Thursday, August 30, 2007

And it is on to the Governor with the Michigan Primary Plan

Why wait for it to be reported when you can go straight to the source? The Michigan legislature's web page now shows that SB 624 (the bill to move the state's 2008 presidential primary to January 15) was discharged from the House Ethics and Elections Committee today and was subsequently passed by a vote of 67 - 34 on the floor. The bill then went to the Senate where it passed the House alterations by a vote of 36- 0 with two either excused or abstaining members. Now the plan heads to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's desk where it is expected to be signed.

Your move Iowa and New Hampshire.

More later...
UPDATE: Ah, here's an AP account of what happened.
UPDATE II: And here is the story from CQ.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tomorrow is Decision Day in the Michigan House

According to The Detroit News, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) today said that action would be taken on Thursday to get the legislation (SB 624) that would move the state's 2008 presidential primary to January 15 out of the Ethics and Elections Committee. The bill has been stuck in that committee since last week when the Senate passed it. Chairman Marc Corriveau, who is a Democrat, opposes the measure and has attempted to bottle up the bill in the committee. House Speaker Andy Dillon (D) however, has indicated to the governor that a vote (or votes) will take place tomorrow to get the bill out of committee where it can then be voted on by the entire chamber. The chamber is split 58-52 in favor of the Democrats, and with Republicans supporting the move, gaining a majority on this bill should not be an insurmountable task. That would then send the legislation to a supportive governor.

Wyoming GOP Stakes Its Claim

After earlier this year voting to hold their nomination conventions on the same day as the New Hampshire primary (whenever that was), the Wyoming Republican Party reconsidered. With New Hampshire tentatively (And when I say tentatively, I mean this is the latest possible date on which New Hampshire will hold its primary.) slotted in on January 8, this moved Wyoming as well. Apparently that wasn't early enough for Wyoming Republicans. Bent on getting hard core Republican candidates like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani to plow through feet-deep snow drifts in the lead up to delegate-binding county conventions, the Wyoming GOP moved those conventions up to January 5. No, not February 5.

January 5.

Snow drifts aside, this is the earliest contest with a set date at this time. And because, as I stated earlier today, Republican National Committee rules exempt caucuses and conventions from frontloading sanctions, this is all fine. Granted not all of the state's delegates are up for grabs, but nearly half of the state's 28 delegates will be at stake on that day.

So take that Michigan.

Correction: RNC rules exempt states that do not allocate delegates in the first step of their process. Iowa and Nevada qualify for that exemption, but Wyoming does not.

Minnesota Democrats Join Feb. 5

Joining their GOP counterparts, Minnesota Democrats announced on Tuesday that they would move their 2008 presidential caucus to February 5. Given that this was already in their delegate selection plan as of July 21, I thought the move from March 4 was already a done deal. You can read more about the move here and here. Thanks to Ballot Access News and Political Wire for the heads up on the USA Today blog.

Now the RNC is Getting in on the Act

Not content to let the Democratic National Committee alone attempt to deal with the "problem" of frontloading, the Republican National Committee on Tuesday made clear that it too would enforce its rules on delegate selection. What does that mean and who is affected? According to the rules (see my earlier post), states holding presidential primaries during the 2008 cycle, must do so between February 5 and the first Tuesday in June (June 3, 2008). In case you hadn't noticed, no one seems to be queuing on the back end. So which states are under fire from the GOP for attacking the front end? Florida, already under scrutiny from national Democrats for the state's proposed plan to hold a primary on January 29, is joined by South Carolina, Michigan and, believe it or not, New Hampshire.

Those four states face losing half of their delegates to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis next summer for violating the window rule. Florida, South Carolina and Michigan make sense. But why sanction New Hampshire? And why now? And come to think of it, why not Iowa? Iowa and Nevada are exempt from penalties because both states are holding non-binding caucuses and not primaries.

UPDATE (8-30-07):
After checking the Republican delegate selection rules again, caucuses and conventions are mentioned by name; not just primaries. However, Nevada and Iowa are non-binding contests which exempts them from national GOP scrutiny. Wyoming, on the other hand, is vulnerable to sanction because the plan recently decided upon there would award 12 of the state's 28 delegates during that first step on January 5.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

February 5 Adds Montana GOP Caucus

The Montana Republican Party voted yesterday to break with tradition (What else is new this cycle?), spurning the state's June primary date to adopt a caucus for allocating delegates to next September's GOP Convention in Minneapolis, MN. The GOP caucus in Montana joins caucuses in Alaska, Colorado (D), Minnesota (R), and North Dakota as well as primaries in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico (D), New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah on February 5. That now brings the total to 20 contests on that day.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ouch! Florida Democrats Hit Where it Hurts

Out to avenge the irritation of having it own primary calendar plan defied, the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee moved today to strip Florida of ALL the state's delegates to next year's convention if they continue with the plan to hold their 2008 presidential primary on January 29. State Democrats now have thirty days to revise and resubmit a delegate selection plan to the national party.

All week Florida Democrats talked a good game: urging Florida Democratic voters to contact the committee, arguing of the disenfranchisement of voters stripped of a meaningful primary, and today before the committee, claiming that the party had gone to lengths to prevent the GOP-controlled legislature and Republican governor from defying both parties' delegate selection rules. None of that seemed to pass with the members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee though.

So what does all this mean? First of all, Florida Democrats will most likely hold a caucus on February 5. But does the beauty contest on January 29 now open the door for candidates to campaign in Florida again? That is the big question. If that is a loophole candidates can now take advantage of, then it would put to rest the arguments that preventing an official primary on the 29th, effectively hurts any nominee in the general election (An argument I don't put much stock in in the first place. Primary voters are the parties' core constituents and aren't going to be dissuaded from voting in the general election because of something like this; especially in light of the experiences the state had in the 2000 election.). This also sets a precedent for how the Committee would deal with the Michigan case should the State House pass the bill moving the state's primary to January 15. That decision could come as soon as next week.

EDIT: Well, apparently Florida Democrats doubt the feasibility of holding a party-funded primary. They seem somewhat taken aback by the severity of the party's decision, but are nonetheless holding their ground.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Showdown between Florida Democrats and National Democrats

Not to be outdone by Michigan and South Carolina, Florida remains in the news over the planned January 29 presidential primary there. State Democrats in Florida are vulnerable to penalties from the national party if they hold their primary on that date. In a conference call with state and local reporters yesterday however, Florida Democratic Party chair, Karen Thurman, dismissed the notion of the primary being a beauty contest that would precede a meaningful primary or caucus held on a later date. State and national party officials will meet this weekend to discuss the issue. For the time being however, Florida Democrats seem to be holding their line; declining partial funding of a caucus from the national party under the rationale that some voters would be disenfranchised.

Read more from the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Michigan Expedites the Process

I'm surprised that it took the state legislature in Michigan until Wednesday to act on this, but the Senate today amended the language concerning the date of the state's 2008 presidential primary in SB 624. A bill that originally sought to change the date from February 26 to January 29 now seeks to bump the date up an additional two weeks to January 15. The Senate then passed the bill by a vote of 21 - 17 and transmitted it to the House where it already received its first reading. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has already indicated that she would sign the bill if it made it through the legislature.

Iowa and New Hampshire have the next move.

Arizona's in too...officially

I swear, creating a summary of the presidential primary and caucus movement for the 2008 cycle seemed like a good idea at the time. With the rapid pace with which things are changing this time around though, such an effort can prove pointless before it is even done. At least I had the foresight to include a "Still Up in the Air" section. Michigan was the first state to prove why it was among those states with information coming out late last week that the state was considering a move to January 15. Arizona now becomes the latest on that list to make a move. As I mentioned in the summary last week, the speculation for much of the year has been that Arizona would move to February 5. And kudos to Governor Janet Napolitano (D) for exhibiting some restraint in her proclamation and not moving the state's presidential preference election any earlier. With Florida, South Carolina Republicans and now Michigan thwarting national party rules, the temptation to go even earlier must have been there to some degree.

Let's step back and scrutinize the Arizona case though. Most major news accounts, and even blogs, are simply saying that Gov. Napolitano has issued a proclamation to move the state's primary. All the while, political observers are missing the uniqueness of the Arizona system; mainly that the governor is making the decision to frontload and not the state legislature, as is the case for the majority of states that have moved thus far this cycle. The Arizona state legislature created a presidential primary (see the history section in the link) during the 1992 session (to take effect in 1996), but amended the statute in 1995 before it had even been tested. The new law (as altered by SB 1263) changed the designation of the election from a primary to a preference election (because the winner would not necessarily appear on the general election ballot), changed the date of the election from the second Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in February, and granted the governor the power to issue a proclamation changing the date of the election.

This gubernatorial power went unused through two cycles (1996 and 2000), but as several states moved into February for the 2004 cycle, Gov. Napolitano became the first governor to exercise this power, bumping up the date of the election three weeks to join six other states on the first Tuesday in February. Here is the proclamation from 2004. Just yesterday Gov. Napolitano repeated the action, moving the election to February 5. Here is a link to the governor's press release (click view file under the appropriate Aug. 21st entry).