then-candidate Biden into Super Tuesday victorious. It is an outcome that has been viewed in retrospect as decisive. And that is not a bad spot in which to potentially be. 

Of course, that may not be the case in the Republican process and especially with a possible Michigan primary just a few days prior to a hypothetical March 2 Georgia primary. And that Michigan Republican primary on February 27 is "possible" because the Michigan GOP faces the same issue Georgia Republicans would encounter on February 13: penalties from the national party. Michigan Republicans may yet opt out of the state-run primary and hold later caucuses that comply with RNC rules. 

The RNC may also not be on board with any of this. Signaling a green light to a Georgia move -- again, within the rules -- to Saturday, March 2 may set off a race toward a Super Saturday among other states. And the national party may or may not want that complication. Granted, Raffensperger has under Georgia law until December 1 to set the date of the Georgia presidential primary. There is no rush. That may help mitigate some of the potential for a rush to March 2. 

Still, that is a lot of moving parts, not to mention the number of interested decision makers, to pull something like that off in such a narrow window. But at this point, if Georgia is to be a part of the pre-window on the Democratic side, then it may be March 2 or bust. 

Honestly, it always has been.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Whitmer's Signature Sends Michigan Presidential Primary to February 27

The new Democratic-controlled Michigan state legislature made quick work of SB 13, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) wasted little time on Wednesday in signing it once it hit her desk. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Michigan Senate Passes February Presidential Primary Bill

After being introduced two weeks ago, SB 13 -- the legislation to shift the Michigan presidential primary to the fourth Tuesday in February -- sat awaiting placement on the Michigan state Senate calendar for consideration on the floor by the full body.

Thursday was that day. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Extends Waiver Compliance Window for Georgia and New Hampshire

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) met remotely on Wednesday, January 25 to consider extensions for Georgia and New Hampshire to comply with the national party's proposed calendar for 2024. In order to attain waivers to appear in the early calendar slots reserved for them, Democrats in Georgia and New Hampshire must either complete the requirements put before them by the DNCRBC or show provable, positive steps toward their completion by June 3, 2023.

In Georgia's case, Peach state Democrats must get some buy-in from Republicans in the state who control the scheduling of the presidential primary. There are ways of getting there with Republican help -- the Georgia secretary of state's office has set the criteria -- but it will likely take the DNCRBC bending a little on the president's vision for the calendar adopted in December.

But Georgia did not come up much in the context of the conversation among DNCRBC members. Instead, much of the period in which the floor was open for comment was dominated by the roadblocks obstructing New Hampshire's path to compliance with the waiver mandates and the reaction in the Granite state to the DNCRBC's adoption of the calendar proposal. DNCRBC member from New Hampshire, Joanne Dowdell, delivered the familiar arguments that have made the rounds over the last month from the Granite state. Her's was a simple recitation of the facts. Basically: New Hampshire Democrats are stuck; stuck between a state law that places the decision on the presidential primary's date in the hands of the secretary of state and a Republican-controlled state government with a demonstrated lack of interest in changing either the primary scheduling law or adding no-excuse absentee voting. Folks outside of the New Hampshire Democratic Party organization in the state may be more agitated and use more inflammatory arguments as this process continues, but the state party itself will likely continue along the above lines. 

What is likely to be the dug-in position of the DNCRBC, if not the DNC, with regard to the ongoing New Hampshire situation is something voiced by DC DNCRBC member, Mo Elleithee. His contention was that New Hampshire has not over the course of the last five decades been the first contest in the primary calendar order. In fact, the Granite state has been second and has had that position protected by the DNC (explicitly starting in 1984). The current plan continues to protect that (second) position and asks that New Hampshire share the space with Nevada. 

Of course, that is the crux of the problem. New Hampshire Democrats cannot comply with that. ...if they intend to operate under the state law. Unmentioned by Dowdell was any potential alternate course the state party could take to select/allocate delegates and come into compliance with a calendar plan that will not be fully adopted until June at the earliest. The DNCRBC may be trying to nudge New Hampshire Democrats in that direction, but they may not find a receptive audience. To move to an alternative is to undermine the very state law that protects the New Hampshire primary. The incentives just may not be there to move Democrats in the Granite state from that position.

But they and Georgia Democrats -- and the DNCRBC -- now have until June to figure all of that out. 

The DNCRBC unanimously adopted the Georgia and New Hampshire extensions with all 25 members present on the call in support. That means that these two waiver extensions extend past when initial draft delegate selection plans are due to the DNCRBC for review on May 3. Additionally, the new June 3 deadline for Georgia and New Hampshire to comply is around nine months later in the cycle than when the DNC has in the past finalized the calendar rules/waivers. That is not exactly time lost for the 55 other states and territories to prepare and finalize their plans (with DNCRBC approval), but it does leave some important particulars about the Georgia and New Hampshire primaries -- their dates -- unresolved. That affects state-level preparation for those contests but also impacts the candidates. 

Now that means little if President Biden opts to seek reelection and runs largely unopposed. But this process could bleed over into the Republican nomination race. It will not affect Republicans in New Hampshire. The secretary of state will schedule the presidential primary for some time seven or more days before any other contest that is not Iowa. Likely sometime in January 2024. Yet, if Georgia can be slipped into the end of the pre-window (and that takes a while to play out on the Democratic side) that could affect Republican candidates' preparation for a pre-Super Tuesday primary in the Peach state if not a soon-to-follow Super Tuesday. Granted, that is likely to factor into Republican decision makers' thinking on helping Democrats out with this plan.  

The bottom line is that the DNCRBC took a rather unprecedented step -- leaving this unresolved until the late spring of the year prior to the presidential election -- but that underscores how serious the panel is about finalizing the president's calendar plan as close to its initially presented form as possible. 

Delaware as a Pre-Window Calendar Stand-in on Standby? On Threats, Substitutes and Calendar Shake-Ups

It was reported in the time after January 5 that Delaware was being used as a cudgel to help the DNC/White House nudge New Hampshire Democrats closer to compliance with the president's primary calendar plan adopted by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) in December. As Jake Luhut wrote at The Daily Beast then: 
"The proposal? Not only should South Carolina go first, but if New Hampshire won’t acquiesce to the Democratic National Committee’s demands, Biden’s home state of Delaware should also leapfrog New Hampshire as further punishment."
Well, Delaware "leapfrogging" New Hampshire into the pre-window of the Democratic primary calendar would not exactly be "further punishment." January 5, after all, was the deadline that South Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and Michigan -- the states granted contingent waivers to go early in 2024 at the December 2 DNCRBC meeting -- were given to show progress on state-specific goals toward the calendar changes called for in the adopted proposal. New Hampshire was obviously given a list of requirements that were, to put it mildly, a tall order considering Republicans control the levers of power in the state (and thus the ability to change anything to do with the first-in-the-nation primary). The Delaware threat was less a threat and more a reality. If New Hampshire Democrats cannot meet the requirements for the waiver they were conditionally given in December, then they will not have a waiver at all under DNC rules for 2024. Delaware is not the "further punishment." New Hampshire Democrats not getting a waiver like every other year following the 1980 cycle is. Actually, that is the punishment. "Further punishment" will likely come from the DNCRBC should 1) the DNC adopt some version of the president's calendar proposal at its February winter meeting and 2) New Hampshire Democrats continue to strike a defiant pose on the first-in-the-nation primary thereafter.

But why Delaware? 

Yes, it is President Biden's home state. And while that may be part of the calculus for those in the White House, it is not the only part or even the main part of the thinking. 

Like New Hampshire, Delaware is small. Retail politics would be just as possible there as they are in the Granite state. 

Both states lag the national average on the Census Bureau's diversity index (61.1%), but Delaware (59.6%) is less than two points shy while New Hampshire (23.6%) falls nearly 40 points short. 

However, unlike New Hampshire, Delaware is no presidential battleground in the general election. There are some tradeoffs on that front in view of campaign advertising/spending. Swapping Boston media market buys to advertise in New Hampshire for Philadelphia buys to target First state primary voters is an interesting exchange. The former has the benefit of priming New Hampshire primary voters with the general election in mind, but the latter would hit voter not only Delaware voters but Pennsylvania voters ahead of a primary in the Keystone state and a fight for more electoral votes (relative to New Hampshire) in the general election there as well. 

Plus, what Delaware lacks in general election competitiveness relative to the Granite state, it makes up for in feasibility of movement. New Hampshire cannot comply with the likely DNC rules and may or may not try to find alternatives in the end. A Democratic-controlled state government in Dover can and likely very happily would bend over backwards to work toward a pre-window presidential primary if granted a waiver by the DNCRBC. 

But FHQ tends to agree with the anonymous Democratic strategist who questioned the optics of an earlier Delaware primary in the Daily Beast piece:
“I don’t know what value that adds. It’s not a demographically diverse state, it’s not a significantly cheaper media market,” the strategist said. 
“I don’t know if the University of Delaware is gonna become the new Saint Anselm, which is probably the best analogy, but I just don’t see the point,” they continued. “There’s nothing to this that makes this more valuable, and the tourism argument for early primary states is overblown. The TV one is the strongest, because it’s the most sustained form of revenue for these states.”
All of that aside, DNCRBC member, Elaine Kamarck, said it better this past summer after the panel had heard the early primary pitch from the Delaware delegation. Basically, a president has nothing to gain and everything to lose in a home state contest that is first in the order. At best (for the incumbent president), no one shows up as with Tom Harkin in Iowa in 1992. In that case, Delaware would be little more than a beauty contest first primary that most candidates would skip. At worst (again, for the incumbent president), other candidates do show up and either win outright or relative to what would be low expectations. In that case, Delaware would win, but the president would not. 

Of course, Kamarck's comments were about Delaware as the first contest to which Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), as a part of the state's delegation before the DNCRBC, countered that Delaware was not vying only for the first spot, but for any one of the available slots in the pre-window. And maybe Kamarck's rules apply in that situation -- a slightly later early Delaware presidential primary -- or maybe they do not. It could also be that President Biden, with or without a pre-window Delaware primary, runs largely unopposed in 2024 and that this whole effort is not to secure his renomination but geared more toward a paradigm shift in how the pre-window part of the calendar is devised every four years. 

And that is kind of the thing. Viewed through the lens of a White House seeking renomination in an environment where it is largely unopposed is the sort of confluence of conditions a national party would need in place to make any big change to the beginning of the presidential primary calendar. 

Well, that and said national party would have to be willing to take on Iowa and New Hampshire. The DNCRBC, before the president weighed in, seemed willing to shunt Iowa out of the pre-window. But the president's input added New Hampshire to that mix. Both directly and indirectly.1 Again, the DNCRBC set a difficult set of criteria before New Hampshire Democrats. But they have a chance at an early window waiver (just not one in the position they want or that they could comply with, they would argue). They could give an inch, but have not. Yet. And New Hampshire Democrats may concede nothing. They seem willing at this point to let this play out, take their punishment (if the DNC can enforce it), and try to live to see another cycle in 2028 with a new membership on the DNCRBC.

But all of this -- pushing South Carolina to the first spot, nixing Iowa, trying to bend New Hampshire to the calendar change, substituting Delaware (or Iowa back) into the pre-window, or even adding Georgia and Michigan -- comes with trade-offs. That gets lost in all the post-January 5 chatter about New Hampshire. 

Yes, there is something to be gained by opening up the pre-window to any state that wants to pitch their virtues to the DNCRBC every four years. That gives the national party the flexibility to add and subtract states based on the criteria the DNCRBC has leaned on this cycle. If Nevada, for example, becomes less competitive in general elections, then add Arizona. If Georgia elects more Democrats to statewide office (like secretary of state), then replace South Carolina with the Peach state. If New Hampshire becomes more diverse (in addition to being a battleground), then keep it around or officially add it back. That flexibility is, in the abstract, a good thing for the national party. ...if it can overcome the start-up costs and establish it in the first place.  

However, there is something lost in that transition and it is not just tradition. The continuity of Iowa and New Hampshire every cycle was (and is in the Republican process) arguably a good thing as well for the national parties and for the candidates. There has been certainty there, and with that certainty comes knowledge, or if not knowledge, then an understanding about the rhythms of the nomination system; how it works. And that is true even when the first two states are not well aligned with the overall constituency of a party's primary electorate. 

The path of least resistance for the DNCRBC this cycle would have been to leave well enough alone -- as has almost always been the case for national parties with incumbent presidents seeking reelection -- and just add Michigan to the end of the four state lineup that has existed in the Democratic presidential nomination process since 2008. Iowa and New Hampshire are not perfect fits for the party, but they have the infrastructure in place to dependably go first. Well, maybe not Iowa after 2020. But even after that, there would have been an even greater asterisk placed by Iowa and would continue to place one on New Hampshire. Again, as FHQ has argued elsewhere in this space, the results in those two contests are discounted in the Democratic process. Voters know they are not representative of the broader party. The media knows it and discusses the results in that context and that affects how candidates approach and, afterward, talk about those two contests.

And Raymond Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, even talked about a version of this in his recent conversation with Politico, saying basically that New Hampshire winnows the field and sets up a state like South Carolina to be decisive. That has not been untrue. And if that is the case, then why mess with a system that, on some level, works?

Mainly, the answer lies in the fact that the current system with the same old calendar was no longer tenable to the president, major parts of the DNCRBC and likely DNC. The DNCRBC did adopt the calendar proposal with just two dissenting votes -- the two members from Iowa and New Hampshire. And the reactions from folks of color on the panel, from members to the DNC chair, spoke volumes about the meaning of the proposed change. 

That is why some version of the president's plan will be adopted next month in Philadelphia. It has been a process that has involved trade-offs with the same old calendar and will likely have some more as the DNCRBC and the rest of the party seeks to fill out the rest of the pre-window lineup should there be vacancies created by a rogue New Hampshire. Perhaps that will be Delaware. ...or perhaps not. Maybe Georgia cannot get there. Maybe it can. Things remain in flux as the party heads into its winter meeting.

1 The president's proposal directly hit New Hampshire by not placing the presidential primary in the Granite in the first position on the calendar. But it indirectly knocked the state by erecting a significant set of barriers for New Hampshire Democrats to successfully win a pre-window waiver.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Iowa Back in the Democratic Pre-Window?

During the last month or so there has been significant chatter about not to mention back and forth between New Hampshire Democrats and the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) over the position of the Granite state presidential primary on the 2024 Democratic presidential primary calendar. But that has mostly overshadowed the impact the proposed calendar overhaul has had on the other traditional lead-off state, Iowa. 

Sure, the caucuses in the Hawkeye state were ousted from their spot at the head of the class in the Democratic presidential nomination process for first time in the last half century. However, more (national) attention has been paid to the defiance of New Hampshire Democrats, who received a pre-window waiver (albeit with a demanding set of conditions), than to Iowa Democrats also potentially breaking the rules to continue occupying the top slot. 

Placed on the back burner in reality or not, the Iowa situation has not gone anywhere. In fact, the recent deadline for the states granted contingent pre-window waivers by the DNCRBC to check in with their progress did not go unnoticed. When it was revealed that Georgia and New Hampshire had both fallen short of meeting the state-specific mandates from the national panel, Iowa Democrats took the opportunity to lobby once again to be reinserted into the lineup. 

In a letter to the DNCRBC, Ross Wilburn, outgoing Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) chair, astutely leaned on the feasibility argument that weighed so heavily on the panel down the stretch in their decision-making process. Those potential complications forced the committee to punt on a calendar decision until after the 2022 midterms. As Wilburn wrote:
"The Iowa Democratic Party believes that, with two states apparently unable to meet the criteria set forth as conditions of a waiver, within the timeline set forth by this committee, we have a compelling case to be granted a conditional waiver for a pre-window contest. As a state party run contest, we retain the ultimate ability to tailor our contest to RBC rules and specifications and maintain a flexibility that states with state-run contests cannot. To that end, we request consideration for a conditional waiver be considered at the February meeting of the RBC."
Honing in on the revised, fully-absentee caucuses that the IDP pitched to the DNCRBC in the summer, Wilburn continued:
"The process we proposed allowed flexibility as to the date while complying with Iowa law. We believe that Iowa can be an important part of the solution to an early nominating calendar by providing flexibility with its new process."
But Wilburn was not the only one making the case. Iowa's sole member of the DNCRBC, Scott Brennan also weighed in:
"We view this as an opportunity to go back and say, 'Take another look, you made a mistake with us the first time. We're willing to forgive and forget and take our spot back in the pre-window."
Brennan added that Iowa Democrats "stand ready, willing and able to fill in" before setting expectations for the coming weeks before the DNC presumably votes on finalizing the early calendar:
Brennan said he expects the committee will discuss Wilburn’s request at its February meeting, but meet virtually in the meantime in the next couple of weeks to discuss granting a deadline extension for New Hampshire and Georgia.
Even Governor Kim Reynolds (R-IA) added her two cents during her second inaugural speech this past week:
To the national Democrats, to President Biden, I say this: Reconsider,” she said. “Come back to Iowa, and you won’t regret it.
None of this is unexpected. The Iowa loose end will have to be tied off at some point by either the DNCRBC or the Iowa Democratic Party. But until (and perhaps after) the DNC finalizes the 2024 calendar rules, the IDP clearly has no qualms about continuing to pitch the caucuses as a solution to any implementation problems other states may have. 

But one thing this highlights that I do not think has been emphasized enough since the DNCRBC handed down its proposal in December is that that action has so far served as a massive wedge in between a host of institutionalized traditions that have developed during the post-reform era with Iowa and New Hampshire at the front of the queue. 

Think about how both parties in each state may have differed on every policy position under the sun, but agreed on one thing, keeping their respective states first in the presidential primary order. That bipartisanship still exists in both states, but it has been weakened. State parties in Iowa and New Hampshire are still fighting to remain first, but Republicans in both states have not been shy about pointing out how the DNCRBC decision means that national Democrats do not care about the interests of either state. And neither have Democrats in the two states been unwilling to tell the national party what the decision may mean for Democrats in their states or nationally. That past togetherness on the matter between Democrats and Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire is gone. 

And that is not the only wedge. The DNCRBC decision has also undermined the Iowa/New Hampshire relationship. It has not always been the case, yet both states have done well to band together to ward off threats in the past. Now, those threats were from other potential rogue states and not a change in national party rules, but Iowa and New Hampshire would work together. Iowa Democrats even consulted with New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner in the lead up to the 2020 cycle to insure that any changes to the caucus process in the Hawkeye state would not run afoul of the state law in the Granite state. 

That working relationship now seems to be gone too in the aftermath of the DNCRBC adoption of the calendar rules package. New Hampshire Democrats failed to meet the DNCRBC stipulations by January 5, and Iowa Democrats did not hesitate to offer the caucuses up as a substitute. That would not have happened in the past. 

None of that was by design, per se. The DNCRBC and the Biden administration simply wanted to change up the states and order of the contests in the pre-window. But it would be a mistake not to make note of the extent to which that has already eroded rituals if not instincts that have developed in the post-reform era, traditions primary watchers could be excused for taking for granted. 

In the end, as the DNC winter meeting approaches at the beginning of February, Iowa may or may not prove to be a suitable substitute. However, the DNCRBC did not support a plan that included five state-run contests by accident. It has a preference for them. That is why the Iowa caucuses -- feasibility of movement aside -- should be discounted as much as New Hampshire Democrats potentially offering to shift to a party-run contest in order to comply with the DNCRBC proposal (which they have not done and likely will not).

Of course, that may leave the DNCRBC with other imperfect possibilities relative to the criteria it has used during the selection process. Then again, Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats may just ignore them anyway. But that is another matter. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

Roadblock to an Earlier Michigan Presidential Primary?

Yes, Democrats control state government in Michigan after the 2022 midterms. 

Yes, there is now legislation to bring the Michigan presidential primary in line with the calendar proposal adopted by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) last month.

But none of that necessarily means that obstacles do not stand in the way of the state's Democrats coming into compliance with the DNC's likely rules for the 2024 cycle. The legislation -- SB 13 -- is simple enough and non-controversial to the Democratic majority, but state legislative rules may gum up the works with respect to the legislation moving seamlessly through the legislature and being implemented in time for February of next year.

The Detroit News reports that even though the Democrats holding the levers of power in Lansing plan a "rapid" consideration of the presidential primary date change, they may need Republican help in the state House to make it happen. 
The reason is because the Michigan Constitution requires bills to take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session unless two-thirds of the lawmakers in each chamber vote to give them "immediate effect."
That "immediate effect" measure matters because Democrats hold only a narrow majority in the state House, short of a two-thirds advantage, and the legislature typically adjourns at the end of the year. Late December 2023 is within 90 days of the proposed new position of the Michigan presidential primary on February 27, 2024. 

In other words, Michigan Democrats may need state House Republicans to get the primary date change over the finish line. And therein lies the rub. Although Republicans in the Great Lakes state may in theory support and earlier primary and a potentially larger voice in the presidential nomination process in 2024, Republican National Committee (RNC) rules prohibiting primaries and caucuses other than the four typical carve-out states before March 1 may deter cooperation in the effort. Assisting state Democrats now in shifting the presidential primary into February may cost Michigan Republicans around three-quarters of their national convention delegates in 2024.

That is a steep price and was intended to be when the RNC added the penalty for the 2016 cycle. But just because there are national party rules against any particular maneuver on the state level does not mean that Republicans in any given state will follow along blindly. There may, then, be enough Republican support to push SB 13 through the House and immediately thereafter take effect.

Of course, even if Republicans in the minority pull together in united opposition to the move in the Michigan state House, Democrats will still have tools at their disposal to bring the primary move to fruition. If the majority completes their 2023 work in time, the Democrats will still have the ability to adjourn the session early enough that there is at least a 90 day cushion between that point and February 27, 2024. 

Two footnotes to this:

1. National party cross-pressures
The politics of this are interesting because of the dynamics that exist between what is happening in Lansing and how legislators there are being cross-pressured by the national parties' rules if not the national parties themselves. Michigan Democrats want SB 13 to move "rapid[ly]" in order to meet the February 1 deadline to have the primary moved that the DNCRBC-adopted calendar rules package set in December. There is probably some wiggle room on that deadline as long as the legislature is making progress. 

But the Republican side of this equation raises some questions. Clearly, RNC penalties are on the radars of at least some Michigan Republican legislators. One Republican opposed state Senate-passed legislation in 2022 that would have pushed the presidential primary even earlier into February because of the rules implications. 

Yet, at this point in time, how much are the feelings of that lone Republican, Senator Jim Runestad, being buttressed by representatives from the RNC? That is unclear. There is a large enough team at the RNC to be able to multitask on a variety of issues, but considering that a heated race for RNC chair is taking place in the same window in which the DNCRBC is requiring completed action on the primary move in Michigan, it could mean that resources may be diverted at the very time they are needed in Lansing. It is not that RNC backup is necessarily needed in Michigan to inform Republicans in the state legislature of the gravity of moving the presidential primary, but rather that the national party may be sidetracked at a point when that backup may matter most. 

2. Maybe Michigan cannot help Georgia
On a different note, this potential legislative roadblock in Michigan complicates to some degree the Georgia primary situation for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). FHQ recently raised the prospect of the DNC switching the Georgia (February 13) and Michigan (February 27) primaries in the proposed calendar order as a means of actually getting the presidential primary in the Peach state into the pre-window. 

However, such a switch was predicated on an unfettered Democratic majority in Lansing; a majority free to tweak legislation if necessary. Michigan Democrats in the legislature may still have that ability, but it appears that the entire Democratic apparatus in the state -- state party and legislature -- are taking the February 1 DNCRBC deadline seriously. The quicker the legislative majority in Michigan feels compelled to move on SB 13, the less likely it is that the Georgia situation can be fixed in a way that is amendable to the Republican secretary of state there. 

Again, there is likely some latitude in that DNCRBC deadline if Michigan is moving positively toward the goal of changing its primary date. But that is a tricky position for the DNC. At once they want to convey the need to lock in the primary date change in Michigan, but to also find a way to accommodate the complications that are present in Georgia. And at some point the DNC is just going to have to finalize its calendar order and be ready to face whatever state-level reactions come. Still, the party does not want to finalize a calendar rules package that will be tough or impossible to implement and creates headaches down the road.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Bill Introduced in Michigan Senate to Move Presidential Primary to February 27

A day after the 2023 legislative session opened in Michigan, legislation has been introduced in the state Senate to move the presidential primary from the second Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in February. 

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? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Progress Report: A view of an early Georgia Democratic Presidential Primary, post-deadline day

Last week's DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee-imposed deadline for states granted contingent waivers for early contests to update their progress came and went on January 5 with little new light shed on the subject. 

Yes, South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan gave favorable reports and received positive marks from the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC). And all of that was expected because of either how dates are chosen (South Carolina), being on the prescribed date already (Nevada) or the midterms shifting state legislative control in the direction of Democrats (Michigan). None of that was new or unexpected. 

Neither was it unexpected that New Hampshire, Iowa and Georgia may present some problems for the recently adopted calendar proposal put forth by President Biden and his team. It came as little surprise, then, that the DNCRBC co-chairs granted both New Hampshire and Georgia some extra time beyond January 5 to work toward the plan outlined in the proposed pre-window calendar in the Democratic presidential nomination process for 2024. 

And that is less a story of backlash than it is about the political realities of changing the lineup at the beginning of the calendar. Again, if it was so easy to change, then it would have changed by now

Look, the calendar proposal, as is, was unworkable from the start. New Hampshire Democrats were most assuredly going to balk at losing their position atop the primary calendar, and their defiant reaction is mostly just par for the course. Plus, given the hoops that Granite state Democrats were given to jump through to retain their waiver, the very clear signal was that 1) the DNCRBC never really thought New Hampshire Democrats were going to play along and/or 2) the panel was going to have this standoff with them anyway and boot the state from the pre-window altogether. 

[But FHQ digresses. We will return to the Granite state in a separate post.]

Georgia is much the same. As in New Hampshire, Republicans control the levers of power with respect to the selection of a date for the presidential primary. Thus far, the secretary of state's office in Georgia has resisted entreaties about shifting up the date of presidential primary in the Peach state:
"We’ve been clear: This needs to be equitable so that no one loses a single delegate and needs to take place on the same day to save taxpayer funds."
-- Jordan Fuchs, Georgia Deputy Secretary of State
And representatives in Secretary Raffensperger's (R) office have not been doing this just recently. Democrats, in the state of Georgia and nationally, have been repeatedly rebuffed throughout the course of Georgia Democrats' efforts to appeal to the DNCRBC to add the Peach state to the pre-window lineup. 
"Sterling said the agency 'has been telling Democrats for over a year that we will do nothing that would require having two dates' for the parties’ primaries. He said that because of the national GOP’s calendar, holding Georgia’s Republican primary before March 1 'would cut their delegate count in half.'”
-- Gabriel Sterling, COO  Georgia Secretary of State
[Actually, a primary before March 1 would cost Georgia Republicans around 85 percent of their delegates.]

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) also opposes the move. A spokesman said, "the governor has no role in this process and does not support the idea." Well, under Georgia law, the governor issues a proclamation about the presidential primary, but that follows the secretary of state scheduling the contest. Informally, the governor could lobby on behalf of such a move. ...if he was so inclined. 

And in this case, Kemp is not. 

That is a fair amount of resistance to the calendar proposal adopted by the DNCRBC in December to shift the Georgia primary to February 13. But that just makes February 13 unworkable.  

In looking at the above comments from folks in the Georgia secretary of state's office, there is a path for Georgia to be added to the pre-window that satisfies the two main criteria: 1) the state holds just one primary for both parties and 2) neither party loses delegates (for going too early). Just because February 13 is unworkable for Georgia does not mean that the DNCRBC does not have a set of workable component parts, New Hampshire aside, to assemble an alternate pre-window calendar. 

Nevada is likely locked into the February 6 position called for in state law. But everything else is maneuverable. 

If the space between South Carolina and Nevada(/New Hampshire) is deemed to be too small and the three state cluster in the calendar's first four days too heavy a lift in the eyes of the DNCRBC, then South Carolina could be shifted up slightly (if the panel and the president remain wedded to the idea of the Palmetto state primary leading off the proceedings).

Michigan is also maneuverable. Yes, Democrats in power in the state recently submitted their letters to the DNCRBC pledging to make the necessary changes to state law to add the Great Lakes state to the early window. But those Democrats are also in "you say jump and we'll ask how high" mode. In other words, they are happy to be a part of the conversation and could just as easily shift up to an earlier date if necessary to better space out currently listed contests across February 2024.

There is no reason the DNCRBC cannot work with the component parts already described in the proposal. To that end, just swap Georgia and Michigan in the order. Move Michigan up a week or two and slot Georgia into a spot on Saturday, March 2. Democrats in Michigan can make that sort of change just as easily as they can moving to February 27, and Georgia can be the lead-in contest to Super Tuesday on March 2 without costing Peach state taxpayers any additional money for a second presidential primary election or the Georgia Republican Party any delegates to the national convention. 

The beginnings of the Democratic and Republican calendars are unaligned in the rules and a contest can slip into a slot ahead of the first Tuesday in March (Democratic) but after March 1 (Republican) in 2024. Again, February 13 is unworkable for a Georgia Democratic presidential primary, but there are tweaks the DNCRBC can make to create a doable pre-window slate of contests that also satisfies the basic premise of the Biden proposal.

They will still have the New Hampshire problem, but the DNCRBC was always going to have to have that fight if they and the president are serious about dislodging the Granite state from the first primary position in the Democratic order. But as I say, that is a story for a separate post. 

Everything else? That is fixable.