Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dates for 2012 Contests in Exempt States (via Democrats)

Last Friday FHQ openly doubted that the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee would set dates for the four exempt states in the presidential primary process. As I said then, I thought it would be more likely that the committee would set the parameters around which those states could place themselves. Alas, the committee chose specific dates. In my haste to get the notice of the impending meeting out to FHQ readers, I failed to adequately consider even recent historical precedent.

Just four years earlier, the Rules and Bylaws Committee acting on the recommendations of the Levin Commission opted to do the same thing. But back then, January primary dates were still allowed. Here's the timing breakdown from the highlights of the 2008 rules:

The new schedule is as follows:

  • Iowa holds the first-in-the-nation caucus on January 14.
  • New Hampshire holds the first-in-the-nation primary on January 22.
  • Nevada conducts a caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire on Saturday, January 19.
  • South Carolina holds a primary 1 week after the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, January 29

The regular window will open for all other states on the first Tuesday in February -- February 5, 2008.

Now, of course, Florida and Michigan came along and threw a monkeywrench into even the best laid plans. Obviously, New Hampshire balked at Nevada's caucuses being ahead of the primary in the Granite state, but it wasn't until after Florida's move -- or the early progress of the bill to move the Sunshine state's primary in the legislature -- that that January 22 date was truly threatened. [Granted New Hampshire Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, did issue an early 2007 statement that New Hampshire would stick with its date if Iowa stuck with theirs.] What kept the ball rolling on the pre-window movement was the South Carolina Republican Party's response to Florida's potential move. To be sure, SCGOP chair Katon Dawson's threat of an October 2007 GOP primary in the Palmetto state was pure bombast, but it was enough to stir an already unsettled primary calendar hornets nest.

Florida solidified its position on January 29 in late May and South Carolina Republicans jumped the Palmetto state's Democrats (and Florida) to share the January 19 date with both parties' Nevada caucuses in August. And August was busy because that was when the Rules and Bylaws Committee decided to penalize Florida all of its delegates if it followed through with plans to hold the contest outside of the window period. It was also the month in which Michigan began to seriously push its own move into January 2008.

That Wolverine state shift became official in September before South Carolina Democrats requested a waiver from the DNC to move from January 29 to January 26 in October. And that was on the cusp on the Iowa Republican Party's decision to settle on January 3 for the caucuses there. [Iowa Democrats followed suit nearly two weeks later.] All that was left then was for New Hampshire to choose a date. After toying with a December 2007 primary, the Granite state selected January 8 as the date on which its primary would be held just prior to Thanksgiving.

It isn't any earth-shattering news that there was movement -- a lot of movement -- on the 2008 calendar, but some of this pre-window jockeying often gets lost in the shuffle. It all becomes very SamandEric (the twins) from Lord of the Flies. In this case, though, it's FloridandMichigan. The bottom line is that the parties can make all the rules they want, but the states will decide whether they want to go along with them or not.

For the record, here are the dates where the Democrats have proposed the four exempt states (Trust them at your own peril.):
  • Iowa: February 6
  • New Hampshire: February 14
  • Nevada: February 18
  • South Carolina: February 28
  • Everyone else: March 6 or after
FHQ was 50/50 in guessing the possible dates. In an earlier post, I guessed Iowa and New Hampshire correctly, but missed on Nevada and South Carolina. Of course, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess that Iowa and New Hampshire would be placed on the earliest allowed dates that keep both in February and with an eight day cushion between them.

And now we wait.

...for national party approval.

...and the states' reactions throughout next year.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: It was funny to look back at some of those 2007 posts in putting this one together. That was during the very early days of FHQ and I daresay few people outside of me and perhaps a few others have ever seen them. No one is ever that bored.]

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