Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Candidates Don't Always Choose the Delegates

In fact, that scenario may be exception rather than rule in the Republican presidential nomination process.

FHQ says this in response to a section in an otherwise fantastic piece by Jonathan Bernstein on the brokered deadlocked convention chatter that has cropped up over the last week or so. Look, Jon and I are 100% on the same page on the overarching premise he presents: The winnowing mechanism in the party-adapted, post-reform era of presidential nominations is strong.1 It works. Candidates drop out or withdraw from a race when the writing is on the wall. That writing tends to come in the form of a combination of not winning contests/delegates and/or the financial backing of donors drying up.2

But while we tend to almost always agree on the theoretical end, we sometimes part ways on process. Such is my wont, rules nag that FHQ is. Here is what I take issue with:
This has all changed. Delegates don’t represent state parties at all anymore. Instead, they are chosen by the candidates, who have an incentive to recruit the most gung-ho loyalists they can. Or, sometimes, they’ll use the delegate slots as an inducement (or a reward) to persuade important party actors -- the people who hold sway over the nomination process -- to join them.
Candidates having control over who fills delegate slots is a Democratic Party practice. The DNC ushered in the post-reform era and more or less dragged the RNC into it in the process. To comply with the rules of the new nomination system, the states -- increasingly state governments as primaries proliferated -- passed laws to govern the new processes on the state level. Those laws affected not only Democrats but Republicans as well.

That dynamic has had something of a ripple effect throughout the post-reform era. Democrats have tended to be the ones reforming the process -- they were the party out of the White House for the early portion of the period -- and have been much more centralized in their response; mandating proportionality, requiring certain diversity quotas, etc. Part of the centralization on the Democratic side is that the candidates basically have the right to review their delegates. The national party gives them the ability to weed out a Bernie Sanders supporter in a Hillary Clinton allocated delegate slot for example.

By contrast, the Republican Party has tended to be much more decentralized in its approach to the delegate selection/allocation process. The mantra had, up until the last couple of cycles, been let the states figure it out. It, in that instance, means an array of things: caucuses or primary, proportional or winner-take-all allocation formulas, etc. But that principle also applied and still applies to delegate selection, or perhaps more particularly to candidates picking and choosing their delegates. In states where the law requires the filing of delegates or delegate slates, candidates have some control. Think loophole primary states like Illinois, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where delegates are listed on the ballot and directly elected. Ohio is another example. Remember, Rick Santorum did not have a full slate of delegates in a number of Ohio districts that the former Pennsylvania senator actually ended up winning in the primary.

The candidates have more control in those types of states than they and their campaigns have in others. In other states, the delegate selection process is completely different from the delegate allocation process. The latter awards slots to candidates based on the results of a primary or caucus.  But the identity of who fills those slots occurs in the (sometimes, especially in primary states) separate delegate selection process (usually through the election year caucus/convention system). This is how Ron Paul-aligned delegates made it to the convention in Mitt Romney slots in 2012.

And this happened in 2012 in more than just those non-binding caucuses that have been eliminated by the RNC for the 2016 cycle.3 Though it did not ultimately end well for Paul delegates, they were able to overrun the Massachusetts Republican delegate selection process and fill Romney delegate slots temporarily. It was only because Romney campaign surrogates in the Massachusetts Republican Party required an affidavit of those delegates pledging to support Romney -- an action those delegates refused -- that there were Romney delegates from Massachusetts at the national convention in Tampa.

That reality -- that candidates do not have full control over the delegate selection process -- presents something of a problem in this deadlocked convention scenario. Though it should be pointed out how that Massachusetts case ended. Romney sent delegates to the convention. But that was not because Romney and his campaign had chosen the delegates. Rather, it was a function of Romney having surrogates in positions of power within the Massachusetts Republican Party. It is different, but the outcome was the same.

The RNC recognizes this as a problem. The party attempted to close that loophole among the many others that Ron Paul delegates and supporters railed against at the convention in 2012 and continue to rail against even now. The original change to Rule 15(b) -- now Rule 16(a)(2) -- gave candidates the ability to "pre-certify" or approve delegates in order for those delegates to be certified by the RNC for the convention. But that was one of the Ginsberg rules that did not make it out of Tampa.4 Instead, the national party -- the RNC -- now has all the power (a fact that is consistent with Bernstein's point about parties doing what they can to avoid the deadlocked convention scenario or any sticky situation for that matter). Delegates are now bound to candidates based on the earliest, statewide election, and if those delegates, regardless of what preference they hold, fail to reflect the binding in their convention vote, then the vote will be recorded as if they had voted the binding.

But there are some questions about how that works in the scenario where no candidate has a majority of the delegates heading into the convention. That is a matter that FHQ has promised some folks on Twitter that I would address. ...tomorrow.

The bottom line: In the Republican process, the candidates do not necessarily choose the delegates, at least not across the board as is the case on the Democratic side. There is variation across state on the issue of how much control the candidate and their campaigns have over the delegate selection process.

There is one other bit of nuance that FHQ would add to one of the footnotes in Bernstein's piece. I don't want to belabor this. It is a footnote, after all and I have gone on for some time already. Usually when I hit four footnotes of my own, that is a telltale sign that it has been a long post. Yet, let's look at Jon's point about the differences between the two parties on delegate allocation rules:
It’s unlikely Cruz and Paul could win that many delegates (especially that many each) because Republican rules don’t produce many delegates for losing candidates in most states. And because Republicans don't have the proportional representation rules that Democrats insist on, even a close contest between two leading candidates is unlikely to leave them with (almost) equal delegate hauls.
On not producing many delegates for losing candidates.
That depends. It is certainly true in the case of truly winner-take-all states like Florida. The number of winner-take-all states is pretty limited and confined to the area of the calendar after March 14 when it is less likely to matter (i.e.: post-winnowing). However, outside of that handful of truly winner-take-all states there is some variation in terms of how able losing candidates are to win delegates. It depends first on how many candidates are on the ballot and active/viable. But being awarded delegates also depends on the thresholds of the vote that state party bylaws or state laws require a candidate to win. The RNC allows states to set that as high as 20%, but does not require states to have any threshold. Some states do (Alabama and Mississippi), some states don't (Alaska and Hawaii). This tends only to be a minor point. FHQ retrospectively looked at some of these factors in the context of 2012 and the thresholds only really affected things at the margins.

On proportional representation rules.
Well, here's the thing: What the RNC has in place for 2016 in terms of the proportionality requirement (for all states with contests from March 1-14) is now a lot like the DNC proportionality mandate for all states. That is part of the RNC tightening its definition of proportionality. Basically, it requires either a proportional allocation of all delegates based on the statewide result or the proportional allocation of at-large delegates based on the statewide vote and the proportional allocation of congressional district delegates based on the result within the congressional district. The only real differences between parties are that...

1) The DNC requires a 15% threshold for anyone to receive delegates (Rule 13.B) while the RNC only suggests states maintain such thresholds.


2) The DNC does not treat each district the same with respect to how many delegates are apportioned it. While the RNC has three delegates per district, the DNC allows for those numbers to vary based on how loyally Democratic the district has been in past elections. For primaries and caucuses in that two week proportionality window in early March, then, those Republican delegate hauls between candidates may be closer than they otherwise would have been during past cycles.

1 By "party-adapted" FHQ means the post-reform period after the national parties (and the states and candidates for that matter) had been through a round or two in the new system and had learned the ropes. 1980 onward is a good way of thinking about this. Democrats had used the new system twice (1972, 1976) and the Republicans had been through it once (1976).

2 I know, I know: super PACS! FHQ is still not really convinced that super PACs are really going to change any of the established dynamics of the nomination process. It may mean more money floating around out there, but super PAC financial backers are going to be guided by the same sorts of constraints that campaign funders have always faced. That constraint can be summed up in one question: Do I keep giving to a candidate/campaign that is not going to win the nomination? This is kind of the same principle that guides the candidates as well as Bernstein points out.

3 That move offers some evidence that the RNC can behave in a centralized, top-down manner when it perceives a need to do so.

4 Washington, DC national committeeman, Ben Ginsberg, was the Romney campaigns man behind the rules changes in Tampa that tightened the RNC grip on nomination process. ...in a way that drew the ire of some within the party.

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Arkansas Governor Promises SEC Presidential Primary Will Be on Special Session Agenda

Arkansas is a week away from convening a supposed special session of the state legislature, but there has been no official call nor a list of agenda items from Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) yet. That appears to be coming on Wednesday, May 20.

However, the governor has made assurances to the sponsor of the two regular session SEC primary bills that the presidential primary date would be on the agenda for one of the likely two planned special sessions; one to deal with economic development next week and another to deal with Medicare in the future. Though the separate presidential primary bill was the one that moved (before stalling) during the regular session, Hutchinson has hinted that a new version of the bill to move all of the Arkansas primaries, including the presidential primary, from May to the first Tuesday in March may be the preferred option for the special session.

Such a bill would have the effect of lengthening the general election campaigns of state legislators among other officeholders in the Natural state. That has its costs but is different than creating and funding a separate presidential primary election.

For now, there is an answer to the question of whether the primary will make it onto the special session docket. It will, but it is not clear the session in which it will be brought up. Time will tell.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Legislation on Cusp of Introduction Would Shift Pennsylvania Presidential Primary to March 15

Representative Keith Greiner (R-43rd, Lancaster) on Monday, May 18 announced his intention to introduce legislation to shift the Pennsylvania presidential primary from April up to March:
Legislation for an Earlier Presidential Primary Date in Pennsylvania 
In the near future I intend to introduce legislation that will change the date of Pennsylvania’s presidential primary from the fourth Tuesday of April to the third Tuesday of March. 
The lateness of Pennsylvania’s presidential primary diminishes its significance for voters of both the Democratic and Republican parties. Pennsylvania’s presidential primary should have a significant impact on the process of selecting presidential candidates, to reflect our standing as “The Keystone State.”  
Achieving this goal is accomplished simply by changing the date of Pennsylvania’s presidential primary.  
By moving the primary to the third Tuesday in March, there is no loss of delegates for either party and our primaries will remain "winner-take-all" for both parties’ primary elections, as they have been historically been in the Commonwealth.  
I hope you will join me in supporting this important legislation.
Throughout the post-reform era, the Pennsylvania primary has been locked on the fourth Tuesday in April. The one exception is the 2000 cycle when the primaries in the Keystone state and Wisconsin coincided on the first Tuesday in April. Moving into March, then, would be new territory for Pennsylvania.

Without the language of the bill available, there are a great many questions left unanswered here. The largest of them is whether the bill calls for moving the entire consolidated set of primaries including the presidential primary up to March or if a separate presidential primary will be created and scheduled for March 15. That the primaries have all remained concurrent has been one of the major deterrents to Pennsylvania moving in the part (as it has been for a number of states that tend to be toward the end of the calendar). A separate presidential primary in a large state like Pennsylvania would be costly, but so too would increasing the length of the general election for all others seeking other offices under the alternative move.

This move would potentially pull Pennsylvania away from an small mid-Atlantic regional primary with Maryland and Delaware and align them with Florida, Illinois, Missouri and possibly Ohio on March 15. That is a significant line up of states.

However, it should be noted that Republicans are differently motivated this cycle than Democrats are. That is true in the commonwealth as well. Pennsylvania Republicans may value that earlier primary date, but Democrats in the state may value the coalition with Maryland and Delaware in April more. It means bonus delegates for clustering and for holding a later primary. That calculation could play a role in this as Governor Tom Wolf (D) may disagree with a Republican controlled legislature if it passes this upcoming bill.

FHQ will hold further comment until the bill is available.

However, there are some factual inaccuracies in Rep. Greiner's memorandum above and other talking points circulated to the press.

First, Pennsylvania would not retain any winner-take-all allocation. The DNC mandates proportionality in every state. Both parties, following state law, have directly elected delegates in presidential primary elections in the past. Those delegate candidates are listed on the ballot with no indication of the presidential candidate with whom they are aligned and in a section of the ballot separate from the presidential preference vote. That presidential preference vote is largely meaningless. It has no bearing on the allocation of delegates. That is determined by the direct election of the delegates. That makes Pennsylvania a loophole primary. If this bill is passed and signed into law, Pennsylvania would end up on the same date as another loophole primary in Illinois.

Second, FHQ would argue that Rep. Greiner underestimated just how many states are or will be ahead of Pennsylvania on the 2016 presidential primary calendar. Bear in mind that most of the caucus states will likely fall some time in March in order to complete the full caucuses/convention process in time for the national conventions. The better way to assess where Pennsylvania is in the order is to count the number of states behind them, the vast majority of whom are locked into their current calendar positions. By that measure, Pennsylvania is somewhere in the upper 30s in the order. And Washington, DC is behind them, all the way at the end.

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FHQ at 8 and the Future

Back in late March, around the time Ted Cruz was announcing his presidential intentions and the Affordable Care Act was celebrating a birthday of its own, FHQ hit the eighth anniversary of its humble start. At the time I did not really want to compete with those events and then the end of the semester push intervened. Yet, for a site that revolves around and thrives on the rhythms of a presidential election cycle, an eighth birthday is not without some symbolism. That is two presidential terms of office, and that brings FHQ into a third cycle of digging into the minutiae of the presidential nomination process (among other things).

I wanted to take a moment to say a very sincere thank you to everyone: all who have read over the last eight years, those who have offered constructive criticism about the site and made it and me better, and the folks who have from time to time dropped a note of encouragement. Every bit of it has been greatly appreciated.

I don't know that I set out to create this FHQ. At its origin, the site was nothing more than a self-interested effort to gather some (probably too late) anecdotes from around the 2007 formation of the 2008 presidential primary calendar. I wanted those events to highlight various aspects of my dissertation research and figured why not share. What followed was a closely contested Democratic nomination race in which the rules like those behind the primary calendar seemed to matter. That provided enough fodder to allow FHQ to start growing.

And it did in fits and starts thereafter. If 2008 was a debut album with pretty limited success, then 2009 was a lame follow up with a bunch of filler. Seriously, go look at some of that stuff. I was still trying to find my voice as a blogger and figure out what I wanted FHQ to be. That did not come until 2011 when, thanks to the RNC and their delegate selection rules -- or penalties with minimal teeth really -- put the primary calendar and delegate allocation firmly in the 2012 spotlight. FHQ was in the right place at the right time.

There were many others, but stories from Molly Ball and Jeff Zeleny in particular really put FHQ on the map in late 2010 and into 2011. Persistent support from bloggers in the political science community like John Sides at the Monkey Cage and John Bernstein at various places before he arrived at Bloomberg View also helped to spread the word on FHQ and legitimize what I was doing here. Without those folks, far fewer people would know me as obsessive, exhaustive or an American hero (all of which the self-deprecating part of me want to dispute) in talking about mainly presidential nomination rules and their impact. Without them and others FHQ does not end up on Fresh Air or the PBS Newshour to share with a wider audience what I greatly enjoy talking about and teaching. I am grateful for those people and the opportunities I've had because of them. Thank you all.

At the end of the day, though, it all comes back to that desire mentioned above: to share with whomever cares to read or listen what I know and what I have learned about the rules of the presidential primary process and their effect in shaping the outcome of any race for a presidential nomination. Being able to share what I know about the process has always been the goal around here even if as that developed slowly and somewhat organically over the last eight years.

 Thank you all for reading.

I would be remiss if I did not also touch on the future for FHQ. The plan is not to change all that much, but external circumstances may force a change in the standard operating procedure around here. For the last five years I have been chasing something that may not exist. Following a long and messy divorce in 2009-11, I was basically left to choose between 1) being near my kids and 2) the possibility of an academic job that I had worked hard for (throughout graduate school) but may take me far away from my kids. For five years I have been able to find a certain sweet spot: temporary jobs at North Carolina institutions that have kept me close enough to my kids.

All the while, the intention has always been to find something long term -- tenure-track -- here in North Carolina. That has proven elusive. The academic job market is tough like a great many sectors of the economy these days, but tougher when you make the choice -- no matter how noble -- to constrain yourself geographically to a particular area in order to be a part of your kids' lives. Overall, though, I am dependent on there actually being jobs, both long-term and temporary. And sometimes there are not any of either.

That is the case for me now as my contract at Appalachian State runs out. This year brings an uncertainty that breaks with the status quo of the past few years and has me contemplating shuttering FHQ to pursue other opportunities. The sentiment would have been unthinkable to me not that long ago and is tough to type now. But I owe it to FHQ readers, both loyal and casual, to be candid about my situation and this site. Matters are different enough for me in 2015 that I have to be open to doing things in [a] way(s) that I did not think I would.

My plan is not to shut FHQ down at the moment (or any time in the future to be perfectly honest). Right now, I've got work on a book project ahead of me; a book that I would prefer to get out and share with people some time in 2016. But I am now more open to other possibilities; campaigns, media, think tanks, etc. than I have ever been. I have to be. If you are in any of those categories or others and would like to talk to me about how my expertise fits into what you are doing in preparation for the 2016 elections drop me a line by clicking on the "Contact" link in the upper right sidebar.

Thanks for reading, y'all.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

An Update on Connecticut Republicans and 2016 Caucuses

FHQ mentioned the Connecticut delegate selection situation in the earlier Rhode Island post, but it is something I've been meaning to revisit for a few weeks (and have not gotten around to yet).

At its most basic, earlier this year Republican state legislators in the Nutmeg state introduced legislation to move the late April presidential primary into the first week in March. That effort was stonewalled by majority Democrats who are differently motivated with respect to its presidential primary. A later primary in conjunction with primaries in two or more neighboring states would net the Connecticut Democratic Party two bonuses to its national convention delegation under DNC delegate selection rules. The race for the Democratic nomination is also not quite the competition the Republican nomination process appears to be. Democratic legislators, then, are not clamoring to move to earlier spots on the presidential primary calendar.

But Republicans in the state would rather have a say in the Republican nomination race rather than be stuck with a primary at a point on the calendar that is closer to where the last two Republican nominees clinched the nomination (as measured by the percentage of total delegates allocated). With no viable route to an earlier, potentially more consequential primary, Connecticut Republicans have considered shifting to a caucus/convention system that would give the state party the freedom to move around as they see fit.

Of course, state law is seemingly restrictive in terms of the leeway allowed state parties to determine whether it selects and allocates delegates to the national convention through a primary or caucuses. And it is. To just scratch the surface, the presidential primary law no longer includes a provision to allow for caucuses. That was repealed.

In reality, though, there is nothing to prevent Connecticut Republicans from conducting caucuses. The law just requires state parties to allocate delegates to the national conventions based on the results of the presidential primary. That statute does this in a couple of ways. First, the primary law lays out the guidelines for how a state party must inform the secretary of state of which delegate selection/allocation plan they will use. Secondly, the available formulas for allocating delegates are specified in the law. Taken alone this second part could open the door to Connecticut Republicans holding caucuses and a presumably later presidential primary but heading to the Cleveland convention having allocated delegates based on the results of the earlier caucuses. But that requirement of a written notification eliminates that possibility or at least complicates it.

Let's step back for a moment, though. FHQ, when discussing this possible Connecticut Republican primary/caucuses switch before, said that the party "would be on firm ground legally" if it wanted to make the switch. That may obscure a larger point here. Yes, the courts tend to defer to the parties in determining how to run their own nominations. However, tends to is not the same as a sure thing. Additionally, Connecticut Republicans would have to make a decision on the feasibility of having to 1) pay for the caucuses and 2) having to initiate and pay for a court challenge to the law. Scheduling caucuses early enough to matter -- however you want to define that -- may be deemed important, but is it important enough to shell out party money on both of the aforementioned fronts in the lead up to an election year?

That is the big question that faces Connecticut Republicans now. They feel pretty good about their chances of challenging the law and ultimately holding caucuses, but are they willing to pay for it?

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March Presidential Primary Bill Stuck in Neutral in Rhode Island

The bill to move the Rhode Island primary up a month -- from the fourth Tuesday in April to the fourth Tuesday in March -- looks to be permanently stalled in committee. The Republican-sponsored HB 6054 was "held for further study" after a Wednesday, May 6 hearing before the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee.

That is likely the death knell for this one. It is not unlike the situation in nearby Connecticut, where Republicans earlier this year also sponsored legislation to move the Nutmeg state presidential primary into the first week of March. Those bills similarly faced resistance from majority party Democrats in the state Senate. Connecticut Republicans are considering switching to a caucus/convention system in order to hold an earlier contest more consequential to the Republican nomination process.

In Rhode Island, though, April 26 aligned with the primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania, seems most likely.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Florida Republicans Go Winner-Take-All

Truly winner-take-all.

The Republican Party of Florida during a Saturday, May 16 meeting in Orlando voted to change its delegate selection rules, instituting a winner-take-all system of delegate allocation for 2016. During the previous two cycles, Florida was only a truly winner-take-all system by virtue of their early and non-compliant primaries in 2008 and 2012. By rule, Florida Republicans had a winner-take-most (modified winner-take-all by congressional district) allocation method but with one very important caveat. If the national party reduced the delegation in response to a rules violation -- like a non-compliant January primary -- the allocation automatically became truly winner-take-all.

Outside of the proportionality window for 2016 and scheduled in a compliant position on the calendar, Florida Republicans have, as expected, now dropped the trigger mechanism and will allocate all 99 national convention delegates to the statewide winner of the March 15 presidential primary. This removes a small question mark that hovered over the allocation in Florida. The party, without the trigger of the last two cycles, had traditionally split up the allocation between statewide, at-large delegates and congressional district delegates. That will not be the case in 2016:
"With Florida's immense size and diverse population, any campaign that can mount a successful state-wide effort in Florida will be well positioned to run a truly national campaign come 2016," RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement. "Florida will now be the first winner-take-all primary in the country, this ensures that all presidential campaigns will have to spend a considerable amount of time in Florida speaking to Republicans from Pensacola to Key West and everywhere in-between."
Chasing after 99 delegates may do that or candidates not named Bush or Rubio may cede the state to the two Floridians -- happy to let one of the two be eliminated if both are still around on March 15 -- in order to focus on midwestern states like Illinois and Missouri (and perhaps Ohio) instead. That will be pretty deep into the calendar by that point. If the caucus state file in ahead of Florida on the calendar, Florida could be the first winner-take-all contest, but in the 25-30 range in the order of overall contests; likely after the 50% delegates allocated point on the calendar. That may or may not allow Florida to be the type of kingmaker that it was with a January presidential primary in both 2008 and 2012.

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Michigan Republicans Vote Down Proposal to Switch to a Closed Caucuses System in 2016

During the Michigan Republican State Central Committee meeting on Saturday, May 9, the big news was the election to fill the state party's national committeewoman position vacated when current Michigan Republican Party chair, Ronna Romney McDaniel, was elected in February 2015. Perhaps more interesting was an effort that had been brewing in the lead up to the meeting to have the state party reverse course, switching to a caucuses/convention process closed to only registered Republican voters.

The State Central Committee voted in support of a resolution endorsing a March 15 presidential primary last fall. The actual move required action from the Michigan state legislature, which the party got earlier this year. However, the outcome in the legislature was a March 8 date. That left Michigan Republicans with an open primary as mandated by state law in the proportionality window as set by the Republican National Committee. That combination was mostly what the Michigan Republican Party wanted. The date was early enough, but will force them to proportionally allocate national convention delegates to presidential candidates based on the results of the primary. The party had last fall settled on a hybrid, winner-take-most system of delegate allocation.

On the openness of the primary -- who can participate -- the Michigan Republican Party has tended to defer to state law. And that calls for an open primary that leaves the door ajar not only to independents participating but also potentially Democrats. It is that latter conflict that partially gave rise to the proposal to restrict participation to just Republican voters. But as there is no effort in the hopper or on the horizon in the Michigan state legislature to close off the primaries to just partisans (voting in their own primary), the only move would have been to switch from an open primary to a closed caucus.

FHQ said "partially" gave rise to the switch push because the effort was supported and advanced by Rand Paul-aligned members of the State Central Committee, notably District 8 Republican Party chair, Tom McMillin. The grassroots organizing of activists that the Ron Paul campaigns have done over the last two presidential election cycles, it has been argued, potentially gives Rand Paul a leg up in caucus states. This is not a new idea. It has been discussed in the context of the probable Kentucky Republican Party switch from a primary to caucuses (though there are other factors driving that switch as well) and the more recent quiet RNC push to trade out caucuses for a primary in carve-out state Nevada.

The former would theoretically help Paul in his home state while the latter would hurt the junior Kentucky senator in a state where his father finished in the top three in 2008 and 2012.

The attempt in Michigan was to make a move similar to that in Kentucky. However, it was just an attempt at the State Central Committee meeting last weekend. The Michigan Republican Party Policy Committee tabled the proposal with no support but did resolve to study closing the process in future election cycles (Again, that decision is only totally in the state party's control if it switches to a caucus in the future or the state legislature changes the law regarding who can participate. Court challenges to the law by the party are also a possibility.).

Yet, that was not the end of the discussion. The issue was also brought to the floor of the State Central Committee meeting a well by McMillin. The discussion there was not all that different from the one in the Policy Committee. On the floor the proposal to close the nomination system needed a two-thirds vote of the 112 member committee, but supporters could muster only a handful of votes and saw the standing vote on the motion fail.

In the grand scheme of things in this 2016 Republican presidential nomination race, this maneuvering in Michigan will be little more than a footnote. That said, it is indicative of some of the behind-the-scenes efforts made by the possible and announced candidates, their campaigns and proxies on the state level. It is not unusual activity, but keeps popping up in the context of these caucuses versus primaries, pragmatism versus purism discussions within the Republican Party both nationally and in the states over the last handful of years. The extent to which the rules matter ebbs and flows, but political actors perceive them to matter and act accordingly to shape them.

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Amended Louisiana House Budget Would Fund Presidential Primary

Back in March when Governor Bobby Jindal (R) unveiled his budget proposal for the 2015-16 fiscal year, it quickly became clear that there was not enough money appropriated to fund the 2016 presidential primary in Louisiana. This led to subsequent speculative discussions about whether Louisiana caucuses would be more favorable to a potential Jindal run for the Republican nomination and whether a possible November primary (consolidated with the 2015 runoff elections).

Speculation aside, the no-primary scare may have passed. An amended version of the budget -- now in the Louisiana House -- would set aside more than $3.3 million for the presidential primary next year. HB 1, the budget bill, has been engrossed and will this next week have a third reading vote.

Louisiana is currently slated to hold a Saturday, March 5 primary pending funding in this budget passing and being signed by Governor Jindal.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Let's Talk About the Primary Calendar and the Republican Nomination Race, Part Two

FHQ has received some questions from a handful of reporters and emails from interested readers this week concerning the state of the 2016 presidential primary calendar. Mainly, the subject has revolved around a simple question: Why are there differences between the FHQ calendar and other calendars out there? This is particularly relevant in view of the fact that I sketched out a different tentative calendar at the Monkey Cage earlier this week.

Think of those two versions as two opposite ends of a spectrum. FHQ will call them the ideal national party calendar (the Iowa on February 1 version) and the real time FHQ calendar (the Iowa in January version).

The latter calendar is devised under the premise that if primary season began today, knowing what we know now, where would the carve-out states fall? Given that the New York primary is still scheduled on February 2 as of today, that means that at least Iowa and New Hampshire would ease into calendar slots ahead of that. And if Colorado Democrats and/or Republicans opt into the February 2 caucus option that is available to them under Colorado law, that may bump Nevada up too. That would have a domino effect, pushing Iowa and New Hampshire up even further into early January.

FHQ would be surprised if New York did not move to a compliant primary date. The legislature in the Empire state just moves more slowly than others. With a year round session they can afford to legislate at a more leisurely pace than states with legislatures that adjourn in May. As a point of reference, New York did not begin the process of moving its primary until June 2011 for he 2012 cycle.

Similarly, FHQ does not think Colorado Republicans will opt into a February 2 caucus date in 2016 like the party did in 2011. It has not really been talked about, but Colorado got one of the nine Republican primary debates -- the October CNBC one -- and that either is or was a nice bit of leverage for the Republican National Committee to have. [A debate is what Governor Jan Brewer was angling for in 2011 when she threatened but did not move the Arizona presidential primary into January.]

Yet, New York is scheduled for February 2 and until that primary is moved via legislation, then Iowa and New Hampshire would be ahead of that point.

...if primary season began today.

That separates the FHQ calendar from the ideal national party calendar. And bear in mind that the national parties both have an interest in telling everyone that primary season will begin on February 1. The parties both want the certainty of a set schedule as soon as possible and tend to act as if everything is fine until it very obviously is not. That is what got FHQ a call from the RNC legal counsel's office in 2011. They were curious, if not upset, that I had the carve-out states penciled into calendar spots in January. That discussion ended in a stalemate: the RNC arguing that their rules said the carve-out states would be in February and FHQ countering that the 50% penalty did not seem to be deterring some states, notably Florida, from moving to non-compliant positions on the calendar. [NOTE: Not wanting to appear political science smug prevents me from pointing out who ended up being right on that one. Oops.]

The lesson? The calendar is not set until it is set. And the 2016 presidential primary calendar is not set yet. It is a heck of a lot closer to the national parties' ideal calendar in 2015 than it was in 2011 though. And the national parties have to like that.

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