Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Kansas Tries to Get Back on the Horse for 2012

After an on again, off again flirtation with re-establishing and frontloading a presidential primary for the 2008 nomination cycle, the Kansas legislature is at it again. This time though, they have the 2012 elections in mind. The House passed a bill on Friday to permanently set establish a presidential primary on the first Saturday in February every presidential election year. That bill [H 2683] subsequently passed the Senate in the form of an amendment to a committee report (I'm not a fan of the Kansas legislature's web page, but if you want to track the progress of the bill just enter "2683" in "Track a Bill" search area on the right side of the main page.). During yesterday's session, that report was referred to the House where a conference committee between the chambers was requested and then agreed to by the Senate.

So Kansas joins Kentucky, Indiana and Minnesota as states that are already casting an eye toward the next presidential election cycle (...while the current one is still in progress). The Kansas legislature has been a bit more clever (or not so clever) in its approach to 2012 though. First, the proposal places the primary on a weekend as opposed to the usual Tuesday position that most states use. And with the calendar set up as it is in 2012, that means this primary would precede the first Tuesday in February (the time when most of the states that moved for 2008 will be going in 2012). If the national parties stick with their 2008 rules--the same rules that make the first Tuesday in February the earliest point at which a non-Iowa or New Hampshire contest can be held--then the 2012 Kansas primary would be in violation and subject to sanctions. Kansas, I'd like to introduce you to Florida and Michigan.

Of course, there are a couple of other considerations here as well. Will the parties keep the same sanctions for 2012 or will they alter them in some way? Both parties decided to penalize states in violation in 2008 half their delegates. The Democratic party also sought to sanction candidates campaigning in violator states and then tried to make an example of Florida and then Michigan. Given the situation that has arisen out of the Florida and Michigan moves, the DNC may revisit that sanction regimen at this summer's convention.

The Kansas legislature doesn't seem to be bothered by the threats anyway--no matter which form they take. The proposal on the table for 2008 called for a February 2 primary which would have broken the current rules (costing them half their delegates on the Republican side and more than likely all of them in the Democratic race). Kansas then, appears to be making the same gamble that Florida and Michigan made, and in the process have signaled that they value the exposure such a contest brings over representation at the conventions.

The question has already been asked of me but I'll pose it here in this forum: Will states change their strategy for 2012 given the way 2008 has gone? In other words, will some states consider moving to later dates in anticipation of another 2008-like contest? So far, all the evidence points toward no being the answer. Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana and Minnesota lawmakers all seem to think that the system will return to the "earlier is better" model typical of the Super Tuesday era.


Robert said...

What do you think of Senator Bill Nelson's plan?


Josh Putnam said...

Nelson's plan

Josh Putnam said...

I wish him the best of luck. He's facing an uphill battle...even in a year that makes reform seem more likely.

On the nominating reforms: I've never been a fan of the regional primary approach. It fixes one "problem" and creates several others. William Mayer already pointed out in congressional hearings on the idea that it gives an advantage to regional candidates and that lacks a certain fairness as well. I tend to agree with that. It also removes retail politics from the equation and still presents an uneven playing field as far as the haves and have nots in the money game are concerned.

On the Electoral College change: This issue continues to come up and never really gains any momentum. If there wasn't a change after 2000, then it is unlikely that we'll see a change now or in the future. Now the less severe option is to allocate electoral votes based on the national popular vote. It doesn't involve amending the constitution and serves the same purpose as Nelson's electoral college abolishment. And that is an idea that has gained momentum in various state legislatures over the course of the last few years.

I don't know. I'm growing cynical about Nelson's actions. All he seems to be doing is making some high profile stands against national Democrats in order to have something to point to when it comes time for yet another re-election bid in a state that is trending more and more Republican.

Robert said...

Good points. I do like the regional primary idea. I think it would be more fair than the current system. I do like the retail politics and think some retail politics could be incorporated into the regional system. If something is not done, we will have caucuses/ primaries in 2011 next go around. I would prefer no voting before February of 2012. You have impressed me with the diffculty of implementing such a plan.

I do NOT like the abolishment of the Electoral College. If I were to modify it, I would award electors by winning the congressional districts and two by popular vote in the state.

A Senator making proposals just to score political points? I am shocked and disillusioned!