Sunday, August 31, 2008

From Wyoming: An Answer to the "Will the GOP Sanctions Have Teeth" Question

This week, as convention season has kicked off, we've cast an eye on the various sanction regimes that could be employed to deal with the frontloading of presidential primaries and caucuses in the future. 

Along the way I've done my fair share of mocking the current hollow sanctions. One question about 2008 remained though: Would the McCain campaign and the RNC let the sanctions slide for Wyoming, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina and Florida? All five had their delegations cut by half for holding nominating contests prior to February 5. 

[What about Iowa and Nevada? They went early too. They did, but both held caucuses, the first steps of which were not determinative. No delegates were directly chosen in those January precinct meetings. In Wyoming on the other hand, nearly half the state's delegation was chosen in the January 5 meetings.]

Well, the word out of Wyoming is that those sanctions are alive and well. Furthermore, those from the Cowboy state will be sitting in the back of the hall in St. Paul (That rhymes a bit too much. I feel like Jesse Jackson describing what he felt was the "inclusion illusion" at the 2000 GOP convention now.) with the other states in violation. The obvious question now is, does it really matter? Would any of these five states have changed what they did? 

I doubt it. 

But sticking to their guns isn't something the GOP will be able to highlight with any great effectiveness this week. They can't come out and say, for example, "The Democrats flip-flopped on this, but we didn't. We're the party of reform." Well, I suppose they could, but they'd risk turning off some people in hotly contested states like Florida, Michigan and New Hampshire. They would not be able to fall back on the excuse Florida Democrats used in defense of their position to remove the stripping of all of Florida's delegates by the DNC. In other words, they wouldn't be able to blame it on the actions of the other party. Florida's state government (legislature and governor) is controlled by the Republicans. 

In Michigan, Republicans also had their hand in the state's move, though not to the extent that Florida Republicans did. Only New Hampshire's move was solely due to the decisions of Democrats. But that's due to the quirk of New Hampshire election law that leaves the decision up to the secretary of state, Bill Gardner -- a Democrat. He was given the ability by the Granite state legislature in the 1970s -- Yes, he's been the secretary of state there the whole time -- so that the state could quickly and efficiently to deal with challenges to their first in the nation status. 

This will not see the light of day this coming week in the press, but given our discussions here this week, it is certainly worth noting. 

NOTE: I'll be back later in the day with a later-than-usual Sunday update of the electoral college projections.

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Unknown said...

Was it worth it for Wyoming?

They were ignored in the press at the time. I don't think the gambit really worked for them.

Was it worth it for Michigan? You bet. They almost got a favorable VP nominee out of it, and certainly made themselves a center of attention well into the general election season.

Anonymous said...

Sure it was worth it to Wyoming. They were actually quite excited that Mitt Romney and, I think, Fred Thompson made trips to the state. When compared to Michigan that isn't much, but hey, it's Wyoming. Getting anyone to come campaign there is a feat in and of itself.

For that it was a win. In the grand scheme of things, not so much.

This was a successful primary season for the Equality state. Not only were those two from the GOP there, but so too, were Obama and Clinton. Not entirely their doing, but a visit's a visit.

Unknown said...

But only the GOP caucus moved, right? So the Obama and Clinton visits didn't come because of the frontloading.

Trading half your delegates for a visit from two losing candidates? Sounds like dubious reward to me...

Anonymous said...

That's right. Wyoming Democrats lucked out. They didn't move -- and to my knowledge didn't consider moving -- and had the contest end up in their lap the weekend after Texas/Ohio. The links in this post from last year have some quotes from the Wyoming GOP chair. And here's more from later in the fall.

I just meant overall, it was a good year for the state compared to past years.

State parties typically control the caucus decision so their end up being quite a number of splits between the dates on which Democrats and Republicans go. Iowa is the main exception (at least from an exposure standpoint), but there was a while in December of last year when the GOP had settled in on January 3 but the Democrats were considering the 3rd or 5th. It could have been split.

But Wyoming wasn't going to get Iowa type attention anyway. Their goals were much more modest. Did they influence the process? Eh, probably not. Romney's win was largely ignored. The focus that Saturday was on the New Hampshire debates that ABC held for both parties.