Showing posts with label state legislatures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label state legislatures. Show all posts

Monday, January 14, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The 2018 Elections and The 2020 Presidential Primary Calendar

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the day that was...

As presidential nomination cycles have come and gone over the years, the stories change in terms of how states maneuver within that system and why. That is not to suggest that the collision of states and the decision-making conditions they confront is complete chaos every four years. Rather, the terrain is constantly shifting. That is true for a lot of electoral decisions that state legislatures make, and that includes how states position their delegate selection events -- primaries and caucuses -- on the quadrennial presidential primary calendar.

Eight years ago, nearly half the states in the country had newly non-compliant primary dates leftover from a 2008 cycle that saw a slew of states push into February and cluster primarily at the beginning of the month. When the national parties informally coordinated a later start to primary season for 2012, all those February states from 2008 had to make changes to state law.

And the result was at least somewhat predictable. State governments that were under unified Republican control shifted back their dates much less than did the handful of states that were controlled by Democrats after the 2010 midterm elections. Whereas Democratic-controlled states pushed back to traditional positions (California and New Jersey back to June) or positions later on the calendar (the northeastern/mid-Atlantic regional primary in late April), most Republican-controlled states ended up somewhere in March.

At least part of the motivation, then, was partisan. Decision makers in Republican state governments were preparing for an active nomination race and attempted to schedule their primaries for advantageous -- for voters and for drawing candidate attention -- spots on the calendar. Democratic decision makers had no such similar calculus. With no real competition for the Democratic nomination, decision makers in Democratic-controlled states could afford to shift back further in 2012 to take advantage of a new series of delegate bonuses the DNC built into their delegate selection rules for that cycle.

However, when the calendar flipped over four more times, the decision-making matrix at the state level was different for 2016. Both parties had varying levels of competitive races looming and again, acted in at least somewhat predictable ways. Republican-controlled states, already largely in early positions, saw minimal movement.

But Democratic side of the ledger was different. First even in 2014, before the 2015-16 legislatures had been elected, Democrats had a clear frontrunner for 2016 in Hillary Clinton. Second, after the 2014 midterms, there were only a handful of states with unified Democratic control. That is a recipe for little movement, and, in fact, none of those seven Democratic states made any changes for the 2016 cycle.

So as the process heads into 2019, what does the balance of power look like in states across the country for 2020?

For starters, the number of Republican-controlled states is similar to 2015. While there were 23 states with unified Republican control in 2015, there are 22 in 2019. However, there are more Democratic-controlled states now than four years ago and the gains came not from Republican states, but from those with control divided in some way, whether inter-branch or intra-branch.

Not only has the map of partisan control changed, but so too have the conditions under which these decisions are made. Like 2011 or 2015 for Republicans, Democratic decision makers in 2019 seemingly have a wide open and competitive nomination race on the horizon. Those actors, like Republicans in the recent past, have incentives to potentially shift around the dates on which their presidential primaries are held.

That incentive was great enough that California moved from June to March for 2020 back in 2017, an atypical time in the cycle to make such a move.

And that incentive could be enough to motivate the cluster of Democratic-controlled states in the northeast to coordinate an earlier cluster of contests; the inverse of 2011. There is already some evidence that a western regional primary could form in a position just a week after Super Tuesday.

On the Republican side the motivation is different, and not exactly like what Democrats faced in 2011. Yes, defending the president is chief among the concerns of Republicans like the Democrats of eight years ago. However, the defense is potentially different. Democrats, with no real threat of a challenge to President Obama, made moves potentially with the general election in mind; to attempt to influence who emerged as Obama's opponent.

Republican legislators may act, but with the nomination phase in mind; to ward off a challenge to the president. This may happen, as was the case eight years ago on the Democratic side, at the behest of national Republican actors, but it will take place at the state level.

Does that mean Republican-controlled states unilaterally pull back and set later dates? That would be an historical anomaly. States have not typically done that except in situations where it has meant consolidating separated primaries in order to reduce costs; save a line on the state budget. But in more polarized times, both nationally and increasingly in state legislatures, the rules may be different.

It is early in the 2019 state legislative sessions, but it is there that these calendar decisions will be made, and begin to provide a picture of what the 2020 presidential primary calendar will eventually look like.


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Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Gillibrand end last week with a flurry of activity, whether it was lining up potential campaign headquarters, planning trips to Iowa, staffing up, or privately signaling her intentions.

2. She's not the only one headed to Iowa. Brown is going to visit the Hawkeye state too.

3. Swalwell is taking a late January trip to New Hampshire.

4. Inslee is taking flak back home from Republicans and from some New Hampshire Democrats.

5. In West Virginia, announced Democratic presidential candidate, Richard Ojeda, is resigning his state Senate seat to run for president.

6. Meanwhile, Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is in.

7. So is Julian Castro.

8. And DeBlasio isn't closing any 2020 doors, but, boy, is the clock ticking and the alarm may have already sounded for statements about door-closing/considerations being either serious or taken seriously.

9. Warren continues to add staff. This time some New Hampshire staff additions were announced while Warren was visiting the Granite state.

10. If Biden's walking, he's running [for 2020].


Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Primary Movement Starts with the State Legislatures

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the day that was...

The National Conference of State Legislatures has this calendar as well, but in alphabetical order. FHQ is more concerned with sequence. Which state legislatures convene first, when do their sessions end and how does this impact the scheduling of presidential primaries? [More below the calendar.]

2019 State Legislative Session Calendar (sequential)
Date (Convene)StatesDate (Adjourn)
January 1, 2019Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
year-round2
mid July
January 2Maine
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
Washington, DC
June 19
year-round2
late June
year-round2
January 3Indiana
North Dakota1
April 29
April 26
January 4ColoradoMay 3
January 7California
Idaho
Montana
Ohio
Wisconsin
September 13
early April
May 1
year-round2
year-round2
January 8Delaware
Kentucky
Minnesota
Mississippi
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Wyoming1
June 30
March 29
May 20
April 7
May 9
March 29
late April
May 27
early March
January 9Connecticut
Illinois
Maryland
Michigan
Missouri
Nebraska
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Vermont
Virginia
West Virginia
June 3
year round2
April 8
year-round2
May 17
June 6
year round2
year round2
mid July
mid May
March 10
March 9
January 14Arizona
Arkansas
Georgia
Iowa1
Kansas1
Puerto Rico
Virgin Islands1
Washington
late April
March 14
early April
May 3
mid May
November 30
year round2
April 28
January 15Alaska1
New Mexico
April 14
March 16
January 16Hawaii1May 2
January 22OregonJune 30
January 28UtahMarch 14
February 4Nevada1
Oklahoma
June 3
May 31
March 5Alabama
Florida
June 18
May 3
April 8LouisianaJune 6
Notes:
1 States in italics are caucus states. State parties and not state legislatures control the scheduling of those contests.
2 State legislatures whose session calendars have them meeting throughout the year.


2019 in the state legislatures
The table answers the first two of the three questions posed above. With the schedule of state legislative sessions down, though, what impact will that have on the formation of the 2020 presidential primary calendar? The biggest thing is that 2020 is not 2016, but it is likely to share more similarities with 2016 than 2016 did with its immediately prior cycle, 2012. There are not nearly 20 states that have to make some form of scheduling change to comply with changes to the structure of the primary process at the national party level. In 2008 both parties allowed February contests. For 2012, both parties changed their minds and together informally constructed a calendar structure that had the carve-outs in February and all other states in March or later.

Right off the bat, then, the 2012 cycle had a tension between where state laws had various primaries scheduled (February or before) and what the national parties wanted in terms of the overall calendar for most states (March and later). That tension has already been greatly minimized. 2011 saw a significant amount of backward primary movement, and that process continued in 2013-14. Importantly for 2016, past rogue states like Florida, Michigan and Arizona moved back from the brink. That does not mean that there will not be other rogues out there, but 2016 demonstrated that the parties had -- at least for that cycle -- a workable mix of penalties and bonuses to keep states in line.

Will that hold in 2020? The early indications are yes, but 2019 will settle that score.

Here are a few things to look out for as state legislative session progress (mostly) over the first half of  2019 and into the latter half of the year.

Primary movement or primary movement?
A couple of states -- California and North Carolina -- made early moves on the 2020 calendar. Both shifted their contest dates to Super Tuesday in 2017 and 2018. That is atypical as most states tend to wait until the new legislatures convene in the year before the presidential election to settle on the timing of their presidential primaries. And while one can expect there to be additional movement up and down the calendar in the coming months, that is not the only type of movement witnessed either thus far or likely witnessed in the near future.

Yes, some states have changed primary dates, but others -- former caucus states -- have moved to primaries as the means allocating delegates for the 2020 cycle. This trend began in 2016 (Maine and Minnesota), continued in 2017 (Colorado and Utah), stretched into 2018 (Idaho and Nebraska), and could push into 2019 in states like Hawaii and Washington. The former saw legislation die during the 2018 session and the latter has a state-funded primary option, but the Democratic party in Washington has eschewed it in the post-reform era. Washington Democrats are set to finalize their plans by March/April.

But does the trend push beyond just that group? 2019 will answer those questions and in the state legislatures.


Likely Movers
The impetus to move for 2020 is different than it has been in the recent past. Republicans are idle at this time, so the motivation is less to move around because of an active nomination race and more to do so in order to potentially protect the renomination odds of the current president. There have been some discussion about South Carolina canceling its primary in favor of a caucus system for instance. But are there states more likely to move than others?

When one thinks about that, there are a few factors for which to account. FHQ will not be exhaustive here, but only point toward the most likely factors motivating primary movement. One is where the contests are currently scheduled. The movement seen so far for the 2020 cycle has been later states moving up, California most clearly.

But second, look to the partisan alignment of state legislatures. That has not been a significant factor in past iterations of my research, but in an increasingly polarized environment, may be becoming a more significant one. Democratic-controlled states, then, might be more inclined to seek out earlier dates. Look, in particular, at the group of mid-Atlantic/northeastern states with late April primary dates as of now. Each has moved pretty far back on the calendar over the last two cycles. Most also have some Democratic control. A wide open Democratic race may draw them to earlier dates for 2020.

Contrast that with the Republican-controlled state governments across the country. Their motivation is different. Protect the president? Then move back (and see the state party shift to a winner-take-all allocation method). Hurt the Democrats? Then move back and shift an important constituency concentrated in a particular region. Think about that SEC primary coalition from 2016. That could break up and push the votes of a valuable Democratic voting bloc -- African American -- to later in the calendar. That might affect some candidates more than others.


Regional primaries
Part of what drove some of those mid-Atlantic/northeastern states back in 2012 and 2016 was the allure of a regional primary clustering bonus from the Democratic National Committee. Neighboring states that hold their primaries together and late enough on the calendar are rewarded with additional delegates; more activists they can take to the convention. That is no small thing for a small state. While it potentially means a lesser voice in the primary process, it means a greater voice at the convention.

That bonus may hold less sway this time around with an active nomination race than it has in the two most recent cycles. Instead one may see attempts to replicate the SEC primary from 2016. There are elements of a Great Lakes primary already on March 10. California's move may prompt the formation of a PAC 12 primary (if California does not already represent that on its own). But there is reason to believe those clusters, if they occur, will fall earlier in the 2020 than in 2016 or 2012.

Anyway, as state legislatures begin to convene, they will be considering any number of things. Undoubtedly though, that will include primary calendar movement if not caucus to primary movement.


--
Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. One western state governor is headed to the first in the west caucus state. One seemingly likely 2020 candidate -- Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) -- is trekking to Nevada.

2. On the Sanders front, former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, will work in a different capacity in any presidential campaign the Vermont senator launches for 2020.

3. Speaking of Sanders, New Hampshire groups supportive of his candidacy will hold events this weekend across the Granite state.

4. New Hampshire will also welcome Elizabeth Warren this weekend.

5. Steyer opts to focus on impeaching Trump rather than seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Yes folks, #WinnowingWorks.

6. O'Rourke is more inclined to run than not at this point.

7. While Booker and Sanders are in South Carolina for MLK day, Harris will be back in Oakland to make her 2020 intentions, if not official, then clearer. ...and they have already been pretty clear if one has followed the signals.

8. Finally, ask and ye shall receive. The burning question on everyone's mind in early 2019: Will Jeb Bush run in 2020? Nope.


Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Cross-Party Involvement in Presidential Nominations: 2020 Primary Calendar Scheduling

In the time since the midterms nearly two weeks ago, FHQ has been mulling over a morning after tweet from The National Journal's Hanna Trudo:
Yes, this is evidence of the Republican National Committee chipping away at a potential high-profile 2020 challenger to the sitting Republican president in a press release. That is not exactly uncommon. However, that email left me wondering about the extent to which either the RNC and/or the broader Republican Party would/will attempt to intervene in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and how overt those efforts might be.

After all, we seemingly are a long way from back channel comments attributed former President Bush about some of the candidates involved in the 2008 cycle. But that was more commentary than outright attempt to intervene. And Republicans had their own active nomination race that cycle anyway.

Yet, typically, parties will keep the other party's process at arms length. Sure, press releases and mass emails are always going to be a part of this exchange in the open market of the battle between parties. But as is our wont here at FHQ, we tend to put these things in the context of the mechanics of presidential nominations. And that is what I turned to upon reading Trudo's tweet.

Often we think of partisan actors in elective office behaving in a manner to best advantage their party's interests (if not the party). Think in particular about the lengths to which actors on the state legislative level have sought to position their presidential primaries in calendar positions over the years to have some impact on the presidential nomination process in their own party.

Southern Democratic leaders, for example, famously pined for a process that would yield a southern moderate-to-conservative nominee throughout the two cycles in the 1970s and into the 1980s. The idea was that that type of nominee would stand a better chance at winning a general election. And the stars aligned in 1988, at least procedurally. Fourteen southern states -- headed by Democratic-controlled state governments -- shifted to and coalesced on the second Tuesday in March; just on the heels of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

Sometimes, however, the best laid plans go awry. And that was the case for southern Democrats in the 1988 cycle. Try as they might, the plan did not work. Rather than speaking with one regional voice, the results across the South were split on the Democratic side. Dukakis won the big states (Florida and Texas), Jackson the Deep South, and Gore the peripheral South. The plan backfired.

But what can be gleaned from that is how state actors have typically approached the calendar scheduling part of this process: To the extent they sough to have influence, it was either to give voters a larger voice in the process (by moving earlier) or to influence who the nominee was in the party of legislators making the decisions.

In other words, the impact was to be an intra-party positive for some candidate (favorite son) or some faction within the broader party coalition.

Yet, this logic was turned on its head in the 2012 cycle. No longer was the motivation for states to move forward on the calendar to have some positive impact. Instead, the negative incentive in the form of (flawed) national party penalties was to push states back in the process in an effort to create a later start to primary season, one not bumping up against the New Year's festivities.

States retained the ability to cluster on the earliest -- although theoretically later compared to 2008 -- date, but all of those February 2008 states shifted in a seemingly partisan manner. Those with Republican-controlled state governments tended to move their presidential primaries back less than those in Democratic-controlled states. And there was at least some (anecdotal) evidence that the Democratic side of the equation was a concerted effort; to shift more liberal states later in the process to draw out and stir up a hypothetical race that foresaw a Mitt Romney nomination. Now, the logic underlying that effort can certainly be questioned -- liberal states in the aggregate do not necessarily have moderate-to-liberal Republican primary electorates -- but the intervention is there.

And that is where at least some of the focus should be heading into 2019: how will states shift around on the 2020 calendar? Much of the spotlight has been on the impact the re-positioning of the California presidential primary will have on the Democratic nomination process. That is not wrong. It is a noteworthy shift. But it leans on a logic rooted in the past: partisan actors (Democrats in California) making positive, partisan decisions (to move the primary in the Golden state up).

How much can we expect Republican actors to act? Will Republican-controlled states sit idly by and maintain early calendar positions? Or will Republican states, say those involved in the SEC primary from 2016, proactively move to another position so as to have some impact on the Democratic nomination process? Those southern states moving back would mean the shift of an important bloc in the Democratic primary electorate: African Americans.

There are no clear answers to these questions at this point, but 2019 will begin to offer them as state legislatures begin to convene for their 2019 sessions and begin to weigh primary calendar moves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

State Legislatures Move Most Presidential Primaries. ...But They Have to Change State Law First

Don Gonyea had a good background piece on the possibility/formation of an SEC primary this morning on NPR's Morning Edition.

However, Mr. Gonyea lost FHQ when he began to place odds on which southern states would join the potential southern regional presidential primary on March 1 of next year. Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi were deemed "sure things" while it was mentioned that the "lineup could include" Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and Florida. This not correct.

It was a small section in an otherwise solid story, but it is misleading about how the presidential primary calendar forms from cycle to cycle. Some states are constant date-tweakers. New Hampshire, for instance, has to be able to change the date of the presidential primary there to stay at the front of the queue every presidential election year. They move dates every cycle. But the majority of states are not like New Hampshire: They stay in the same position if not every cycle, then for multiple cycles. Indiana has held its presidential primary on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of May for the entire post-reform era (1972-2012), for example.

Part of the reason why is that the motivation is not always present in a given state to move the date on which a presidential primary is held. The benefits are not readily apparent. And even when the benefits of added attention and candidate spending are somewhat clear, the decision still has to filter through two chambers of a state legislature and garner a governor's signature. That introduces the layer of state-level partisanship and possible partisan gridlock (which FHQ discussed in some detail recently).

But here's the thing: When a state legislature cannot pass legislation moving the date of the presidential primary or has not passed legislation the default position of such a contest is the position described in state law. That very definitely affects the odds of a state joining a proposed regional primary or in moving a primary to an earlier date as has been the fashion for much of the post-McGovern-Fraser reform era.

State laws in Tennessee, Texas and maybe Florida currently indicate that those states are "sure things" for March 1. There is nothing fluid about that. There are no discussions in any of those states about changing the state laws concerning the dates of presidential primaries.1

Arkansas may join the SEC primary, but it could be tough. In any event, the calculus is different in the Natural state than it is in any of the other states on the SEC primary list.

There is unified Republican control of the state governments in both Alabama and Mississippi and appears to be support for the idea of bumping the primaries up a week in each state. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann indicated to his Georgia counterpart, Brian Kemp (who is behind the SEC primary concept), that everyone in the Magnolia state is "on board".

Georgia is unique in that the legislature does not factor into the presidential primary date-setting decision. Like New Hampshire, the secretary of state sets the date of the primary in the Peach state. That streamlines the decision-making process and mean that Georgia is only a formal declaration away from a March 1 primary date next year.

But again, if we're trying to place odds on which states will be involved in this southern regional primary, then look to the state laws first. Tennessee and Texas are the sure things. State laws in each say so. There's still work to be done -- and potential roadblocks -- in the other states (though there does not seem to be much resistance to moving up in most of those states).

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Here are some related posts on the intricacies of the formation of the SEC primary:
Why is Florida on March 1 and Not March 15?

Will a Calendar Bump Up Mean More Candidate Visits in SEC Primary States?

Why Getting Arkansas into an SEC Primary is More Difficult

But Southern States Will Have to Be Proportional

Louisiana not inclined to join 'SEC' presidential primary day in 2016

A Couple of Reasons the 2016 Texas Presidential Primary Isn't Going Anywhere

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1 There may be a discussion in Florida at some point about clarifying the law, but the state legislature does not convene in the Sunshine state until March.


Recent Posts:
Oklahoma Bill Would Move Presidential Primary Back Three Weeks

Oregon Bill Would Split Presidential, Other Primaries

Has the RNC Set a Later Starting Date for the First Primaries and Caucuses?

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Post-2014 State Government Partisan Control and 2016 Presidential Primary Movement

Four years ago, the story coming out of the 2010 midterm elections was what newly Republican-controlled state governments would do in power. The tale from the 2014 postmortems has been much the same. Indeed, Republicans now control both chambers of state legislatures and gubernatorial seats in 23 states (see map below).1 That can and will have a significant impact on policy-making in states covering most of the regions of the country.

It could also influence the way in which the 2016 presidential primary calendar develops and hardens throughout 2015.

Whether a state government is unified or divided along partisan lines is a factor in the calculus that state governmental actors go through when making the decision to shift the date of the state's presidential primary.2 Again, Republicans have stretched their advantage in state government over the last four years. Yet, conditions are different in 2011 than they are in 2015. State governmental control may play a role in any subsequent primary movement, but it plays a smaller role than other factors.

That is consistent with what FHQ has found for the 1976-2008 period. Throughout that span structural, state-level factors played a much larger role in the determination to shift the date of a primary. For instance, a state such as Arkansas in 2015 is forced to decide between moving the presidential primary together with the primaries for state and local offices or creating a separate presidential primary election that can be moved more easily but incurs the cost of funding that new, separate election. That is a sterner test than in a state like Florida where the presidential primary was separate at the outset of the post-reform era. The costs of moving are greater in Arkansas than in Florida.

Incumbency in the White House also matters in this calculus. This may differ in the currently more polarized era, but in the 1976-2008 period, the floodgates have tended to open up in terms of primary movement in years in which both parties have competitive presidential nomination races. In other words, if there is no incumbent seeking reelection, both parties members in state government are potentially more motivated to help their party -- whether candidates, their state or the partisan voters in the state -- to gain some advantage. Actors on the state governmental level are hypothetically more cautious when an incumbent is running for reelection. Partisan conflicts are more likely to occur when one party is attempting to reelect a president while the other is trying to determine which candidate would be best suited to unseating that incumbent. The I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine mindset gives way to its every man for himself.

The interesting thing is that the 2012 and 2016 cycles may break from that pattern to some extent. 2012 saw a significant amount of primary movement for a year in which an incumbent was seeking reelection. By comparison, 2016 is off to a much slower start (despite both parties having open nomination contests). The reason is the semi-coordinated rules changes between 2008 and 2012. Both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee allowed states to hold delegate selection events in February for the 2008 cycle.3 That resulted in a primary calendar in 2008 that began on the heels of New Years, stretching the calendar and in some respects the process out. Neither wanted repeat of that in 2012. The solution was an informal agreement to shift the start point back to February with the majority of states -- those other than the four carve-out states -- being restricted to March or later dates.

That change put 18 primary states in the national parties' crosshairs in January 2011. 18 states had laws calling for February (or earlier) presidential primaries. That significantly reshaped the primary movement calculus in those states. Those states had to move in order to comply with the new rules and avoid the penalties associated with violating them.

As the map below demonstrates, that same pressure from the national parties will not exist in 2015 as the 2016 primary calendar is being finalized in state capitals across the country. There are only three states -- Michigan, New York and North Carolina -- that are officially slated to hold non-compliant presidential primaries in 2016. Michigan has already signaled that a move to March is likely there. And New York is only back in February because the 2011 primary date change was passed with a sunset provision. That leaves only North Carolina.

...and other states that might want to go rogue, breaking the national parties' rules on timing.


But that brings us back full circle to the unified control factor.

One could hypothesize that with so many Republican-controlled states and a significant increase in the Republican penalty associated with holding a pre-March primary (or caucus) that the stars have potentially aligned to produce an orderly primary calendar. Perhaps put more precisely, the parties may have devised the best way of combatting such frontloading activity than has been the case in the past.

There are 23 Republican-controlled states that the more severe RNC penalty may help keep in line. Past scofflaws (and Republican-controlled states) -- Arizona, Florida and Michigan -- have either disarmed or look to be in the process of disarming. However, attempts at going rogue during the 2016 cycle have thus far occurred in Republican-controlled states (Arizona, North Carolina and Utah). The fact that Arizona is on both lists says something about intra-party divisions. That is not something confined to just Arizona either. North Carolina has seen a number of issues put its Republican-controlled Senate at odds with its Republican-controlled House. On the surface, then, it may look as if the combination of more severe RNC penalties and an expansion of Republican-controlled states would help reign in any potential 2016 rogues. But it is more complicated than that.

If we really want to see the potential impact of partisan control of state governments on this process, the best test may not in Republican states where there is a willingness to break the rules. Rather, the better test may be in Republican-controlled states and the ease with which they form regional and subregional primaries.

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1 That is a slight increase over the 20 state governments the Republican Party controlled following the 2010 elections.

2 To see a similar examination of these factor from 2011 see here and here.

3 That was not new in 2008. Both parties allowed February contests in 2004, but only the Democratic Party had a nomination race that cycle.


Recent Posts:
If Primary Season Began Today: A Note on the 2016 Presidential Primary Calendar

RNC memo gives Iowa Straw Poll a green light

Arizona Bill Introduced to Again Attempt to Schedule Presidential Primary on Iowa Caucuses Date

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Primary Movement Starts with the State Legislatures: 2015 State Legislative Session Calendar

The National Conference of State Legislatures has this calendar as well, but in alphabetical order. FHQ is more concerned with sequence. Which state legislatures convene first, when do their sessions end and how does this impact the scheduling of presidential primaries?

2015 State Legislative Session Calendar
Date (Convene)StatesDate (Adjourn)
December 1, 2014CaliforniaSeptember 11, 2015
December 3, 2014Maine1June 17
January 2, 2015Washington, DCyear-round2
January 5Montana
Ohio
Wisconsin
late April
year-round2
year-round2
January 6Indiana
Kentucky
Minnesota1
Mississippi
North Dakota1
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
April 29
March 24
May 18
April 5
late April
year-round2
late June
January 7Colorado1
Connecticut
Massachusetts
Missouri
Nebraska
New Hampshire
New York
Vermont
May 6
June 3
year-round2
May 30
early June
July 1
year-round2
mid May
January 12Arizona
Arkansas
Georgia
Idaho1
Iowa1
Kansas1
Puerto Rico
Washington
mid April
March 12
early April
early April
May 1
late May
May 12
April 26
January 13Delaware
New Jersey
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Wyoming1
June 30
year round2
June 4
late March
late April
June 1
early March
January 14Illinois
Maryland
Michigan
North Carolina
Virginia
West Virginia
May 14
April 13
year-round2
early July
February 28
March 14
January 20Alaska1
New Mexico
April 19
March 21
January 21Hawaii1early May
January 26UtahMarch 12
February 2Nevada1
Oklahoma
Oregon
June 1
May 29
July 11
March 3Alabama
Florida
June 15
May 1
April 13LouisianaJune 11
Notes:
1 States in italics are caucus states. State parties and not state legislatures control the scheduling of those contests.
2 State legislatures with year-round sessions.

The table answers the first two of the three questions posed above. With the schedule of state legislative sessions down, though, what impact will this have on the formation of the 2016 presidential primary calendar? The biggest thing is that 2016 is not 2012. There are not nearly 20 states that have to make some form of scheduling change to comply with changes to the structure of the primary process at the national party level. In 2008 both parties allowed February contests. For 2012, both parties changed their minds and constructed a calendar structure that had the carve-outs in February and all other states in March or later.

Right off the bat, then, the 2012 cycle had a tension between where state laws had various primaries scheduled and what the national parties wanted in terms of the overall calendar. That tension has been greatly minimized. 2011 saw a significant amount of backward primary movement, and that process has continued in 2013-14. Importantly, past rogue states like Florida and Arizona have moved back from the brink and Michigan is signaling that it may follow suit. But that does not mean that there are not other rogues out there.

Here are a few things to look out for as state legislative session progress (mostly) over the first half of  2015 and into the latter half of the year.

Rogue states (2016 calendar for reference)
2015 looks a lot less like a minefield than 2011 looked from the national parties' perspectives. There are far fewer automatic problems on the calendar. New York has to move back. But the state legislature moved back in 2011, but just for 2012. Michigan and North Carolina have to move too. Michigan looks like it will move back, but North Carolina may be a different matter. Legislatures in both states convene on January 14.

The rest of the states that have any claim to a non-compliant position on the calendar at this juncture all have options that would allow them disarm in any potential fight with the rules committees in both national parties. Colorado parties can choose the March caucuses option laid out in state law. All the parties in Minnesota have to do is agree on a date they would like to conduct caucuses (by the end of February), otherwise the caucuses are automatically scheduled for the first Tuesday in February. The issues with Utah are twofold. First, and less problematic, the the Beehive state would only be on the first Tuesday in February if the legislature appropriates funds for a Western States Primary (WSP). That most likely means that there will not be an appropriation is there is no WSP. The second factor in Utah's case is perhaps more tension-ladened than the first. That has more to do with the attempt to move Utah to the first position on the calendar with online voting that popped up in 2014 and died on the final melee during the close of the legislative session after having passed one chamber. The very short session in Utah kicks off on January 26. We may begin to get some answers there then.

Regional primaries
Most of the talk thus far has been about southern primaries clustering on March 1, the earliest date on which the national parties allow non-carve-out states to hold primaries or caucuses. Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia (and Oklahoma) are already scheduled for March 1 primaries. In 2014, Louisiana moved to the weekend following those contests and does not appear to be headed to an earlier point on the calendar as of now. Mississippi and Arkansas convene legislative sessions over the next couple of weeks and could join the fray with legislation to move primaries then. The state legislative session kicks off in March in Alabama. Alabama and Mississippi are easier to move (only a move up of a week) while Arkansas has some conflicts that make a move up from mid May tough but not impossible.

Regional clustering may not be done there. There was chatter about a midwestern primary in late 2013. Illinois and Missouri have already staked out a position together on March 15. Others may be interested in joining. Early in 2015, keep an eye on Ohio. The legislature in the Buckeye state opens its session on January 6. A later western primary may materialize as well (see Utah above).

Caucuses to Primaries or Primaries to Caucuses
Finally, one other factor to be mindful of is states switching from caucuses to primaries or vice versa. 2012 saw more of the primary to caucuses movement as Idaho Republicans abandoned the primary in the Gem state. Florida Democrats made a similar move but to avoid the sanctions associated with participating in a non-compliant January primary.

Fewer and less successful have been the attempts to shift from a caucuses/conventions system to primaries as a means of allocating national convention delegates. Minnesota tried it in 2009 and Maine did likewise in 2013.

There are always a few of these shifts. Typically, they do not develop in state legislatures; not the successful moves anyway. Rather, the changes in mode of delegate allocation that are witnessed tend to happen because of legislative inaction. State legislatures not moving non-compliant (too early) or very late primaries. Regardless, it is something to watch for as legislatures swing into action in the coming days, weeks and months.


Recent Posts:
Close of Michigan Session Kills Presidential Primary Bill

Why is Florida on March 1 and Not March 15?

Happy New Year

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

An SEC Primary in 2016? Not so fast… (Part II)

A couple of weeks ago FHQ examined the likelihood that the states most closely associated with Secretary of State Brian Kemp's (R-GA) southeastern regional primary proposal would be able to implement a presidential primary move. That was more of an internal look at what may affect the calculus in each state. The post touched on outside factors that may affect that decision-making process, but only in passing. Obviously, there are other matters that may intervene to complicate things.

There is some history here. The idea of a southern regional primary is not a new one. Barely a year after the reformed presidential nomination process got its first trial run in 1972, Jimmy Carter was out laying the groundwork for a nomination bid on the Democratic side in 1976 but was also trumpeting the strategic virtues of holding a collective southern regional primary. The benefits seemed clear. The South would speak with one voice and propel a more moderate-to-conservative candidate to the Democratic nomination who could, in turn, better compete in the general election.

As it turned out, it took the states of the South a decade and a half to coordinate this, bringing the idea to fruition. It took some cajoling from the Carter folks ahead of the 1980 renomination run against Ted Kennedy to convince legislators in Florida to hold pat in March and legislators in Alabama and Georgia to move up to coincide with the primary in the Sunshine state. That subregional primary was to serve as a counterweight to the delegate gains Kennedy was likely to win in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.1

Four years later, several southern and border states adopted caucuses for the competitive Democratic nomination race, joining Alabama, Florida and Georgia in March, though not all on the same date. Only the Oklahoma Democratic caucuses were on that same second Tuesday in March date. Caucuses in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and South Carolina followed later in the month. Collectively the South spoke with something approximating a single voice, but the result was not support for a more moderate candidate.2 Rather, it was support for Walter Mondale.

There was, then, no alignment between the notion of a strong, unified regional voice in the process and a homegrown, southern, moderate-to-conservative candidate. The former seemed more likely with a southern bloc of contests, but that did not happen until the 1988 invisible primary. Even then -- with everything lined up -- the South did not speak with one voice in the 1988 Democratic primary. The unintended consequence was that three Democratic candidates emerged from the Southern Super Tuesday with a claim to victory -- Dukakis in the populous South (Florida and Texas), Gore in the peripheral South and Jackson in the Deep South -- all while George HW Bush used a sweep of the region on Super Tuesday to consolidate his hold on the Republican nomination.

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The dynamics of any given nomination race matter and it is difficult to gauge ahead of time -- as a decision-maker on the state level -- what those dynamics will look like in, say, two years time. That is the cautionary tale for those thinking of coordinating primaries in 2016. That past repeated itself to some degree in 2008 on the Democratic side (though not in a regional sense). Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton roughly split the logjam of national contests on Super Tuesday while John McCain significantly stretched the delegate lead he had established during the January contests.

What are the dynamics FHQ is talking about?

The candidates who run combined with the sequence of primaries and caucuses and the rules of delegate allocation are basics. And all are unknown at this point in time to those state-level decision-makers. There is a baseline calendar for 2016, but the question is how state actors view that terrain in light of the national party rules on (national convention) delegate selection. Actually, this constitutes several questions:
  1. Do we want to move our delegate selection contest up (to an earlier point on the calendar)?
  2. Does a new position mean incurring a penalty from one or both national parties?
  3. Does a new position mean conducting an election on the same day as a number of other regional partners?
  4. Does a new position mean conducting an election on the same day as a number of other states with no one dominant region? 
  5. Does moving to a new position to create a regional primary (question #3) mean that other states (or regions -- see question #4) will herd toward that date; typically in the post-reform era, the first date allowed by both national parties (the first Tuesday in March in 2016)?
Now, there is no indication that state-level decision makers actually consider these matters this deeply. Rather, in most cases, state legislators (collectively) see, on its surface, a good idea -- a regional primary -- and run with it. In the process, however, there is little evaluation of the unintended consequences.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. These decisions to move a primary or caucuses are not independent of one another. The answer to question #1 depends on the willingness and ability of the state to move based on structural factors. FHQ has already discussed that for the states potentially involved in this retro-southern regional primary concept proposed by Georgia Secretary of State Kemp. Nothing in that proposal suggests that any of the southern go rogue, so the states of the South will avoid penalty so long as the Democratic National Committee retains a similar calendar to the Republican National Committee.

But there is something to questions #3-5 posed above. Partnering with other states in a region has its advantages, but it seems that that exercise has diminishing returns for the states involved as more states sign on. This needs a deeper examination, but one could argue that the most successful regional primaries have been subregional primaries; smaller clusters of contests at a point on the calendar that provides that group of states with the spotlight and is also earlier than the point at which 50% plus one of the delegates has been allocated to one candidate (effectively ending the nomination race). Contrast the 1988 Southern Super Tuesday with the 2008 Potomac Primary (Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC), for example.

The former was a mega-primary that allowed candidates to pick and choose their spots (as on the Democratic side in 1988). One could also just as easily see such a contest giving advantage to an unintended beneficiary (as on the Republican side in 1988). That is, someone of the party opposite the dominant partisanship of the region or a front-running candidate with the resources to compete in such a large number of states. Alternatively, the latter, if shrewdly scheduled (in this case a week after a rush of more than 25 contests in 2008), can draw candidates into a small area of competition with similar issues. Again, that was true in 2008 with the Potomac Primary, but one could also consider the Alabama/Mississippi cluster the week after Super Tuesday in 2012 another of these. Many have argued that those contests were evidence of Romney's poor showings in the South, but while the former Massachusetts governor lost in both, he emerged at near parity with Santorum and Gingrich in the delegate count in each. In other words, it was competitive; something a subregional cluster would desire.

This is actually an idea that the DNC attempted to nurture in 2012: clusters of primaries. Neighboring groups of three or more states that held concurrent primaries in or after April on the calendar a 15% delegate bonus. That was viewed as a way of matching up state and candidate interests but also for giving incentive to later primary and caucuses dates.

Broadly speaking, though, this is an hypothesis that needs some additional research. Is there at point of diminishing returns in terms of what states and candidates get out of a Super Tuesday pile up of contests. Smaller, distinct (date and regional proximity) clusters may be better able to accomplish this. That seemed to be part of the lesson that states seemed to have learned after 2008. Part of the motivation many states had in moving back was a change in national party rules (the February to March transition of the post-carve-out window), but the other part was that a number of states herded to Super Tuesday in 2008 and got nothing out of it.

Those are the competing interests facing those states willing to move around for the 2016 cycle: 1) Learn the lesson of 2008 and attempt to pick and choose a spot on the calendar (either alone or as a small cluster of subregional states) or 2) Move en masse to the earliest date allowed by the parties -- the first Tuesday in March.3 Those two options are not mutually exclusive. It could be that a group of southern states, for instance, cluster on March 1 (fulfilling the first option with the exception maybe of the small cluster) and that has the effect of triggering a rush on the date by other states. That reactionary group of states would be operating under the rationale -- as was the case before 2008 -- that if they do not move they will run the risk of falling after the point in the races where enough of the delegates have been allocated to have singled out a presumptive nominee.

There may also be the added layer of indirect involvement from the national parties as well; coaxing some states to move around. And this goes both ways; not Democratic and Republican so much as moving up and back. In 2012, there was some talk about national Democrats urging some states to move back to negatively affect the Republican process. Northeastern states would move back, making the front half of the calendar more southern and conservative. That would, in turn, hypothetically hurt Romney. The result was something of a mixed bag. Romney had a somewhat rough path to the nomination, but that was not a function of a conservative first half of the calendar. There was a good regional mix of early contests even if a group of mid-Atlantic/northeastern states moved back into late April. The real culprit for the drawn out Republican contest was the dispersion of contests across the entire calendar.

Assuming we witness some movement on Secretary Kemp's southern regional primary on March 1, we could see Republicans (nationally or the RNC quietly) urge just the opposite of what Democrats wanted in 2012. The idea of a southern regional primary isn't new as discussed above, but neither is the idea of a regional primary in this cycle. It was just last November that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was talking about a midwestern regional primary. If contests in the South begin moving up to March 1, there could very quickly be a quiet yet concerted effort to find a group of contests to serve as a counterbalance on the Republican calendar either on March 1 or not long after. Ohio is already scheduled for that week after Super Tuesday.

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States once were slow to react to primary/caucuses movement in other states. A move in one cycle was met with a move in a the next subsequent cycle (if a state was compelled to move at all). That process has sped up over the last several presidential election cycles and reaction time had decreased. Since California moved its presidential primary from June to March in the 1996 cycle -- shifting with it the center of gravity in terms of the balance of delegates allocated over time across the primary calendar -- states have begun reacting within cycle. In other words, moving to a date that looks ripe for the taking now does not necessarily mean that that same date will not be jam packed with a number of other contests in the near future.

This hypothesis fits well in the policy diffusion literature. It also is something that FHQ has explored to some extent in a regional context. If one state moves its primary or caucuses, does that increase the likelihood that a neighboring state moves as well? What we found across a limited dataset -- the 2004 and 2008 cycles -- was the exact opposite: That if a neighboring state moved up, it decreased movement in surrounding states. At this point, FHQ is willing to chalk that up to a limited number of observations in just primary states across just a couple of cycles. It bears further research.

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Again, it is easy to look at the surface issues here and move on if you are a state-level actor. Move up, bring along some regional partners, get more attention and affect the nomination. Under that surface, though, there is a lot to think through. It can quickly become a complicated series of unknowns. The changes to the Republican delegate selection rules have limited the world of possibilities by adding some penalties with teeth, but that does not mean that there are not 50 states -- some with multiple actors involved -- that are attempting to reduce uncertainty, game the system and gain an advantage for themselves (in terms of gaining attention and influencing the process). One move by a state or a series of states can set off any number of possibilities in reaction.

That's the take home message in this jumbled mess: unintended consequences. One move begets another move that may negate your original move. And there usually is not a rejoinder to the response. There isn't time.

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1 As it turned out, Carter won New Hampshire and all three southern states in the 1980 primaries and it was not until later in the calendar that Kennedy began to close the delegate gap. Even that was too little too late.

2 Jesse Jackson's win in South Carolina and Gary Hart's in Oklahoma were the only two holes in an otherwise unified South. Those exceptions were early (March) contests and undercut the idea of the South collectively influencing the process by backing one candidate.

3 There is a third option as well. States could simply hold their ground and stay where current state law has the primary scheduled. Many states will do this as well.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

An SEC Primary in 2016? Not so fast… (Part I)

Last week at the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting in Washington, Georgia secretary of state, Brian Kemp (R), rolled out a proposal for the alignment of southern presidential primaries on the first Tuesday in March in 2016. And Secretary Kemp has gotten some "positive feedback" on the plan from others in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.1

That's all well and good, but let's have a bit of a look under the hood on this thing. In the first part, FHQ will look at those states named above that have expressed an interest in the possibility of a southeastern regional primary.

The date that Secretary Kemp has proposed for what has been affectionately called the SEC primary is March 1. That is the first date on which states other than the four carve-outs -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- can hold delegate selection events under the actual (RNC) or expected (DNC) rules. In other words, that may be an attractive landing point for any number of states (see Super Tuesday on February 5, 2008). As of now, March 1 already has a southern flavor. Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are scheduled for that date according to current state laws in each. Adding Georgia to the mix gives the South the clearest and strongest regional voice on that date. That would make five out of the eight states southern with Massachusetts and Vermont serving as only a token regional counterweight.

But what is the likelihood that others (from the South) join those four (or five if one counts Georgia) on March 1?

Georgia is unique in that the state legislature ceded the authority to set the date of the Peach state presidential primary to the secretary of state in 2011. That makes Georgia like New Hampshire in that regard. Basically what that transfer of power means is that Georgia, like New Hampshire, is better able to move its presidential primary around without the potential for gridlock or just inaction on the part of a state legislature. Getting Georgia to March 1, then, is an easier task than it will be for other states.

And there will be something of a dilemma in the other states to whom that Secretary Kemp has reached out. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi will have push a date change through their legislatures. Secretaries of state in each of those states can (attempt to) initiate the legislative process on such moves, but that is no guarantee that there will actually be any shifting. The reason there is no guarantee is that such a proposal raises questions about the expected utility of a move. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are already in March.

What difference does it make to move up a week (as is the case in Alabama and Mississippi) or two-ish (for Louisiana's now customary Saturday primary)?

In Alabama and Mississippi, the expected cost or benefit of a move may or may not be financial. Both are already in March, so the trade-off is more a matter of going with a larger group of southern states and risking getting lost in the shuffle or sticking with a smaller subregional primary on a date a week later when they may collectively and effectively counterbalance the Ohio primary on the same date. That is a tougher question to answer when both dates -- the first and second Tuesday in March -- are potentially attractive landing points on the calendar for a number of states. Getting lost in the shuffle may be a foregone conclusion when it is all said and done and the calendar is finalized in late 2015.

The gamble is similar in Louisiana in that the internal debate is a function of choosing between a date where they may have a greater share of the spotlight later on (if the nomination races are still going in late March) and a date when many other southern states hold their contests; a proposition the nets the Pelican state some regional clout but not necessarily direct attention from the candidates. The situation in Louisiana is complicated by the fact that the state has utilized a Saturday primary the last two cycles. Part of that is designed to reserve a spot on the presidential primary stage where Louisiana stands alone or with other smaller and/or caucuses states. The spotlight favors them.

Legislators in Arkansas face a slightly different calculus. First of all, the new RNC rules almost force Arkansas to consider moving up. Currently scheduled for the next to last Tuesday in May, the Arkansas primary falls at a point on the calendar after the cutoff for when primaries will need to be held to accommodate a late June or early to mid-July Republican convention. But that only adds to the classic late state dilemma: move everything up (presidential primary, state and local primaries and all) or create a separate presidential primary that is easier to move around (but also costs the state additional election funds)? Arkansas has twice gone the latter route (1988 and 2008) and twice has gotten essentially no bang for its buck, the extra expenditure got the state nothing in the way of advertising dollars or candidate attention. How ready and willing is Arkansas going to be to repeat that pattern? The alternative -- moving a consolidated set of primaries to an earlier date -- has its own pitfalls. Such a move impacts state legislators tasked with making the move in the first place. Moving a consolidated primary up lengthens a state legislators general election campaign. It also potentially means that the primary campaign overlaps with the state legislative sessions which means the primary phase campaigning will be happening during the state legislative session. Both potentially make legislators' decisions that much more difficult.

Despite officials being open to the idea of a regional primary in the southeast, that does not necessarily mean that it will be enough to overcome the questions that will be raised during state legislative efforts to move primary dates for 2016 around. Those questions represent potential roadblocks in the legislative process that could derail movement to earlier positions on the primary calendar.

Of course, that is not all that complicates the potential effectiveness of this proposal or its intended implementation. FHQ will examine the other issues attendant to this proposal that may pop up in the intervening period between now and 2016 in part two.

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1 Below is the press release from Secretary Kemp's office yesterday:


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Monday, January 6, 2014

Primary Movement Starts with the State Legislatures: The 2014 State Legislative Session Calendar

The name of the action may have changed since the last time FHQ did this in 2011, but if we're going to follow along as states shuffle -- or don't shuffle -- around on the 2016 presidential primary calendar, that activity will happen on the state level.

…in the state legislatures (for primaries).

A number of state legislatures return to work today, but their start points stretch out across the first half of 2014. From the National Conference of State Legislatures:

Midterm years are not normally times for states to begin calendar jockeying. The national parties have yet to finalize their respective sets of delegate selection rules to govern the 2016 presidential nomination processes after all. That will happen later this year. However, that does not mean that there will not be legislation introduced that will affect when presidential primaries will be held in two years. Nor does it mean that the national parties will not begin to preemptively exert some pressure on political actors on the state level in states that may potentially cause some problems in 2016.

A few to keep an eye on in 2014:
1) Arizona:
The governor does have the power of proclamation to move the primary up but not back on the calendar. If the discrepancy in Rules 16 and 17 of the current RNC rules is resolved, then both Arizona and Michigan will find themselves in a bind at a point on the calendar one week ahead of the March 1 position all states other than the four carve-outs can fall on or after. The bottom line in the Grand Canyon state (and further east in the Great Lakes state) is that it is going to require state legislative action to move the primaries in each around.

2) Michigan:
See Arizona, minus the gubernatorial proclamation power.

3) Missouri:
The Show-Me state presidential primary is technically -- or will technically -- be in violation of the RNC (and likely DNC) rules on the first Tuesday in February. The state legislature there has also proven inept in 2011, 2012 and 2013 at moving the primary into compliance. FHQ would be surprised if there is not another attempt to move the 2016 election back during the 2014 session. But it is far from clear that the outcome will be any different now than in previous years. Regardless, the Missouri Republican Party is likely to trigger caucuses for allocating delegates in 2016 -- just like the party did in 2011 -- to avoid penalty if the state government proves resistant to moving the contest.

4) North Carolina:
The General Assembly in Raleigh will not reconvene for 2014 until May and even then the duration of the session is very short. Still, the omnibus elections bill passed during a special session during the summer of 2013 anchored the North Carolina presidential primary to South Carolina's. That will put the Tar Heel state in the crosshairs of both national parties penalties. The presidential primary provision added to the bill (and ultimate law) was also inserted last minute by the state Senate and rather than risk killing the bill, the state House -- a member of which is the national committeeman to the RNC from North Carolina -- opted to go along. But that did not mean that the primary move was kosher with everyone. FHQ has been told by a couple of sources that efforts are likely to be made later this year to bring the North Carolina primary back into compliance with the likely national party rules.


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