Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Youngkin 2024 is a Byproduct of Uncertainty

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • Given the 2024 primary calendar uncertainty, there has been chatter about Delaware being added to the early window when Georgia and New Hampshire are unable or unwilling to comply with the DNC rules. Is Delaware on the move? All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
FHQ quipped last week that Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin's on-again/off-again consideration of presidential bid was just the sort of decisiveness that Republican primary voters seem to be after in the 2024 cycle. And no, that probably still is not fair. It is best to observe this back and forth as a measure of the uncertainty in the overall race. There are doubts about Trump, electability concerns due to the baggage, however one defines it, that the former president carries. And there have been growing doubts in recent weeks about the type of candidate Ron DeSantis will be and the kind of campaign he will run. 

That uncertainty opens doors for other possibilities, or perhaps, feeds a desire among a certain class for alternatives. And that is true of what is happening on the Youngkin front. The governor has not exactly gotten glowing reviews from everyone. He has been described as not "all in" by some donors. Yet, it is those donors, in a collective sense, that seem to be driving the latest round of "will Youngkin run?" speculation. They seem to be the ones not only pining most for a Trump alternative, but goading Youngkin into reconsidering launching a bid. It would be easy to consider Youngkin a kind of Rick Perry 2012 sort of figure in all of this, but it is likely better viewed in the broader sense of discovery, scrutiny, decline that dominated the 2012 Republican process as described by Sides and Vavreck. Like 2012, 2024 has an uneasy frontrunner with (currently) somewhere in the range of plurality to majority support during the invisible primary. But said frontrunner is happily willing to assist in the act of scrutiny if threatened. 

Julia Azari and Seth Masket are really good in this piece over at MSNBC discussing the informal rules of the presidential nomination process. Is the system undergoing a breakdown, a rewriting, an evolution or some combination of all three? This section on the impacts of the changes on winnowing in the 2024 Republican nomination race is particularly worthy of flagging:
"Another source of mystery has to do with timing. Some of the most important unwritten rules of the nominating process come into play after the voting has begun. It’s assumed that the losers will drop out and endorse the winners after a few lackluster primaries, or when it becomes mathematically impossible to win the nomination. But given Trump’s legal troubles and the uncertainty they create — what if Trump has won enough delegates in the primaries to clinch the nomination by next April but is then convicted of a felony before the convention? — we might be more likely to see otherwise unpromising candidates ride it out to the convention. This might be significant for DeSantis, especially if he believes he could emerge victorious in a floor fight."
Highly recommend this one. FHQ certainly does more than its fair share of talking about formal rules, but the informal ones matter too!

It is probably premature to suggest that it is Iowa-or-bust for challengers to Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. There are, after all, seven plus months of the invisible primary yet to play out. However, if things stay on this same course, then the caucuses in the Hawkeye state may present a clear (final?) opportunity to "ding" Trump. These are not separate things, of course. What happens in Iowa will, to some degree, be a function of what has happened thus far in the invisible primary and the continued campaign organization building that will take place between now and January. 

On this date...
...in 1972, Senator George McGovern swept the Oregon and Rhode Island primaries on his path to the 1972 Democratic nomination.

...in 2000, Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore won their parties' respective primaries in Arkansas. Additionally, Bush took the Idaho primary and Gore prevailed in the Kentucky primary.

...in 2020, Hawaii Democratic released results showing former Vice President Joe Biden won the party-run primary in the Aloha state.


Monday, May 22, 2023

Tim Scott Enters the Race

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • There is something of a time crunch for the two parties in Iowa to schedule the 2024 caucuses, but much of it seems self-imposed. There is a time they want to have that completed by and a point they have to have that set. Plus an additional note on Trump and 2024 delegate allocation rules. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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After filing with the Federal Election Commission on Friday, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott is set to officially announce his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on Monday, May 22. The move comes a little more than a month since the junior senator from the Palmetto state launched an exploratory committee

Scott is the first to strike in a week that seemingly promises at least one more similar announcement, but Scott's entry also comes at an interesting time. Donald Trump still enjoys a comfortable lead in the endorsement primary among Senate Republicans. However, the upper chamber in the US Congress is increasingly looking as if it may be a flashpoint of sorts in this Republican nomination race. And that may or may not be because of Tim Scott. Scott will enter the race with two Senate endorsements, both from South Dakota colleagues. Mike Rounds, FHQ has talked about, but Scott also scored the important endorsement of Senate Minority Whip John Thune over the weekend. And there is said to be a reservoir of support for Scott among those he works with most closely. 

Moreover, Republican senators not aligned with Trump have been increasingly outspoken in recent weeks. First, Indiana Senator Todd Young unendorsed Trump. Then another member of the Senate Republican leadership, Senator John Cornyn last week noted that Trump cannot win a general election. And Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy followed suit over the weekend. Neither Cornyn nor Cassidy went quite as far as Young did in their comments, but they come at a time that gives Scott some cover as he announces his bid. No, none of it is explicitly pro-Scott, but it is anti-Trump enough, via an electability argument. 

And together it all offers an interesting set of signals from among a group of the most high-profile possible gets in the endorsement primary.

South Carolina Republicans convened over the weekend and narrowly re-elected Chair Drew McKissick. With both Tim Scott and Nikki Haley on hand and Donald Trump addressing the delegates in a video, McKissick turned back a challenge from Jeff Davis, head of a Trump-loyalist group in the Upstate of South Carolina. This was not a convention where 2024 delegate rules were on the table -- the winner-take-all by congressional district system is not one South Carolina Republicans are going to mess with -- but it was a demonstration of another state Republican Party battling on pragmatism versus purism grounds, something that has flared up in other states as 2024 approaches. That may not have implications for delegate allocation rules in South Carolina, but it bears watching elsewhere as the rules increasingly get nailed down. 

Harry Enten has another good one up about the comeback path DeSantis may take to the Republican nomination. He draws a parallel between where DeSantis is in the polls now to where both Barack Obama and John McCain were in 2007. Both obviously went on to win their respective nominations in 2008, but both needed early wins to help propel them in that direction. Of course, DeSantis' main competition, Donald Trump, is probably closer to where Hillary Clinton was in 2015 than to where she was when she was the poll leader -- ahead of Obama -- in 2007. And that matters as well. 

In a further fleshing out of an ongoing story, Tom Beaumont describes the tough work ahead for DeSantis-aligned super PAC, Never Back Down, in attempting to flex organizational muscle. Again, that effort is a kind of Frankenstein's monster, combining the grassroots strength and knowhow of the 2016 Cruz campaign with the similar try at organizing through a super PAC that the Jeb Bush campaign pushed in the same cycle. 

On this date...
...in 2012,  former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney swept primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky.

...in 2020, the voting in the all-mail Hawaii Democratic party-run primary concluded.


Sunday, May 21, 2023

Sunday Series: Biden, Incumbent Presidents and Setting the Rules of Renomination

This past week has been a week in which Iowa, New Hampshire and the 2024 presidential primary calendar have come back into clearer view. 

Iowa Republicans are reported to be simultaneously planning on January caucuses, but lamenting the uncertainty that Hawkeye state Democrats have thrust upon the overall scheduling process by insisting on a vote-by-mail presidential preference vote.

In New Hampshire, Democrats continue to 1) resist DNC calendar changes that would push the state out of the first primary position in 2024 and 2) refuse to consider alternatives to a "predicament ... of the president's own making."

And to compound matters, Biden surrogate and 2020 nomination kingmaker Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) recently "said the quiet part out loud," noting that the DNC calendar changes for 2024 were made with Biden "avoiding embarrassment" in Iowa and New Hampshire in mind.

Dems in disarray, right? What is the party doing?

Well, outside of the takes generator that is spitting out tales of Democratic own goals with respect to the national party and the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination process, there are a few big picture things going on that many are glossing over. Most of it is typical of incumbent parties defending the White House and some of it is new to 2024. 

Coalition maintenance
The macro view of what the Democrats have done and are doing for the 2024 cycle is twofold. First, the Biden administration and the Democratic National Committee under it are doing what big tent parties tend to do. Namely, the party is tending to constituencies in an effort to maintain the winning coalition from 2020. And some of that, through a zero-sum lens, is the messy business of picking winners and losers, choosing which policies and other actions to prioritize. 

So, there has been a push to continue to appeal to black and brown voters who are the bedrock of the party's coalition. Voting rights and criminal justice reform met resistance in Congress, but the Biden administration advanced the cause of representation on the nation's highest court by seeing the nomination of Ketanji Brown-Jackson through to her installation, thus fulfilling a campaign promise. Along the same lines, the president pushed for a change in the early calendar lineup of states for the first time since the 2008 cycle. And importantly, the administration once again attempted to elevate the voices of black and brown voters in the nomination process by supplanting Iowa and New Hampshire with South Carolina in the lead-off spot. 

But beyond mere constituency concerns on that calendar decision, there were clear winners and losers. South Carolina won. Michigan won. Iowa and New Hampshire, on the other hand, both lost. Each lost, and in New Hampshire's case, Democrats there were resistant and have remained defiant. And while the national party decision was perhaps out of the ordinary, the reaction in the Granite state has not been. And while that reaction has added some drama (and the attention that comes along with it) to an incumbent presidential renomination process that is unlikely to offer much of it, it does once again point out just how difficult it is to alter institutions that have long since become normalized fixtures of the presidential election process. 

Again, if it was easy to change, then any number of component parts of the presidential nomination process -- including but not exclusively Iowa and New Hampshire -- would have been changed by now. Grumbling about Iowa, New Hampshire and their positions atop the presidential primary calendar is not new. It did not just start in 2020 when Iowa Democrats botched their caucuses. That grousing goes back years

However, the extent to which the subject has arisen between elections has ebbed and flowed, but it always comes up. In some years, like between 2004 and 2008, the party examined it closely. The result was that Nevada and South Carolina got added to the early window (and before the fallout from Florida and Michigan, Nevada's Democratic caucuses were to have been between Iowa and New Hampshire). In other cycles, such as between 2008 and 2012, Iowa and New Hampshire came up but the Rules and Bylaws Committee punted, saving the battle for another time.  

But to reiterate, it always comes up. And that pre-2012 example is instructive. That was the last cycle that a sitting Democratic president was seeking renomination. Theoretically, the stakes are lower in those times than they are or would be in a competitive nomination environment. It is then, or in the case of the 2024 cycle, now that a change in the early calendar would hypothetically be easiest. And it may, in fact, be easier than if this were a seriously contested cycle, but uprooting Iowa and New Hampshire is by no stretch of the imagination easy. If anything, Team Biden is bearing witness to just how not easy it is right now. 

So why take on the task of changing the calendar at all? 

Well, coalition maintenance is one answer. Creating a more representative early calendar lineup of states is and has been a long-time priority to some within the broader Democratic Party network. And just like changing the superdelegate rules for the 2020 cycle, it was not only a priority but there was sufficient support for the reform within the DNC. Yet, unlike the case of the superdelegate reform -- thorny as that was -- reforming the early calendar is not completely within the jurisdiction of the national party. Ultimately, credentialing and seating delegates from a state that has followed its state law and happens to be rogue relative to national party rules is within the DNC (or the convention's) purview, but bringing that to fruition and keeping Democrats from said rogue (and aggrieved) state out is a long process with a number of potential pressure points along the way that makes it politically difficult. 

It may be that Iowa and New Hampshire's time has simply come. But Iowa and, to a seemingly larger degree, New Hampshire will have something to say about that. 

Strategic considerations
Perhaps, then, the coalition maintenance hypothesis is not fully adequate to answer the "why take this task on now?" question. Maybe there are strategic concerns too. But even that explanation seems dubious. Before all of this, it was not exactly clear that Iowa and New Hampshire were going to make life, much less renomination, difficult for President Biden in 2024. No challengers of any great import were champing at the bit to throw their hats in the ring and attempt to dethrone a sitting Democratic president. Sure, California Governor Gavin Newsom and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker were both doing some of the things that potential presidential aspirants do, but it is also difficult to tease out whether that was midterm campaign activity/surrogacy or something else (like laying the groundwork in case Biden did not run). It also is not clear that either governor shut the door on a run (and have subsequently joined Biden's reelection advisory board) because Team Biden made the calendar "harder" for challengers. The calendar change was merely another signal that the president intended to run and that in supporting the change, the DNC was behind him. All this despite the fact that the guessing game on whether Biden would run persisted well into 2023 after the initial DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee vote on the calendar. 

But take a step back for a moment. How common is it for sitting presidents and their parties to create favorable conditions for a renomination bid? The answer is that it is quite common. And it is probably better cast as reducing token resistance rather than some nefarious attempt to squelch democracy. 

In the past, all of this has mainly fallen into two categories: not holding primary debates and cancelling or downscaling contests (cancelling caucuses or shifting from primaries to caucuses). Both parties have done this. When was the last time an incumbent party sponsored a presidential primary debate? The RNC went so far as to eliminate the national party rule calling for a committee to sanction debates in 2020 only to bring it back for 2024. And yes, Republican state parties cancelled or downscaled a number of contests for the 2020 cycle, but those were not precedent-setting actions. Instead, it was par for the course. It is so commonplace that one almost has to skip incumbent years in gathering time-series data on presidential primaries (depending on the research question). In my own research on the movement of primaries and caucuses, it is next to useless to account for incumbent party years. State parties opting out of state-run primaries and primaries being cancelled because of only one candidate making the ballot make it nearly impossible. 

And how does the DNC look on both of those fronts for 2024? For starters, there are no plans for primary debates. But it is a funny thing on cancelled and downscaled contests. It is more difficult now than it has ever been to do either in a Democratic presidential nomination contest. Notice that Iowa Democrats are not talking about cancelling the caucuses like Republicans in the Hawkeye state did in 2020 to avoid any of the calendar messiness that has supposedly gripped the 2024 Democratic process. In fact, Iowa Democrats are going in the opposite direction. The party is planning on making the caucuses meaningless with respect to delegate allocation and adding a presidential preference vote(-by-mail) to allocate delegates. No states are planning on cancelling caucuses. There are none left now that Iowa and Nevada off the board. [Wyoming Democrats cannot decide if the party wants to call their process in 2024 a caucus or a party-run primary.] 


DNC encouragements added to Rule 2 for 2020 require state parties to provide for open and accessible contests. Parties have to demonstrate in their delegate selection plans that they are doing all they can to create the most open and accessible process possible. And state parties have heeded that guidance in practice in 2020 and in draft delegate selection plans for 2024. 

As a result of that rules change, the DNC and Team Biden did not have cancelling or downscaling contests as an option to potentially help streamline the process against token opposition. One avenue available as a streamlining opportunity, however, was the primary calendar order. And there, the options were limited. The status quo was an option. The path of least resistance in setting the rules was always to keep Iowa and New Hampshire as the lead-off contests (or shunt Iowa out of the early window because of 2020 and move New Hampshire up).

But does an incumbent president and/or the national party behind them want to leave to chance the start of a nomination process in two states where the president did not even win during the previous nomination cycle (even against token opposition in the coming cycle)? It certainly could all work out. But it could also be a situation like President Lyndon Johnson failing to meet expectations in New Hampshire in 1968 despite winning. And it is worth pointing out that Donald Trump still has not won the Iowa caucuses. He lost in 2016 and the caucuses were cancelled for 2020. Biden does not have the luxury, under DNC rules, of Iowa Democrats simply cancelling their caucuses next year. 

No, the alternative was to explore an alternative early calendar lineup, something the DNC Rules and Bylaws was already considering through a process that eliminated for 2024 guaranteed spots for traditional early states. It was a process open to any an all states that wanted to make a pitch. And the Biden administration took that opening -- the process of states applying for those early slots -- to swing for the fences.

They pushed a plan that placed South Carolina first, the first state the former vice president had won in 2020. But that was not exactly the driver behind the calendar decision. Shifting African American voices to an earlier position on the calendar was a priority but the options were limited in terms of states that the DNC could feasibly get into place. Look at the Georgia experience. Try as they might, Democrats nationally and in Georgia could not convince a Republican secretary of state to commit to the plan to add the Peach state to the mix. And the same would have been true for any other southern state with high levels of black and brown voters. Republican-controlled state governments stood in the way.

The exception?

South Carolina. Since the date-setting authority in the Palmetto state is in the hands of the state parties, the South Carolina primary could be moved into an even earlier position on the calendar with relative ease. 

This is not some grand conspiracy. The whole process has been one that, in part, has done what past incumbent presidents have done. However, due to rules changes on the Democrats side, the Biden team could not do exactly what past incumbents running for renomination have done. Instead, they took a calendar process already underway (and open) before the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee and used it to break a long standing precedent (Iowa and New Hampshire up front), fulfill a priority for many in (and out of) the party in the process (uprooting Iowa and New Hampshire) and potentially streamline a nomination race in which Biden was already the overwhelming favorite. 

...just like other incumbents in the post-reform era. 


Saturday, May 20, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] The Quirks of Scheduling a South Carolina Presidential Primary

The following is a cross-posted excerpt from FHQ Plus, FHQ's new subscription service. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to unlock the full site and support our work. 


Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recently made the curious decision to schedule the presidential primary in the Peach state for March 12, a week after Super Tuesday. And the move not only ended the hopes of Georgia Democrats holding a primary in the pre-window on the 2024 presidential primary calendar, but it also highlighted why South Carolina got the nod from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to take over the lead off slot

The Raffensperger obstacle in Georgia, whether viewed through the lens of partisanship or not, is something with which decision makers in the Palmetto state do not have to contend. After all, like Georgia, the state of South Carolina foots the bill for the election. However, unlike Georgia, the it is the state parties in South Carolina that set the date of the contest. It is a unique power that grants the state’s primaries more scheduling mobility than the vast majority of the states and allows South Carolina to remain first-in-the-South (if not first-in-the-nation).

But that freedom in South Carolina is not without some fetters. 

Caitlin Byrd and Alexander Thompson had a nice “yes, South Carolina Democrats are actually having the first primary in 2024” story over the weekend. And complications with rogue New Hampshire (and the very likely resulting penalties from the DNC) aside, they are. South Carolina Democrats will have a February 3 primary next year. 

But as the piece notes, it is not all smooth sailing in the Palmetto state. 

But not everyone is convinced that a 2024 presidential primary would be a major financial or organizing boost. Former party chair Dick Harpootlian questioned the value of holding a potentially costly event for a predictable outcome.  

“The question is, do we have one if it’s the president versus nobody, because it costs a tremendous amount of money to do that,” he said.

Two Democrats so far have announced challenging Biden for the 2024 presidential nomination: Marianne Williamson and Robert Kennedy Jr., both widely viewed as long shots. 

Pressed if he would want a primary with the current field, Harpootlian replied, “I wouldn’t have it.”

Again, South Carolina Democrats are going to have that February 3 primary. But Harpootlian hints at some of the historical quirks in South Carolina, quirks that have taken new shape under state and national party changes. Yes, the parties have the freedom to set the date of the contest for anywhere on the calendar they wish, so long as it follows party rules. And in years past when incumbent presidents have run for reelection, those same state parties have had the freedom to cancel the contest and select delegates through a caucus/convention process. It is not some sinister plot to foil the plans of also-ran candidates. Instead, it is a nod to reality. If the president is going to be renominated, then why, in recent years since the state began funding the primaries, spend taxpayer money (or party money before that) to fund a beauty contest election? The answer is that those state parties have not. There was no big, first-in-the-South primary when Bill Clinton ran for reelection in 1996, or for George W. Bush in 2004, or Barack Obama in 2012 or Donald Trump in 2020. Caucuses and/or conventions were held instead. 

But South Carolina Democrats do not have that freedom for 2024. And no one seems to be lamenting that loss. Everyone is too busy celebrating the elevation of the primary to the first spot on the calendar instead. Well, perhaps not Dick Harpootlian. But he is not wrong, per se, nor is South Carolina alone. The primary is alone at the top, of course, but even other states or state parties that might otherwise go small in 2024 with a Democratic president running again have to go through the motions of a primary because of the Rule 2 encouragements layered into DNC rules for the 2020 cycle, the encouragements to hold the most open and accessible nominating contests as is feasible.

To be sure, folks at the DNC would push back against the notion that any state or state party is “going through the motions.” The argument from the national party would most certainly be that the party is creating the most open, inclusive and accessible process for Democratic primary voters. However, the trade-off, if one wants to call it that, is that the party loses out on the incumbent-cycle streamlining of the process. 

And that streamlining, scaling down from a primary to a caucus, is something that some, if not all of the folks, at the DNC would say is no real loss. While that may be in the eye of the beholder, it is also true that there are and have been limited opportunities to streamline anyway. State parties with party-run nominating events may downgrade — hold caucuses over a party-run primary or a convention over caucuses. And some state parties do opt out of state-run primaries in incumbent cycles. Arizona and South Carolina did on the Republican side in 2020. Democrats in Florida and Michigan did in 2012 to avoid non-compliant primaries that were scheduled too early. And Washington Democrats in the legislature canceled the primary there that cycle, a primary the party never used until 2020 (after the legislature brought it back). And there ends up being a handful of states each cycle that automatically cancel a primary if only one candidate is on the ballot. 

So, there are a few instances each cycle where contests are canceled, but South Carolina is unique among state-funded primary states in that Democrats and Republicans can choose, and have chosen, separate dates throughout the post-reform era. And since the state got into the primary funding business for 2008, just two of the four cycles have seen primary cancelations. But 2024 will be the first one where an incumbent is running and a primary is not canceled. It will be the first time the state of South Carolina has had to pay for a largely uncompetitive presidential primary involving an incumbent president.

Again, this is not the custom elsewhere. In all other primary states, there is one primary. A state party with an incumbent president may opt out, but on the whole primaries are held and delegates are allocated, typically based on lopsided results that hand the president the overwhelming majority if not all of the delegates. But the cost constraint in South Carolina represents a unique obstacle with the state parties holding primaries on separate dates. That is two separate elections to fund. 

And that brings this back to 2024. There will be two primaries. But this will be the first time the state has funded primaries when the incumbent president’s party is not opting out. No one is complaining. The legislature is not threatening the funding. It is spent in service of keeping South Carolina first-in-the-South. But as Byrd and Thompson noted in their article, Palmetto state Republicans used the costs as a justification for opting out in 2020. Democrats in the state are not doing that for 2024. 

The question is whether that action will be the only first in South Carolina for 2024. Separate Democratic and Republican primaries have been the norm. But they do not have to be on different dates. South Carolina Republicans could join Democrats on February 3, save the state the second expenditure and provide a little more room for Iowa and New Hampshire to maneuver in January. 

But that may be a bridge too far in a state with a number of quirks.



Friday, May 19, 2023

The Disconnect on Iowa and New Hampshire 2024

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • With the end of its legislative session approaching, it looks as if New York will set in motion its unique method of codifying the presidential primary date and delegate allocation rules for 2024. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
One thing that FHQ has noticed in this week's renewed chatter about Iowa, New Hampshire and the 2024 presidential primary calendar is that stories about possible uncertainty at the front of the calendar keep sporadically popping up. But those stories arise almost in isolation from the coverage of the evolving race for the Republican presidential nomination. Folks, whether in the campaigns or media or even at the national party level, acknowledge that some calendar uncertainty exists, but most everyone is behaving as if Iowa will have the first Republican contest in 2024 followed by the primary in the Granite state. 

Yes, there are exceptions to that behavior. New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan is doing what secretaries of state in New Hampshire do: He is defending the first-in-the-nation turf by remaining coy, leaving open the door to the possibility that he may schedule the primary for some time in 2023 if necessary. And Jake Lahut's story at The Daily Beast asks a smart question -- that honestly FHQ has not really seen in the press -- about just how prudent the DeSantis team's full-court press to come in Iowa is given that there is a possibility that New Hampshire may jump the caucuses in the Hawkeye state on the calendar. 

However, those are exceptions to the current conventional wisdom it seems. And that suggests something. It suggests that the campaigns and other actors have reasonable confidence -- maybe blind faith -- that the calendar stuff will sort itself out like it always seems to do. That Iowa's Republican caucuses will lead off the process in January next year with the primary in New Hampshire being held a week and a day later. It will be a process, but given what FHQ written in recent days, it does look like it will all work out. The process the Iowa Democrats will likely use will not be a threat to New Hampshire (or should not be viewed that way anyway) and that will allow the calendar to proceed as planned on the Republican side. It may be a little earlier than anticipated -- a January and not February start -- but it will likely progress in the order implied in RNC rules.

The 2024 Republican presidential primary field appears as if it will add to its current list of candidates in the coming week, but chatter, if not the number of other signals, is picking up for other potential aspirants not named DeSantis (or Scott). 

It has been a busy week in the endorsement primary. FHQ has covered some of the DeSantis endorsement roll outs in this space this week, but that by no means has been all that has occurred. In no particular order... 

On the travel primary front, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has been making the rounds in Iowa this week.

Trump added to his campaign in first-in-the-South primary state of South Carolina. New staff primary hires to the Palmetto team include former Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, former Nancy Mace campaign manager, Austin McCubbin, and Justin Evans, who was on the Trump White House advance team in 2020.

On this date...
...in 1980, Utahns in both political parties caucused across the Beehive state.

...in 1992, President George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Governor won their respective primaries in Oregon. Bush also won in neighboring Washington. The Washington Democratic primary was a beauty contest that Clinton won, but delegates were allocated through earlier caucuses in the Evergreen state.

...in 2020, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden won in Oregon.


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Missing the Real Story on the New Hampshire Primary

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • How does Iowa fit into the Republican National Committee delegate rules? A deeper dive on the history of Rule 16 and how Iowa Republicans have no real recourse if New Hampshire leapfrogs the Hawkeye state into the first slot on the 2024 calendar. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Another day, another story from out of one of the traditionally early primary calendar states. Yesterday, it was Iowa. Today, New Hampshire is on the docket. 

But folks, in their zeal to make a story out of something that probably will not be a much of a story in 2024, some outlets have missed the real story in the battle between New Hampshire Democrats and the Democratic National Committee over the primary calendar next year. Well, most have missed the true story in Iowa and thus miss the bigger picture story on the evolution of the beginning of the 2024 calendar. 

That bigger picture story? How much differently Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire are approaching the threat of 2024 calendar rules that shift each from their traditional positions. Look, as FHQ noted yesterday, Iowa Democrats' draft delegate selection plan was a deescalatory document. Yes, the date of the more primary-like preference vote is still unknown, but the signals from out of the Hawkeye state are that Iowa Democrats are playing for a spot -- any spot -- in the early window on the Democratic primary calendar. In other words, they are not fighting for first. South Carolina already has that (official) distinction They are fighting for early. Iowa Democrats are demonstrating flexibility. They appear willing to play ball with the DNC.

New Hampshire Democrats do not. 

To this point, from the draft delegate selection plan to comment after comment from New Hampshire Democrats to state legislative actions that Democratic state legislators have supported, the picture is just the opposite of what is coming out of Iowa. It is all still shock and anger and disbelief. The pose New Hampshire Democrats have struck remains defiant. And the one good thing that the latest story from Politico by Holly Otterbein and Lisa Kashinsky does is showcase how very rigid and inflexible New Hampshire Democrats are being on this. 

A party-run primary as a possible alternative?
Meanwhile, Democrats in the state are shutting down the idea of a party-run primary before they’ve even formally been approached about it. Buckley said a party-run primary would be a logistical nightmare and extremely expensive, costing upwards of $7 million. 
“Absolutely impossible,” he said. “Where would I rent 2,000 voting machines? Hire 1,500 people to run the polls? Rent 300 accessible voting locations? Hire security? Print 500,000 ballots. Process 30,000 absentee ballots.”
Never mind that states equal in size or bigger than New Hampshire held first-time, vote-by-mail party-run primaries in 2020. ...during a pandemic. Democratic parties in both Hawaii and Kansas pulled that off in the last cycle. Any thought in New Hampshire of consulting with those state parties to discover best practices, potential problems, anything? Nope. Just overestimates on scale and costs and a complete inability to think even a little outside of the box. 

And that fig leaf that was a feeble attempt at passing no-excuse absentee voting in New Hampshire?
New Hampshire Democrats also argue they’ve made a good-faith effort to meet the second part of the party’s requirements to stay in the official early-state window — expanding voting access by pushing Soucy’s legislation to create no-excuse absentee voting in the state, albeit to no avail.
That just is not very likely to carry much if any weight with the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. Is it a good-faith effort at a provable positive step toward the changes the national party requested of New Hampshire Democrats. It is! But it is also a very small step in the grand scheme of the plan the national party has put forth for the 2024 presidential nomination process. 

It is a half step at best. All the DNC wants in something like this is a willing partner to come to the table and work toward a compromise of some sort. New Hampshire Democrats' my way or the highway approach to all of this will put them in the same boat that Florida and Michigan Democrats found themselves in 2007-08. Democratic legislators (and governors in Michigan's case) supported those rogue primaries and when the DNC suggested alternative caucuses to comply with the national party rules, both state parties threw up their hands and balked at the prospect. That got each a full 100 percent reduction in their 2008 national convention delegations.1 New Hampshire is likely looking at the same fate. 

And that is the story here. It is tale of two "aggrieved" states and how differently each is reacting to the threat of calendar rules changes for 2024. It is the rigidity of the New Hampshire Democratic Party compared to the flexibility of Iowa Democrats. What it is not is a "predicament ... of the president's own making." It just is not. That is like saying the Florida and Michigan ordeal was one of the DNC's own design. Those states broke the rules the DNC put in place for 2008. Those state parties refused to explore alternatives for delegate selection. Those parties paid a price. The 55 other states and territories followed the rules. 

In 2023, all signs point toward 56 states and territories following the DNC calendar rules. [There are other budding violations of other rules elsewhere.] Only one state, New Hampshire, is indicating that it not only will not but also will not doing anything to meet the national party even part of the way there. Folks, that is not the president's problem. It is not the DNC's problem. It is New Hampshire's problem and Democrats there are trying to blackmail the national party into caving because of the possible general election implications. That is not a new practice, but in 2024 that is a recipe for sanctions from the national party. 

[One option in New Hampshire that FHQ has suggested and still has not seen anywhere else is tying something -- party-run primary, alternative state-run primary -- to town meeting day in March. That is when the New Hampshire presidential primary is supposed to be anyway. Or would be if not for the law that says it will fall on town meeting day unless another similar election is before the primary in the Granite state. Town meeting day is going to happen after the January presidential primary regardless. It could be an option for the Democrats in New Hampshire. It could be, but again, the party so far has not been receptive to alternatives.]

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is going to announce a presidential run? If only there had been some signs that this was coming. Seriously though, DeSantis closed the deal on 99 Republican state legislative endorsements (out of 113) in the Sunshine state on Wednesday, May 16. The floodgates referred to in this space yesterday were opened up. And DeSantis has a more than reasonable endorsement primary counterweight to the Trump rollout of Florida congressional delegation endorsements in recent weeks.

FHQ could use the Landmark Communications poll in Georgia out yesterday to point out how poorly Governor Brian Kemp would do in a Republican presidential primary in his home state. But that is unnecessary -- Kemp is not running -- and would miss an opportunity to talk about delegate allocation in the Peach state next year anyway. Yet, that is something of a question mark. Georgia will have an earlier presidential primary in 2024 than it (initially) did in 2020, and Republicans in the state will have to change the delegate allocation system they used in the last go-round to something more proportional (as the RNC defines it). 

Also, it is worth noting that Trump will address Georgia Republicans at their state convention next month where delegate selection rules for the 2024 cycle may be on the agenda.

On this date...
...in 1976, California Governor Jerry Brown won the battle but lost the war in the Maryland Democratic primary. But since Brown had not filed a slate in the Old Line state, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the delegate fight and also won in the Michigan primary. On the Republican side, President Gerald Ford swept both the Maryland and Michigan primaries.

...in 1987, Illinois Senator Paul Simon formally entered the contest for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.

...in 2004, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry swept primaries in Arkansas, Kentucky and Oregon.

1 Yes, both Florida and Michigan Democrats had half of their delegations restored by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee during Memorial Day weekend in 2008 and full delegations from both were seated at the Denver convention with full voting rights after a concession from the Obama campaign. But the conditions will be different for New Hampshire in 2024. Team Biden and the DNC will potentially be less willing to show such leniency. The incumbent president will not be coming off a hard-fought nomination win in the primaries and needing to bring two sides of an evenly split party together. Instead, it will be two sides: one comprised of 56 states and territories and the other of one state delegation that wants to hold onto a first-in-the-nation relic that the president is trying to change in favor of a rotation system at the beginning of the calendar. Sure, there are general election implications here as well because of New Hampshire's status as a battleground state. But it is a battleground state with just four electoral votes.


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Chaos? What Chaos? Iowa Republicans signal January caucuses, but that has been clear for a while.

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

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It has been clear since December when the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee first signed off on a newly revamped early presidential primary calendar lineup for 2024 that the Iowa caucuses -- the precinct caucuses for Republicans in the Hawkeye state, anyway -- would end up in January 2024 sometime. When one national party schedules a non-traditional state first for the first time in half a century it has some impact on the actions of decision makers in the two traditional lead-off states, Iowa and New Hampshire. 

And it has had an impact. 

Those moves, made official by the full DNC vote in February (based in part on assurances from South Carolina Democrats that they intended to request a February 3 primary date for next year), have triggered all of the typical responses. Leapfrogging states! Calendar chaos! Competing state laws to protect early calendar status! National party penalties! The full gamut (albeit with some new wrinkles, perhaps). 

So it was nice that Brianne Pfannenstiel at the Des Moines Register got Iowa Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufmann on the record about his thoughts on the caucuses schedule for 2024.
“It looks as though we're heading for a mid-January caucus,” Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann said in an interview. “But it's still very unsettled. … That uncertainty prevents me from saying anything definitive.”
That confirms the reality that has existed since December, but FHQ would push back on Pfannenstiel's characterization of all of this as a "complicated calendar fight." Folks, it is not that complicated. What is true is that the DNC complicated the outlook by straying from business as usual for 2024. But the range of options moving forward is pretty limited. 

First, look at the calendar. South Carolina Democrats have a February 3 primary. The next earliest Tuesday at least seven days before that is January 23. Under state law, that is latest point on the calendar where New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan would schedule the presidential primary in the Granite state to keep it first. The clearest action that would force New Hampshire any further up on the calendar is if some other contest ends up between the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary and that January 23 point on the calendar. That could be a South Carolina Republican primary. [The primaries there for both parties have traditionally not been on the same day.] It may also not be. That likely hinges to some degree on what Nevada Republicans decide to do.

The easy rule of thumb, then, is that if South Carolina Republicans select a date before the February 3 date on which the Democratic primary is in the Palmetto state, then the New Hampshire primary is likely to end up on at least January 16.

But what about the Iowa Democratic caucuses-turned-mail-primary!?! 

Yes, that change breaks from tradition as well. If the caucuses are not caucuses, then New Hampshire is going to jump Iowa, right? FHQ would argue that that is not necessarily the case. And that conclusion has everything to do with the draft delegate selection plan Iowa Democrats released at the beginning of May. While some bought the headlines that Iowa Democrats would caucus on the same night as Republicans in the Hawkeye state and assumed the worst, the reality was something far less ominous. Rather than being an aggressive and defiant document -- one that might actually have led to a chaotic calendar fight -- the Iowa Democratic delegate selection plan was innovative while being slightly coy.  

The draft plan was innovative in that it veered off the usual course, bifurcating the delegate selection process and the delegate allocation process more clearly than has ever been the case in the Iowa Democratic process. Yes, Iowa Democrats will caucus on the same night as Republicans in the state, whatever that date is. But that will have no bearing on the delegate slots that are allocated to particular presidential candidates. All that is going to happen for Iowa Democrats on that January night is party business: electing folks to go to the county conventions, talking platform ideas, among other things. There is no winning candidate in that process. No score to keep. No horserace to assess. 

That will come from the separate presidential preference vote that the Iowa Democratic Party will conduct by mail. The vote-by-mail preference vote will be for Iowa Democrats what the DNC calls the "first determining step" in the delegate allocation process. Delegates from Iowa will be allocated based on the results of the preference vote. And that is the coy part of the story because there is, at this time, no date for the preference vote. And Pfannenstiel raises that:
Scott Brennan, Iowa’s representative to the [DNC] Rules and Bylaws Committee, said the committee will meet in June, but he doesn’t expect the group to consider Iowa’s proposal until its meeting in July. 
“My guess is that they will find the plan noncompliant because it does not have a date for the caucuses,” he said.
But why does it not have a date? The all-mail preference vote does not have a date yet because Iowa Democrats are still fighting for an early spot on the calendar. Importantly, that is not for the first slot, but an early spot. The gamble is that when Georgia and New Hampshire are unable or unwilling to meet the early calendar requirements for the DNC that there will be an opening for the formerly first state to seize a spot among the earliest states for 2024. 

That is not threatening to New Hampshire. In fact, the Iowa Democratic delegate selection plan was deescalatory in nature (with both New Hampshire and the DNC). All of this will take some time to play out, and in the meantime, there are likely to be reports of back and forths among various actors that get described as chaos. But that is not what this is. Iowa Democrats are negotiating (or will be) with the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee for an early spot. The resulting preference vote is very likely to conclude after the South Carolina Democratic primary. [Remember, that will be after New Hampshire, rogue or not.] 

That is a lot to sift through, but it is not that complicated. At the end of the day, one may not know the exact dates for the Iowa Republican caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. But one does know that it depends on what Nevada and South Carolina Republicans do and how the negotiations go between Iowa Democrats and the national party go. Regardless, what is really at stake is whether Iowa Republicans caucus on January 8 or January 15. That is how small the range is. 

...even at this stage. That is not chaos. It is earlier than the Republican National Committee had planned. But it is not chaos.

In the travel primary, little more than a month since his last visit to the Granite state, DeSantis will once again drop in on New Hampshire to meet with state legislators later this week. Republican candidate visits to first-in-the-nation New Hampshire have increased in frequency in recent days. Trump, Scott, Haley, Hutchinson, Ramaswamy and Pence have all also trekked to the Granite state since the beginning of the month.

It was two steps forward and one back in the endorsement primary for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday. On the plus side of the ledger DeSantis secured valuable endorsements from legislative leaders in both chambers of the Florida legislature. Losing so many endorsements from members of the Florida congressional delegation to Trump in recent weeks was a bad look for the Sunshine state governor and would-be presidential candidate. But if the leadership endorsements open up the floodgates for additional Florida state legislative endorsements for DeSantis down the line, then that will serve as some counterweight to the inroads Trump has made in Florida endorsements. [Whether DeSantis would be able to work those state legislative relationships was an open question FHQ posed a few weeks ago.]

On the negative side, the Never Back Down roll out of state legislative endorsements of DeSantis from New Hampshire was already undercut by the split Trump-DeSantis endorsement from one Granite state representative, but another, Rep. Lisa Smart (R) went even further and reneged on signing onto the letter of support for DeSantis, going back to Trump. Better to make these sorts of mistakes early rather than consistently and/or later in the invisible primary. But still.

On this date...
...in 1976, Democrats caucused in Utah.

...in 1979, Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker (R) withdrew from the 1980 Republican presidential nomination contest after a short run that began in March 1979.

...in 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis won their parties' primaries in Oregon.

...in 2016, Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders claimed victory in the Oregon primary while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in Kentucky. [Republicans caucused in the Bluegrass state earlier in the calendar.]


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Trump and the 2024 Delegate Allocation Rules

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

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  • South Carolina is unique among states with state-run and funded presidential primaries. In some ways that helped elevate the Palmetto state to the first slot on the 2024 Democratic primary calendar. But quirkiness presents some challenges as well. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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Gregory Korte had a nice piece up at Bloomberg the other day concerning the delegate allocation rules and how the Trump campaign's efforts to massage them in 2020 may pay dividends for the former president in 2024. As he notes, however, there will not be a complete picture of the state-level delegate allocation rules until October 1. That makes it tough to game out the impact of the rules for next year. 

Moreover, the various campaigns are doing the same thing. They are currently trying to plan this out, but they are also simultaneously trying to affect what those rules are to lay the groundwork for advantageous allocation rules next year. And that makes for some potential, if not likely, cross-pressures with which state-level party officials/committees/conventions making these decision will have to deal. Together that makes for a challenging decision-making environment. FHQ talked about this in setting the 2024 Republican delegate allocation rules baseline back in March:
If decision makers in state parties across the country cannot see a clear advantage to an allocation change one way or the other, then it is more likely that the 2020 baseline method survives into 2024. That theoretically helps Trump. ...if he is the frontrunner. But if Trump is not the frontrunner once primary season kicks off, then any shift away from the 2020 baseline -- a baseline with the knobs turned toward incumbent defense (or frontrunner defense) -- may end up helping a candidate other than the one intended. 

Another factor adding to this uncertainty is how decision makers view a change playing with rank and file members of the party. If elected officials or other elites in the party are wary of endorsing one Republican candidate or another, then they may also be less willing to make an allocation change for fear that it would be viewed as helping or hurting Trump. In other words, it looks like they are putting their thumb on the scale one way or the other. That is the sort of view that augurs against change. And again, the status quo likely helps Trump (if current conditions persist). 

Basically, the bottom line is this. Allocation changes are tough. They are tough to make because there is uncertainty in the impact those changes will have. It is much easier to see the potential impact of moving a primary to an early date for example. It could help a favorite son or daughter candidate. But an earlier primary or caucus definitely better insures that the state influences the course of the nomination race. If a contest falls too late -- after a presumptive nominee has emerged and clinched the nomination -- then that contest has literally no impact. Some impact, no matter how small, is better than literally zero impact. The same is true with respect to the decision to conduct a primary election or caucuses. There are definite turnout effects that come with holding a primary rather than caucuses. And greater participation in primaries typically means a more diverse -- less ideologically homogenous or extreme -- electorate.

Things are less clear with allocation rules changes. 
There is much more in that post. FHQ will be drawing from it throughout the remainder of the invisible primary if not into primary season in 2024. Go read it. But in the meantime, a couple of additional things:
  1. Yes, more truly winner-take-all states help Trump at this time. But they would help any frontrunner. These are, after all, frontrunner rules. They help build and pad a delegate lead once the RNC allows winner-take-all rules to kick in on March 15, entering 50-75 rule territory.
  2. But Team Trump is likely looking toward (and looking to maintain) the other rules changes from 2020 for an earlier-on-the-calendar boost. An earlier (technical) knock out for a 2024 frontrunner may come from states earlier than March 15 with winner-take-all triggers. If a candidate wins a majority of the vote statewide and/or at the congressional district level, then that candidate wins all of the delegates from that jurisdiction (or all of a state's delegates available if the delegates are pooled). Alternatively, if no other candidates hit the qualifying thresholds (set to their max of 20 percent in most proportional states in 2020), then the winner is allocated all of the delegates in some states even if they do not have a majority. And the name of the game here is not necessarily winning all of the delegates, but maximizing the net delegate advantage coming out of any given state. All of the Republican campaigns are asking how much they can improve on a baseline proportional allocation, and picking spots on the map and calendar where they can do. Well, campaigns are doing that if they know what they are doing anyway.

In the travel primary, former Vice President Mike Pence will be back in New Hampshire on Tuesday, May 16. And it looks at if a super PAC has formed around his before the end of June presidential launch. The interesting thing is less the formation of an aligned super PAC and more about some of the staff primary hires the new group has made. There are folks from the orbits of a former Republican presidential nominee (Scott Reed, former campaign manager of the 1996 Dole campaign), a once talked-about possible 2024 aspirant who declined to run (Mike Ricci, former spokesman for former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan) and a still-talked about possible 2024 candidate who says he is not running (Bobby Saparow, former campaign manager for current Georgia Governor Brian Kemp). In total, that makes for an interesting mix of old school Republican politics and new school Trump resistance within the party. That may not represent a winning path in the Republican nomination race, but it is indicative of a unique course forward for Pence relative to his competition.

Endorsement Math. Yesterday, FHQ raised the sizable number of Iowa state legislative endorsements Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rolled out before his weekend trek to the Hawkeye state. And on Monday, Never Back Down, the super PAC aligned with DeSantis, released another 49 new endorsements from fellow early state, New Hampshire. [That is 51 endorsements minus the previously revealed support of New Hampshire House Majority Leader Jason Osborne and the double endorsement -- of both Trump and DeSantis -- from Juliet Harvey-Bolia.] Three of those DeSantis endorsements in the Granite state are from representatives who have supported Trump in the past.

But the math is different across both of those waves of DeSantis endorsements from Iowa and New Hampshire. The 37 state legislative endorsements from the Hawkeye state accounted for more than a third of all of the possible Iowa Republican legislators -- House and Senate. In New Hampshire, those 50 endorsements, all from members of the state House, register differently. They make up just a quarter of the total number of possible endorsements from the lower chamber alone. Yes, that may be splitting hairs, but it is also a long way of saying the pool of endorsements is bigger in New Hampshire. Others will be vying for the support of the remaining 150 Granite state House members. 

On this date...
...in 1972, Alabama Governor George Wallace, a day after being shot campaigning in Maryland, won primaries in the Old Line state and in Michigan

...in 2000, long after becoming the presumptive nominees of their parties, George W. Bush and Al Gore won the Oregon presidential primary.

...in 2019, long shots, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rocky de la Fuente, respectively entered the Democratic and Republican presidential nomination races.