Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar (6/30/10)

There has been enough chatter on the primary/caucus scheduling front in the last few days to warrant a long overdue update of the 2012 presidential calendar from FHQ. Here again are the guidelines for reading the calendar from the last update in May 2009:
  1. Caucus states are italicized while primary states are not. Several caucus states are missing from the list because they have not formalized the date on which their contests will be held in 2012. Colorado appears because the caucuses dates there are set by the state, whereas a state like Alaska has caucuses run by the state parties and as such do not have their dates codified in state law.
  2. States that have changed dates appear twice (or more) on the calendar; once by the old date and once by the new date. The old date will be struck through while the new date will be color-coded with the amount of movement (in days) in parentheses. States in green are states that have moved to earlier dates on the calendar and states in red are those that have moved to later dates. Arkansas, for example, has moved its 2012 primary and moved it back 104 days from its 2008 position.
2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

Monday, January 16, 2012: Iowa caucuses*

Tuesday, January 24
: New Hampshire*

Saturday, January 28: Nevada caucuses*, South Carolina*

A note on the placement of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Tuesday, January 31
: Florida

Tuesday, February 7 (Super Tuesday): Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Montana Republican caucuses, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah

Saturday, February 11: Louisiana

Tuesday, February 14: Maryland, Virginia

Tuesday, February 21: Hawaii Republican caucuses (+87), Wisconsin

Tuesday, February 28: Arizona**, Michigan***

Tuesday, March 6: Massachusetts***, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont

Tuesday, March 13: Mississippi

Tuesday, March 20: Colorado caucuses****, Illinois (-42)

Tuesday, April 24: Pennsylvania

Tuesday, May 8: Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia

Tuesday, May 15: Nebraska, Oregon

Tuesday, May 22: Arkansas (-104), Idaho, Kentucky

Tuesday, June 5: Montana (GOP -119), New Mexico***** and South Dakota

*New Hampshire law calls for the Granite state to hold a primary on the second Tuesday of March or seven days prior to any other similar election, whichever is earlier. Florida is first now, so New Hampshire would be a week earlier at the latest. Traditionally, Iowa has gone on the Monday a week prior to New Hampshire. For the time being we'll wedge Nevada and South Carolina in on the Saturday between New Hampshire and Florida, but these are just guesses at the moment. Any rogue states could cause a shift.

**In Arizona the governor can use his or her proclamation powers to move the state's primary to a date on which the event would have an impact on the nomination. In 2004 and 2008 the primary was moved to the first Tuesday in February.

***Massachusetts and Michigan are the only states that passed a frontloading bill prior to 2008 that was not permanent. The Bay state reverts to its first Tuesday in March date in 2012 while Michigan will fall back to the fourth Tuesday in February.

****The Colorado Democratic and Republican parties have the option to move their caucuses from the third Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February.

*****The law in New Mexico allows the parties to decide when to hold their nominating contests. The Democrats have gone in early February in the last two cycles, but the GOP has held steady in June. They have the option of moving however.

1. There have been several states (state legislatures) and parties that have made changes with 2012 in mind:
  • The Illinois legislature moved the date of the state's presidential primary (and that of state and local primaries as well since all are held concurrently) from the first Tuesday in February to the third Tuesday in March when the elections had been held prior to 2008. The main motivation behind the legislation (SB 355) was to move the other primaries back to their original date so as not to lengthen the general election campaigns for other offices. Apparently the financial hit that would have been caused by separating the presidential primary was too steep. Illinois is also one of the states that has always insisted on having both sets of contests held together. That also makes Illinois one of the rare states to have both held their all their primary elections at once and moved to an earlier date on the presidential primary calendar. Rare may be a bit strong, but those states with separate presidential primaries -- separate from those for state and local offices -- are much more likely to move and have moved their contests in the post-reform era.
  • Montana Republicans just recently opted to forgo their scheduled February 2012 caucus and take advantage of the state-funded primary. The influence they sought by moving to February in 2008 was lacking with over half of the country either voting on or before that February 5 date on which the GOP caucus was held in Montana. Not unlike Arkansas, Montana Republicans didn't find the greener (more influential) pastures in 2008 they thought they would when the moves were made.
  • The New Hampshire General Court did not settle on a date for 2012 -- that's up to Secretary of State William Gardner anyway -- but they did act to protect the state's first-in-the-nation status by tweaking the Granite State's election law. HB 341 carried over from last year and was passed, though in a modified form. The version from 2009 contained more specific language implying that only Iowa could precede New Hampshire on the calendar. That segment was missing in the 2010 version, replaced with the line, "The purpose of this section is to protect the tradition of the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation presidential primary." The bottom line is that New Hampshire will be among, if not the, last state to decide the date on which its 2012 primary will be held (...or if it will be held in 2012 at all. No, FHQ doesn't think that's a possibility, but time will tell.).
2. Of most interest to those following this calendar shaping process is what the parties decide on in terms of rules later this summer. If both parties, as expected, call for a return to pre-2004 timing rules (read: no February contests for non-exempt states), the focus will shift to those states that will have to move their contests in order to comply with the new rules. That count now sits at 18 primary states and one caucus state, not to mention the four exempt states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina).

3. I've gotten several comments on a "recent" post I wrote about the 2012 rules and calendar. Let me make clear that that post was an exercise that assumed the exempted states opted to move first in the process by voluntarily accepting the proposed scheduling rules. Under that scenario, Florida would be in the catbird seat: first but in need of a change to comply with the new rules. This will not happen. Florida may opt to stick with that last Tuesday in January date, but Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will make their scheduling decisions after Florida has acted, or not acted, on their date. More than anything that post was to serve as a visual for why Florida should flaunt the rules again in 2012.


astrojob said...

It would be interesting if a few Feb. 7th states moved back to March, and it turned out that we have a situation in which more people vote on Feb. 7th, but more delegates are allocated on March 6th (because of February states being sanctioned with 50% of their delegates as per new RNC rules). Which date would then be called "Super Tuesday" by the media?

Josh Putnam said...

I think this is a great question in theory. In practice, though, I think the answer is fairly straightforward. The media might point out in that scenario that more delegates would be at stake on March 6. However, depending on how many states remain in February, that February 7 date would still remain Super Tuesday. With history as our guide, a favorite is likely to emerge from that early block of contests. The question then becomes one of whether that favorite is seen as inevitable.

One thing is for sure: Under that scenario, the "winner" of the February 7 contests will be the odds on favorite to emerge victorious on March 6 as well.

We should also note that this is where the GOP's proposed pre-April proportionality requirement makes things more interesting.

Good question.