Friday, February 20, 2009

Florida in 2012: Primary on the Move?

In yesterday's 2012 primary calendar post, I linked to a bill in the Florida House that proposes to move the state's presidential primary from the last Tuesday in January back to March. Of course, I didn't dwell on that too much there, but this needs to be addressed. Obviously, in Florida, we're talking about one of the poster children for delegate selection rule defiance during the lead up to the 2008 election. Yes, on the surface it looks like Florida might be coming back into compliance, but I'm not taking this bill too seriously for a couple of reasons.
  1. It is too early. There may be movement in state legislatures right now concerning 2012 presidential primary positioning, but if history is our guide, much of it will be unsuccessful. Why? Well, for starters, we don't know the delegate selection rules for 2012 yet. Under normal circumstances we would have an idea of those rules. Let's take the Republicans first. The Republican Party would have set their rules at the convention last September, but has allowed for rules tinkering between conventions for the first time. In other words, we knew the 2008 Republican delegate selection rules in September 2004, but have no idea of knowing when they'll nail this down ahead of 2012. We do know that new RNC Chair Michael Steele will have a significant impact on the process. On the Democratic side, the rules are largely inconsequential because a primary challenge of President Obama is highly unlikely. With both parties' rules still unsettled, most legislatures are collectively taking a wait and see approach. [Rules aside, most of the primary movement over the course of the last few cycles was solidified in state legislatures after the midterm elections. And not knowing the rules is exacerbating this issue.]
  2. With only the GOP nomination likely at stake, Republican-controlled state legislatures and Republican state parties (in the case of caucus movement) have the highest probability of moving or protecting an early date. In other words, a bill sponsored by a Democrat (as HB759 is) concerned with Democratic Party compliance is not likely to be high on the House GOP leadership's list of priorities. In Florida's case, both the legislature (both houses: House: 63% GOP, Senate: 65% GOP) and the governor's office are Republican-controlled. As such, Florida is more likely to hang onto its early position in 2012 or to wait it out to see if the state's primary date is out of compliance with RNC rules when those are settled on.
Why should Florida Republicans move the primary (in any direction) when they don't know what the rules are, whether the Sunshine state's primary is out of compliance, or what the penalties are for non-compliance? The short answer is they won't. This bill will be referred to its relevant committee and will likely be bottled up there.

Thanks to Ballot Access News for breaking the news of the Florida bill. It is odd that it slipped through unnoticed since being introduced two weeks ago today (February 6).

NOTE: Also, I've been lax on discussing the committee being formed in Indiana to look at the presidential primary process in the Hoosier state (There's more here.). The main question: Should the state move its primary or not? I'll have something substantive on that hopefully this weekend.

Recent Posts:
1992 Presidential Primary Calendar

The 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar (2/19/09)

Beebe's Signature Makes It Official: Arkansas Back to May


Jack said...

The bill was proposed by a Democrat. Perhaps he's trying to throw the Republican process into Dem '08-style chaos?

Jack said...

Just noticed you made a somewhat similar point in your post. Need to read more carefully.

Anonymous said...

Well, I was going to respond (and did), but it ran a little long. I'll refine my thoughts a bit and post that tomorrow afternoon. [I know, I know. But I'm swamped tonight.] Basically, I've got another potential ulterior motive for Democrats in a situation like this.

Good to hear from you Jack.