Monday, January 31, 2011

DC to Move Back? Up?

Early indications from the Council of the District of Columbia are that a bill will be introduced to move the district's primary to early July 2012. No, not the presidential primary necessarily, but the primaries for other local and district-wide offices. There has been some push by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics to hold the presidential primary concurrently with the other primaries -- more than likely as a cost-saving measure like what California and New Jersey are attempting to do.

The problem with a July presidential primary is that it falls outside of the party-designated window in which primaries and caucuses can be held. Either the two sets of primaries will continue to be held separately or the two will be held together but slightly earlier so as to fall inside the window. And while the presidential primary may remain separate from the other primaries, the move to July (from the traditional September timing) is fairly significant. It would keep DC in line with the federally-passed MOVE act.

Regardless, this July timing is seen as a starting point.

[It should also be noted that DC held its 2008 presidential primary in conjunction with Maryland and Virginia on February 12, the week after Super Tuesday. Virginia has three bills proposed in its state legislature to move the commonwealth's primary back to March and Maryland has yet to act, though there has been some talk about when the 2012 primary will be held.]

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

2012 Presidential Primary Movement: The Week in Review (Jan. 24-30)

While there wasn't any 2012 calendar movement this past week, there was some further movement toward movement. But what is known this week versus last:
  • Virginia is moving closer to a vote in the state Senate on moving the commonwealth's presidential primary back to March.
  • A host of bills to accomplish the same thing (February to March primary) in Oklahoma have been pre-filed and are waiting on the state legislature to convene there on February 7.
  • The Senate bill to cancel the 2012 presidential primary in Washington emerged from committee and awaits the decision of the Ways and Means Committee before sending it to the floor for an up or down vote.
  • The solution in Kansas is similar to Washington, but appears to be a permanent cancelation of the Sunflower state's presidential primary. No dates for the caucuses in either party are known now, and on the Republican side may not be known until next year according to one Republican activist at the state party's meeting over the weekend.
  • Oh, and Idaho is looking into frontloading its primary. one week to mid-May.
  • As has been mentioned in this space several times, there are currently 18 states with presidential primaries scheduled for February 2012. That would put those 18 states in violation of both parties' delegate selection rules for 2012.
  • Of those 18 primary states, 14 of them (California, Connecticut, Missouri, New York, Arizona, Georgia, Delaware, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Utah and Virginia) have convened their 2011 state legislative sessions.
  • Of those 14 states, 3 (California, New Jersey and Virginia) have bills that have been introduced and are active within the state legislature to move their contests' dates. Both California and New Jersey have bills that would eliminate an early and separate presidential primaries and position those events with the other primaries for state and local offices. That would mean June presidential primaries for both states if those bills pass and are signed into law.
  • For this next week, then, the 14 early states in conflict with the national parties' rules will be the ones to watch.
  • Oregon's state legislature convenes this week, but none of the four additional states in violation of the national party rules begin their legislative work; not until Oklahoma next week.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Virginia Senate Bill to Move Presidential Primary Back to March Passes First Reading

As was discussed here earlier in the week, the Virginia Senate bill (SB 1246) to move the commonwealth's presidential primary from February to March emerged from committee and received/passed its first -- what's called a Constitutional -- reading from the full chamber. The upcoming second reading will have the full chamber consider and debate any amendments that were added to the bill in committee. No additional reports were issued on the bill, so it is likely that no amendments were added. To the extent that a debate is necessary on this bill, one will take place this week. If the bill passes that test on the floor, it will be engrossed and subsequently given an up or down vote for full passage. Again, most of that should happen this week, shifting the focus to the House of Delegates and the similar bills that chamber has before it.

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Likely Replacement Bill to Move Idaho Presidential Primary Up Introduced

The election consolidation bill that was introduced in the Idaho House (HB 14) recently now has a what looks like a replacement. Like the earlier House bill, HB 60 would shift the date on which the Gem state's primaries -- including concurrent presidential primary -- from the fourth Tuesday in May to the third Tuesday in May. The only difference is that in this second bill secretary of state, Tim Hurst, inserted a section dealing with school trustees elections. The section that pertains to the timing of the presidential primary remains unchanged.

Both bills will appear in the Presidential Primary Bills Before State Legislatures section in the left sidebar. HB 60 will likely be the one to track however.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Update on Bill to Cancel the 2012 Kansas Presidential Primary

News broke yesterday that Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, was advising the state legislature to cancel the Sunflower state's 2012 presidential primary for budgetary reasons, but the bill was not formally introduced in the state House until today. HB 2126 cancels the state's presidential primary and given all the strikethroughs cancels it for good. Now, nothing is ever gone forever, but in this instance all the references to the first Tuesday in April primary in even-numbered years have been struck though and replaced with the first Tuesday in August -- the state's traditional primary date for state and local offices. That August date is one that would fall outside -- on the back end -- of the window in which the parties allow states to hold delegate selection events. Obviously, an August date would not work simply because it would cut things quite close to the national conventions.

The odd thing is that there is only one reference in the bill to presidential preference primaries and it is in regard to the filing deadlines, not the timing of the contest. The option is still there, then, to hold a presidential primary in the future, but it will take a change in the law if this bill is passed and signed into law by Governor Brownback. [It should be noted for the sake of clarity that unlike the similar bill(s) in Washington, HB 2126 does not have a sunset provision temporarily canceling the presidential primary.] Given the facts that, one, the state rarely holds a presidential primary (see 2007 legislature's unsuccessful efforts to move it up) and, two, it saves the state as much as $2 million, this bill will likely pass. But we'll see.

This bill will be added to the Presidential Primary Bills Before State Legislatures section in the left side bar (under the current 2012 primary calendar and the rules). The status of HB 2126 and the bills from other states can be tracked from there.

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2012 Presidential Primaries: North Carolina

Earlier this week the North Carolina General Assembly convened for the first time under Republican control since the Reconstruction era. This actually has some implications for the timing of the Tarheel state's presidential primary in 2012. In the Senate at least there has been Republican support for a February presidential primary for the last three sessions. Those bills (S18 -- 2005-06, S168 -- 2007-08, S150 -- 2009-10) were all proposed by Republican senator, Andrew Brock, and supported by a group of Republicans who signed on as cosponsors. However, during each of those sessions, the bills inevitable got stuck in the Judiciary (I) Committee then controlled by Democrats.

If the past three sessions are any indication, Brock and others may once again propose legislation to try and shift the presidential primary to an earlier date. But the change in control of the General Assembly doesn't make this a done deal. Republicans do control the committees now, but that's only part of the story. First, the Senate has yet to finalize the committees and committee assignments under the new regime. Secondly, there is no indication that there will be any support for such a measure in the lower chamber.

Finally even though North Carolina has some past experience with shifting the date on which its presidential primary is held (1976 and 1988), the state has consistently held that contest concurrently with the primaries for state and local offices (as a matter of convenience). The past two experiences with frontloading have been temporary actions that created and funded a separate presidential primary that was later canceled and moved back to coincide with the other primaries on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May. There is emerging some evidence to suggest that, given budgetary constraints at the state level, states are less willing to fund a separate primary. California, New Jersey and Oklahoma already have proposed legislation on the table to pull separate presidential primaries back in line with the primaries for state and local offices or to defund the presidential primary altogether. Even with Republicans now in control of the North Carolina General Assembly, there may be some budgetary resistance to creating and funding a separate presidential primary.

And while there may yet be a bill proposed, there is still a question of when the new primary would be scheduled. Brock's past bills have called for a February primary, which at the times the were introduced were in compliance with the national party rules. But it is yet to be seen if there is a willingness to just move up to the earliest allowed date (March 6, 2012 in this case) or to go against both national parties' sets of delegate selection rules and go in February some time (as the proposed bill in Texas would do). This is all speculative, but much would likely depend on what the 18 currently non-compliant states do and how quickly they do it relative to when the General Assembly in North Carolina wraps up its business over the summer.

North Carolina, then, potentially represents a rare case during this cycle of a state that may move forward. The focus remains on those states that have to move back to be in compliance with the DNC's and RNC's rules. That new mandate for moving back is what makes this 2012 cycle and the formation of its presidential primary calendar unique compared to the race to the front that has marked recent cycles.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bill to be Introduced to Cancel 2012 Presidential Primary in Kansas

Here's the story from the Lawrence-Journal World:

— Kansas voters won't be able to participate in a presidential primary in 2012 under legislation introduced Thursday by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Kobach, a Republican, said he would like to have a presidential primary, but the $1.5 million to $2 million cost is too steep during the state's current budget problems. The state faces an estimated $550 million revenue shortfall.

If approved by the Legislature, it would be the fifth straight time Kansas voters have been denied a presidential preference primary. The last one held in Kansas was 1992.

Most of the primaries have been skipped because of budget concerns.

In 2008, the Republican and Democratic parties held presidential caucuses that were well-attended.

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So Mitt Romney Might Skip Iowa

As FHQ tweeted a little while ago, strategically, this would be less than wise. Yet, there it is: Romney's advisers are talking (or floating a trial balloon) about skipping the Republican nomination race's first contest. First, let's look at why this is a bad idea. Then we can look at why it is, as I called it, a trial balloon.

Why skipping Iowa is a bad move
In many ways, a presidential nomination race, particularly one without a clear frontrunner, is about expectations. This point is debated in the political science literature, but this is why the caveat about the presence of a clear frontrunner is an important distinction to make. Regardless of expectations and the comparison to actual results when the inevitably come in at the beginning of primary and caucus season, a clear frontrunner from the invisible primary typically emerges as the nominee. The George W. Bush experience from 2000 is a good example. Candidates, Lamar Alexander and Liddy Dole among them, were dropping out of the race prior to even Iowa and New Hampshire and they were citing Bush's financial advantage. The expectation heading into primary season, then, was that Bush was going to run away with the Republican nomination. He did, but not before John McCain defied those expectations and crushed Bush by 19 points in the New Hampshire primary. McCain also peeled off a few additional victories, but in the end Bush's institutional support within the party was too great.

But 2012 doesn't have a clear frontrunner. If there is a frontrunner, Romney is, at least according to conventional wisdom (something that isn't necessarily trustworthy), the nominal frontrunner. So what would skipping Iowa mean? Is it a sign of weakness from the nascent Romney campaign? Is it a signal that Romney is focusing on New Hampshire? Is it a nod to the fact that Iowa is likely to support a "more conservative" candidate? FHQ is of the opinion that it is none of the above, but I'll hold off on that for a moment. Skipping Iowa is a bad idea precisely because it raises the expectations in New Hampshire. And that's something that polls and straw polls are already doing for the former Massachusetts governor. Romney, in other words, would have nowhere to go but down. That's fine if you're George W. Bush in 2000, but Mitt Romney doesn't have that sort of cushion heading into the home stretch of the invisible primary and into the actual contests next year.

It is a lose-lose situation. Romney loses Iowa by virtue of having skipped it and then is potentially likely to "lose" New Hampshire in the expectations game. That's not the kind of start you want if you are the frontrunner, no matter how nominal.

Why the skipping Iowa story is just that -- a story
As Jonathan Bernstein rightly pointed out in a response to my aforementioned tweet, this story is all about expectations, but about lowering them in Iowa not raising them in New Hampshire. The tendency here is to compare what's going on now to what happened with those candidates who ran in 2008. For Romney (and Huckabee) there had been a lot of activity to this point in 2008 in Iowa. Both were intent on doing well at the Ames Straw Poll in August 2007. Their resource allocations -- visits to the Hawkeye state and expenditures there -- reflected that. So did the eventual results. Romney edged Huckabee in the straw poll in August and the reversed positions in the January caucuses. So they should be doing what John Edwards did before 2008, right? [No, not that. I mean the actual campaigning.] Camping out in Iowa and basically putting all your eggs in that one basket. Well, that didn't work out so well for Edwards. Despite the presence there from 2004 onward, it didn't yield him anything other than second place in Iowa in 2008 (and barely at that. Clinton finished a fraction of percentage point behind the former vice presidential nominee.).

Despite the fact that the dynamics are different between 2008 and 2012, that tendency still remains: What did Romney do in 2008 in Iowa and what is he doing now for 2012? Romney learned a lesson from Iowa in 2008: Don't spend so much. Well, he really doesn't have to. He is a known quantity now and wasn't before 2008. All in all, then, this is an effort to lowball the Iowa effort in 2012. If the expectation is that Romney won't be a presence there, then any visit he makes or money his campaign spends there is seen as a net positive.

After all it still remains quite possible that social conservative caucus-goers in the state will split their vote if they cannot coalesce behind one candidate. And Mitt Romney, who still has something of a leftover campaign structure in the state, can emerge, if not with a victory, then a solid showing that will help him heading into subsequent contests.

UPDATE: Jonathan Bernstein adds his two cents as well. [I may be quicker than you, JB, but David beat me to it.]

Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling has more but from a polling perspective.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Primary Bills Move Forward in Virginia & Washington

The state Senate bills to cancel the presidential primary (in Washington -- SB 5119) and to move the Virginia presidential primary from February back to March (SB 1246) have both passed their first tests and have emerged from their respective committees. A majority of both committees voted in favor of the resolutions -- giving a "Do Pass" designation in Washington and by a 14-1 margin in Virginia.

The Washington bill now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Virginia bill's destination is unknown at the moment. It may be ready to head to the floor. If the relatively rapid movement of these two bills and committee support are any indication then both are likely to pass in these chambers.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State Parties in Florida and Ohio Add Their Two Cents on the 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

State parties always have their say on the date that is ultimately chosen (or maintained) for any given state's presidential primary, but their influence varies depending on the circumstances. On the Democratic side state parties have to submit a delegate selection plan to the DNC for approval. [It should be noted that the DNC checks that each of the states is complying with the entire list of delegate selection rules, not just those concerning timing.] That same type of approval is not required on the Republican side, but that translates into one less formal hurdle in a decision-making calculus that is largely the same across parties. There may be an added step on the Democratic side, but states always opt to operate within the existing framework of rules ( least initially*).

What do I mean by "existing framework of rules"?

Well, state parties always face a decision on timing their delegate selection events. They can opt to go-it-alone and foot the bill for a primary or caucus (most likely) of their own or they can choose to utilize the state-funded primary system that is already in place. The first option allows the parties the freedom to hold a primary or caucus whenever they desire while the second option cedes the date-setting power to the state government (or some alternate, state government-sanctioned entity). The convenience of the latter option usually trumps the price tag of the former.

Such is the case in both Florida and Ohio, where lately the two state parties' chairs have been in the news over the timing of the presidential primaries in the Sunshine and Buckeye states. There has been no shortage of talk here at FHQ about the position Florida currently occupies on the 2012 primary calendar and the ramifications a move (or no move) would have on the calendar overall. That said, Florida's is a state government under unified Republican control. And that puts the state's Democratic Party in a tough position. They are nearly powerless in terms of influencing the date-setting decision as the minority party in both chambers of the state legislature. In other words, the Republicans in control of the state may decide to keep the Sunshine state's presidential primary in January and take their punishment (a 50% penalty in terms of the number of delegates in the state's 2012 convention delegate) in exchange for a more direct influence over the identity the eventual Republican nominee. That decision, though, affects the Democrats in the state as well. Through no fault of their own, Florida's Democratic primary would be in violation of the Democratic National Committee's delegate selection rules.

That's problematic (at least in the eyes of Florida Democrats). And that is probably why state party chair, Rod Smith, reached out to newly elected state Republican Party chair (full letter below), David Bitner, last week, urging his Republican counterpart to use his position to speak out in favor of a rules-compliant March date for the state's presidential primary (and against the January primary). It was a nice gesture on Smith's part, but he and the Democratic Party of Florida know this one is out of their hands. The Republicans in the state government may opt to move back, but regardless of the decision, it likely won't be affected much by the Florida Democratic Party's desires or the DNC's delegate selection rules. At the end of the day, they will decide to move (or not move) based upon whether they judge the delegate penalty to be steep enough to warrant a shift in the date of the presidential primary.

In Ohio, the issue is not one of rules violations. Instead, it concerns a new rift between the state party chair where there was once an apparent agreement. Earlier in the month, FHQ posted a link to a story about the new Ohio secretary of state's warning that a prolonged redistricting process in Ohio could delay the state's 2012 primaries. Those contests are slated for the first Tuesday in March currently, but they could be moved back to May when the state holds primary elections in other, non-presidential years. Prior to this warning, however, there had been some discussion and agreement about when the primary should be held among the two state party chairs. Both Democratic chair, Chris Redfern, and Republican chair, Kevin DeWine, had discussed a May primary as the best option. Now, however, DeWine is in favor of keeping the Buckeye state's primary in March because of the impact the state's voters could have on the nomination process and because of what that might do for drumming up support in the state (with an eye toward the general election). Like Florida, Ohio is now under unified Republican control. And even though DeWine might speak for the state party, he may not necessarily speak for Republican state legislators or Governor John Kasich.

State parties and their chairs have some platform for discussing these matters, but in primary states like Florida and Ohio, their influence is limited to the extent to which their wishes and desires overlap with those of the various decision makers within the state government.

*The delegate selection plans and any amendments to them are usually due to the party around Labor Day of the year preceding the presidential election. In the 2008 cycle there was a fair amount of positioning and repositioning after that point. That is expected to some extent from the exempt states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina), but 2008 saw several non-exempt states move after this point (Michigan and Massachusetts among them).


January 21, 2011

Chairman David Bitner
Republican Party of Florida
420 E. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301

Dear Chairman Bitner,

Congratulations on your election as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

On behalf of the Florida Democratic Party, I write today asking for your support to change the date of Florida’s 2012 presidential preference primary. This move is critically important to ensure full representation of our state at our respective national conventions since Florida law currently sets the date of the presidential primary as the last Tuesday in January, which is out of compliance with the rules of both parties.

As you may know, for the first time ever the Republican National Committee has adopted the same timing rules as the Democratic National Committee, which came about through bi-partisan cooperation between the two parties.

It is my sincere hope that we, in the same spirit of cooperation, can work together on selecting a date that complies with the rules set by both national parties. While changing the date of the primary would require action by the Republican Legislature and Governor, I am confident that we can make this happen.

I look forward to working with you on this issue.


Rod Smith
Chairman, Florida Democratic Party

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Monday, January 24, 2011

One More February to March Primary Bill in Oklahoma

In addition to the Oklahoma bills detailed earlier today, there is a more all-encompassing election law bill (HB 2138) that shifts the date of the Sooner state's primaries for state and local offices from July to June, changes filing deadline and also alters the presidential primary date, moving the election from the first Tuesday in February (where the state's presidential primary has been since the 2004 cycle) to the first Tuesday in March. From 1988-2000 Oklahoma held its presidential primary on the second Tuesday in March. The Democratic Party in the state used the same date for its 1984 caucuses.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Rep. Kris Steele and is the third bill that has been introduced including a provision to move the presidential primary back to March.

Hat tip to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for the news.

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Pair of Pre-filed Bills Propose Moving Oklahoma Presidential Primary Back to March

The Oklahoma legislature does not convene until next month, but there are already several bills that have been pre-filed which would affect the date on which the Sooner state holds its presidential primary in 2012. Republican lawmakers in both the state House (Gary Banz) and Senate (David Holt) have pre-filed bills in their respective chambers to be introduced on the opening day of the session to move the state's presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday in March. The bills (HB 1614 and SB 808) also cede control over setting the date of the presidential primary to the State Board of Elections in the event that one or more states bordering Oklahoma have moved the dates of their presidential primaries in an effort to set up a regional primary.

Oklahoma is the first unified Republican-controlled state government to have a bill(s) pre-filed or introduced that would pull a primary currently in violation of national party rules back in to compliance (on the issue of timing). This is significant because, as we've speculated around here, Republican-controlled governments would be more likely to consider staying put if early and in violation of the rules and just taking the party penalties instead of moving back. It is still early to tell if there is anything to that hypothesis.

A third bill (HB 1057) would shift the financial burden of funding the presidential primary from the state to the state parties. Control of the date setting of the contest would also change hands from the state government to the state parties as well. There is no definite change proposed, then, but the parties could opt to move the date if they so chose.

[I apologize in advance for all the RTF links for these bills. There is no good way of linking to the status of bills in the Oklahoma legislature and this is the only way of accessing the bill text.]

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"States weigh later dates for 2012 presidential primaries"

Josh Goodman at has a nice synopsis of where things are in the effort to shift the 2012 presidential primary calendar back. [see full article below]

One note that I'd add, in addition to Mayer's fabulous quotation*, is that states have moved back in the past, but never before has that movement been mandated by a change in both parties' rules. The parties allowed February contests and watched states move up and take advantage of that in period of 1996-2008. But now the national parties are requiring states to move back. That is what is new about this cycle. And the big question that remains is if the states are actually going to play along.

*"The surges forward are a lot more substantial than the retreats." Too true.

States weigh later dates for 2012 presidential primaries
by Josh Goodman, Stateline staff writer
Ahead of the last presidential election in 2008, Arkansas lawmakers had an idea. Why not move up the date of the state’s presidential primary from May to early February? Arkansas was tired of being an afterthought on the campaign trail, not weighing in on Democratic and Republican candidates until other states had already decided the races. This time, Arkansas was going to have influence.

There turned out to be just one problem: Everyone else had the same idea.

Arkansas voted with more than 20 states on Super Tuesday, including California and New York. With so much competition for the candidates’ attention, Arkansas wound up feeling left out again. John McCain and Barack Obama didn’t even campaign in the state, conceding it to Mike Huckabee and Hillary Clinton.

“It didn’t do anything,” Arkansas state Representative Jon Woods says of the date change, which actually resulted in the state holding two primary elections — one for president and another for other offices. “All it did was cost our state money.” A couple of years ago, Woods sponsored a bill to return the primary to its old date — the third Tuesday in May — for 2012. Both houses of the legislature approved it unanimously. Arkansas’ experiment with an early primary is over.

In jumping toward the front of the presidential calendar in 2008, Arkansas was doing what states have been doing for decades now: holding their contests as early as possible. States want to gain power over the process, but more importantly, they want candidates to visit them and visit often. It’s a chance to make an impression with, and perhaps win promises from, the future occupant of the White House.

In moving backward for 2012, however, Arkansas may have been setting a new trend. That’s because several factors — from strained state budgets to new Republican National Committee rules — are converging to prod states to schedule presidential primaries later in the year.

For now, the calendar remains uncertain. What’s clear, though, is that state legislators are prepared to give the conventional wisdom that earlier primaries are better its most serious challenge in years.

The push to frontload

The modern presidential nominating process, in which candidates must compete in primaries throughout the country to have a chance to win, dates to 1972. After that, it only took a few election cycles for states to realize that the ones voting first had the biggest say in the nomination. By 1988, the push to “frontload” had begun in earnest.

Almost immediately, political scientists began complaining that the primary schedule was becoming perilously compressed. If too many states vote too early, they argued, only the best-funded candidates can compete. Candidates can effectively wrap up nominations in a matter of weeks, before the press and the public have time to scrutinize them. Then, states with primaries and caucuses later in the spring don’t matter. “A lot of states are not just less influential, but have no effective voice in the process,” says William Mayer, a Northeastern University political scientist who co-authored a book on frontloading.

Both the national Democratic and Republican parties have tried to impose some order on the process. But the parties don’t set the dates of primaries. State legislators do — because it’s the states who actually administer the elections, along with local governments.

Legislators’ foremost concern has been maximizing the influence of their own states. Even those who agree with the political scientists about the problems with a frontloaded calendar don’t want their own state to be the one left behind.

The results are dramatic. In 1976, on the Democratic side, the Iowa caucuses were in January and the New Hampshire primary was in February. Four more states voted in March and three more in April, with the other 20 primary states scattered later into the spring.

In 2008, six states voted in January. They included Florida and Michigan, which moved up their primaries in violation of Democratic Party rules. By the end of February, voters in nearly three dozen states had already cast their ballots in primaries or caucuses on both the Democratic and Republican side.

Moving back

Given that history, it’s striking that so many states now are talking about moving their 2012 contests in the opposite direction. Besides Arkansas, Illinois already has moved its primary from February back to its traditional date in March. Montana Republicans have canceled their February caucus and instead plan to use the state’s June primary to pick their delegates. Florida is talking about moving its vote from January to April. Bills introduced by key committee chairs in California and Virginia also would push their states back.

Saving money is a key consideration. For some states, moving up the presidential primary meant paying for the cost of an additional statewide election. They went on to hold their regular primaries to choose candidates for Congress, the state legislature and local offices later.

Paul Fong, who chairs the California Assembly’s Elections and Redistricting Committee, says his bill to consolidate the presidential primary back into the state’s regular June primary would save as much as $80 million. In Washington State, the Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state both want to save money by cancelling their state’s February presidential primary entirely. That move would leave the selection of delegates to party-funded caucuses.

Redistricting, the states’ once-a-decade job of redrawing political boundaries, also could pose a problem for early primaries in some states if legal challenges or political stalemates delay the process. In Ohio, the presidential primary is currently scheduled for March 2012. At the same time, voters will choose candidates for lower offices whose boundaries are set to change. Secretary of State Jon Husted has wondered whether his state will complete legislative and congressional redistricting in time to hold its primary.

In Illinois, not wanting to rush was a factor in the state’s decision to move its primary back. Under the earlier schedule, the filing deadline fell in early November of the preceding year. That forced candidates for even the most minor offices to decide exceptionally early whether they wanted to run. It also forced campaigns into the dead of winter.

The unifying theme across all these states is that legislators are questioning whether voting early was worth the trouble. It’s not just a small state like Arkansas that felt ignored in the super-packed primary schedule of 2008. Some Californians felt that way, too. “It didn’t do anything by moving it up,” Fong says.

Watching Florida

The great irony of 2008, of course, was that the primary battle between Clinton and Obama dragged on well past the clump of January and February primaries. The most front-loaded presidential calendar in American history coincided with the most prolonged battle for a party’s nomination in decades.

While few political observers expect another drawn-out primary battle like that one anytime soon, the national parties are nudging states to vote later into the season. Both the Republicans and Democrats have rules that forbid states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada from voting before March. The Republicans — who are likely to be more relevant this cycle since most observers presume Obama will be the Democratic nominee — plan to penalize states that go too early by stripping them of half their delegates.

Still, it’s not clear how many states will be rushing to push their primaries back. For now, Florida is still scheduled to vote on January 31, 2012.

If Florida legislators don’t change their date, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada likely would bump ahead of them in January. After that, other states could take that as license to flout the Republican National Committee and stick it out in February. “Everything hinges on whether Florida decides to move back,” says Josh Putnam, a political scientist who tracks the calendar at blog called
Frontloading HQ. “It only takes one state to unravel the whole process.”

Even if the schedule does become substantially less compressed for 2012, that might not mean much for 2016, 2020 and beyond. After 1988’s front-loaded calendar, some states also moved primaries back in 1992. But the long-term trend remained unaltered. “The surges forward,” Mayer says, “are a lot more substantial than the retreats.”

Still, for some states the calendar calculus appears to have changed in a lasting way. That’s true in Arkansas, where no one sounds particularly interested in a future race to the front. “Making us a player or contender,” Woods says, “just isn’t in the cards.”

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Frontloading in Idaho. ...sort of

There is one late add to our list of frontloading/primary movement for the week that just concluded. A bill (HB 14) was introduced in the Idaho House by Secretary of State Tim Hurst to make some "technical corrections" to an election law passed during the legislature's previous session in 2009. Among those corrections was a provision that would move the state's primary -- including presidential primary -- from the fourth Tuesday in May to the third Tuesday in May.

Technically, this could be considered frontloading because of the shift forward on the calendar, but it misses the other key element to the frontloading phenomenon that has occurred in the post-McGovern-Fraser reform era. There is a move ahead on the calendar, but there is no addition to the compression at the beginning of the process. The intent here also is not to carve out a particularly advantageous position on the calendar. Idaho would go from sharing a date with Arkansas, Kentucky and Washington to sharing a date with Nebraska and Oregon. And if history is any guide, both of those dates will likely fall after the point at which the two parties' nominees have been decided. [Yes, there are exceptions to this recent history.]

Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for passing this news along to FHQ.

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2012 Presidential Primary Movement: The Week in Review (Jan. 17-23)

Compared to the previous week, this last week was slow on the presidential primary movement front. That said, what do we now know?
  • The only new bill to move (or cancel) a presidential primary this past week was a House companion bill to the Washington Senate bill that was proposed a week ago. At a public hearing for the Senate bill, state Republican Party chair, Luke Esser, spoke against the plan, one endorsed by Democratic governor, Christine Gregoire, and Republican secretary of state, Sam Reed.
  • The real news was the roller coaster in Arizona. First, there was talk of the Arizona Republican Party possibly opting to "move" their primary to February. Of course, it is already scheduled for the fourth Tuesday in February. Then it was revealed that the resolution the party was to vote on at their meeting this weekend would only ask Governor Jan Brewer to use her proclamation power to move the primary. And then, to top it all off, what was originally reported to have been a possible unanimous vote in favor of the resolution (Resolution #12) turned into the measure failing to pass at all on Saturday. The state still has a February primary, so either the legislature will have to act or Brewer will have to use her privilege to shift the presidential primary to a later date.As has been mentioned in this space several times, there are currently 18 states with presidential primaries scheduled for February 2012. That would put those 18 states in violation of both parties' delegate selection rules for 2012.
  • As has been mentioned in this space several times, there are currently 18 states with presidential primaries scheduled for February 2012. That would put those 18 states in violation of both parties' delegate selection rules for 2012.
  • Of those 18 primary states, 13 of them (California, Connecticut, Missouri, New York, Arizona, Georgia, Delaware, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia) have convened their 2011 state legislative sessions.
  • Of those 13 states, 3 (California, New Jersey and Virginia) have bills that have been introduced and are active within the state legislature to move their contests' dates. Both California and New Jersey have bills that would eliminate an early and separate presidential primaries and position those events with the other primaries for state and local offices. That would mean June presidential primaries for both states if those bills pass and are signed into law.
  • One additional early state from the 2008 cycle, Washington, has proposed temporarily (for the 2012 cycle) canceling the state's presidential primary. That primary is currently scheduled for the fourth Tuesday in May according to the law. However, that same law allows the secretary of state to propose a different date and the state parties can propose their own alternative. If either or both propose(s) a different date a bipartisan committee (made up of party members and state government officials), by a two-thirds vote, has to approve the change.
  • Utah (one of the aforementioned 18 states) convenes its legislative session this week. Oklahoma (February), Alabama (March), Florida (March) and Louisiana (April) get down to work later in the year.
  • For this next week, then, the 14 early states in conflict with the national parties' rules will be the ones to watch. That includes the 13 mentioned above and Utah.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Romney Takes New Hampshire GOP Straw Poll

Former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, won Saturday's straw poll of New Hampshire Republicans by a more than three to one margin over his next closest competitor, Texas representative, Ron Paul. In a crowded field of candidates, Romney emerged with 35% of the vote (273 total votes cast of the 493 members in attendance -- 55% turnout) and won despite Tea Party-aligned state party chair candidate, Jack Kimball, winning that race. In other words, even with some Tea Party atmosphere to the proceedings, Romney -- not necessarily a favorite of the movement that grew from the grassroots up following President Obama's victory in the 2008 election -- won and did so by a margin that largely reflects what polls of the early primary state have shown.

Mitt Romney: 35%
Ron Paul: 11%
Tim Pawlenty: 8%
Sarah Palin: 7%
Michelle Bachmann: 5%
Jim DeMint: 5%
Herman Cain: 4%
Chris Christie: 3%
Rick Santorum: 3%
Mitch Daniels: 3%
Newt Gingrich: 3%
Mike Huckabee: 3%
Mike Pence: 3%
Rudy Giuliani: 2%
Judd Gregg: 2%
Gary Johnson: 2%
Other: 2%
Donald Trump: 1%
Haley Barbour: 1%
Jon Huntsman: ~1% 0*
John Thune: ~1% 0*

There isn't much to read into this other than the Romney-Tea Party angle discussed above. The fact that 220 members opted to sit on the sidelines is noteworthy, but may only indicate that it is still a little too early.

*I just got a nice email from James Pindell, the political director from WMUR, the station which held the straw poll vote. Jon Huntsman and John Thune not only got less than 1% of the straw poll vote, they each got 0 votes. That correction has been made in the results above.

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Lazy and Non-binding Saturday in Arizona and New Hampshire

2012 is on the agenda at two Republican state party meetings today. Both Arizona and New Hampshire are set to elect new state party chairpersons and both state parties are acting with an eye toward 2012.

Obviously, FHQ has already spent some space in the last day or so discussing what has turned out to be a non-binding resolution by Republicans in the Grand Canyon state. The resolution would call on Republican governor, Jan Brewer, to use her proclamation power to schedule an early presidential primary for 2012. Former governor, Janet Napolitano, used the same executive power in both 2004 and 2008 to move the state's primary to the earliest date allowed by the two parties (the first Tuesday in February). But Arizona Republicans are asking a bit more of their governor this time around (assuming the resolution passes and that seems likely). If followed, Arizona's delegation to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa would be halved.

Brewer would be smart just to leave well enough alone and try to blame the state legislature for inaction. The state's presidential primary is already set -- according to state election law -- for the fourth Tuesday in February. Blame the lack of movement on a do-nothing legislature. The only question that would come out of this is whether the governor has the power to move the primary date back. The law granting the governor the power to move the primary date does not specify, though it implies, that the objective is to move the primary to an earlier and more advantageous date rather than a later and compliant date.

The only thing that will come out of today's vote in Phoenix is that there is some desire among Arizona Republicans to have a meaningful primary election regardless of RNC rules.

New Hampshire:
In the Granite state today, the state Republican Party is meeting in Derry to select a new chairperson, but is also holding a straw poll of the approximately 500 state party members in attendance. FHQ quipped the other day that this wasn't going to tell us much because it won't come close to approximating what will happen in the actual primary; one that is open to independents who obviously won't be at the Republican meeting today.

But here's the thing: It isn't an altogether meaningless exercise. First of all, that battle for Republican chair is one that pits an establishment candidate, Juliana Bergeron, against a Tea Party-backed choice, Jack Kimball. Who comes out on top there speaks to the direction of the state party. Secondly, with polls of the state consistently showing Mitt Romney as the leading choice among primary voters in the nation's first primary state, the odds-setting concerns how well the former Massachusetts governor will do in the straw poll.

Those two things don't necessarily jibe all that well. Romney is not a favorite of the Tea Party (and vice versa), and if they flex their muscle in the vote for New Hampshire state party chair, that doesn't necessarily bode well for his chances of a strong showing in the straw poll. Let's state that a bit differently. If Kimball wins the chair race, Romney is very likely to come in under the level of support he has had in polls of the state in the straw poll.

That's what should be looked at coming out of today anyway.

...with a mind toward the fact that independents aren't participating and will be in next year's primary.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing in Arizona Tomorrow

At least we're starting to get a clearer picture of what's actually happening within the Arizona Republican Party now. The resolution that is set to be voted on at the party's state meeting in Phoenix tomorrow is nothing more than a call for Republican governor, Jan Brewer, to use the proclamation power the state legislature granted the governor in the 1990s to position the Grand Canyon state's presidential primary in a more advantageous (read earlier and more influential) place on the calendar relative to other states.

In other words, this resolution, if passed, is in no way binding on the frontloading/primary movement calculus in Arizona for 2012. Here's a suggestion: do nothing. The primary is already scheduled in February (on the fourth Tuesday of the month). My gut tells me that some earlier February 2008 states will actually comply with the national parties' rules and cluster on the first Tuesday in March. That leaves a calendar similar to what existed in 2004: the exempt states followed by a handful of early February states, a relative lull with a contest or two on the remaining weeks of February and then a modified but less compressed Super Tuesday during the first week in March.

That lull period would be where Arizona would be positioned if the state government did absolutely nothing. Considering those earlier states would be states that would not only lose half their delegates -- given RNC rules -- but also be subjected to proportional allocation of delegates, it is close to a sure thing that the nomination would not be wrapped up, officially or not, before that point. Arizona could have an impact by doing nothing at all.

Spare us the non-binding resolution.

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More on the Arizona GOP's Potential "Move" This Weekend

Late last night it was reported that the Arizona Republican Party is set to approve a resolution at its meeting in Phoenix this weekend to keep its 2012 presidential primary in February. As we mentioned, though, this is interesting considering it would only take doing nothing in the state legislature to accomplish this. State election law in Arizona already accounts for a primary on the fourth Tuesday in February. The governor, furthermore, can use her proclamation power to move the primary even further up on the calendar to a more competitive date. And since Jan Brewer is still a Republican, this would not seem like too much of a roadblock. [CNN at least reports that Brewer has the final say, but that seems to render meaningless the potential move by the Arizona GOP this weekend.]

Why go the state party resolution route then?

That is the main question and it still not entirely clear to me, but it could have some significant implications at least for Democrats in Arizona if it comes to pass.

If the Arizona Republican Party passes this resolution this weekend, it likely means there will be no action from the legislature on changing the election laws regarding primary timing or who can participate. That lack of action on primary timing means that Democrats will be stuck with the February primary date which would be in violation of the DNC's rules on delegate selection. The alternative for Arizona Democrats is to foot the bill for a caucus (most likely) that will be scheduled at a time that fits the Democratic Party's rules (some time on or after the first Tuesday in March).

Needless to say, this potential move has far-reaching implications not only for the shape the overall primary calendar will have, but for the Democrats in Arizona as well.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this post I made mention of Erin McPike's post last night that highlighted an attendant resolution that will also be voted on at the Arizona Republicans' meeting tomorrow. Though it wasn't clear in her piece, I said that the other resolution would close the 2012 presidential primary to all but registered Republicans. This second resolution is all the more curious in that circumstance because the presidential primaries are already closed to all but those registered with a party. Thanks to Richard Winger from Ballot Access News for the clarification. The intent of the subsequent resolution is to impact the primaries for offices other than the presidency. It is a completely separate issue as a result.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

It only takes one state to unravel the process: Arizona GOP Mulls Violating RNC Rules

Erin McPike at RealClearPolitics:
The Arizona Republican Party is preparing to pass a resolution Saturday that would bump its primary date to February, when traditional early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and now, Nevada, will hold their nominating contests. The move could touch off a scramble for the early states to go even earlier.
This is an interesting move considering that Arizona law already positions the Grand Canyon state's presidential primary in the month of February and gives the governor (Jan Brewer - R) the option of issuing a proclamation to move the primary up even further to place the state's voters in a position to have an influence if the late February date is not early enough.

To me, this seems superfluous, but what do I know? It should be noted that Arizona Republicans have a history of this. The party held an early 1988 caucus in August of 1986. And apparently Arizona Republicans are willing to take the 50% delegation penalty to have some influence in 2012 as well.

Your move Florida Republicans. Oh, and Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina might want to be ready, too.

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Tim Pawlenty: Book Sales, Low; Google Searches, Up ...Briefly

But hey, Chris Christie is surprisingly and consistently heavily searched (compared to some of the other top tier Republicans*). Maybe there is something (else) to being asked on a regular basis whether you're running for president.

Former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, is off to a slow start selling books, but his rounds on the pre-presidential campaign memoir circuit have people searching for him at a higher rate on Google.

...for a little bit anyway.

*No, Sarah Palin is not included. Her search volume always dwarfs all the other candidates'.

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Yeah, but what about the caucuses? 2012 Caucus Date Calculus

FHQ has done a fair amount of talking about the impact state legislatures (and more broadly speaking, state governments) will have on the 2012 presidential primary calendar. That offers a glimpse into the overall decision-making calculus -- in terms of timing -- but does not provide the full picture. Obviously, state legislatures or state governments have a say in the matter when it comes to states that utilize primaries as the mode of delegate allocation. However, that discounts or completely misses activity in caucus states. I argued and ultimately found that the state parties that are behind the decision on timing in caucus states generally -- all other things being held equal -- have an easier time of shifting the dates on which their delegate selection events are held. State parties do not face the potential partisanship that is inherent in states with divided government at the time the frontloading* decision is made.

The ease with which state parties can move their caucuses around then, if they so choose, is greater than it is in primary states where the decision has to be filtered through the state legislature and the governor (see this flowchart for an illustration and discussion of the path of least resistance). That said, what do we know about when the decision is likely to be made on when 2012 caucuses will be held? This is a tougher question to get at than the decision in primary states. One cannot simply say, "We know the state legislatures meet during these various windows of time and that is when the decision will be made" in caucus states. What we do know is that the decision in caucus states is likely to be made around the same time as the decisions in primary states. In other words, usually in the winter or spring of the year preceding a presidential election year. Furthermore, we know that the decision is likely to be made during state party gatherings that fall in that window of time; state party central committee meetings or state party conventions, for example. When are the 2008 caucus states' (the ones that don't have their caucus timing determined by state legislatures**) parties meeting over the next several months?

2011 State Party Meetings (Winter & Spring) -- Caucus States
Democratic Meetings
Republican Meetings
AlaskaCentral Committee Winter Meeting:
February 4-6, 2011
Central Committee Winter Meeting:
February 2011*
Hawaii--Republican State Convention:
May 14-15, 2011
KansasWashington Days Party Gathering:
February 25-26, 2011
Executive Committee Meeting:
January 28, 2011
State Party Committee Meeting:
January 29, 2011
MaineState Party Committee Meetings:
January 23, 2011
March 27, 2011
May 22, 2011
MinnesotaState Central Committee Meeting:
February 5, 2011
Spring State Central Committee Meeting:
April 16, 2011**
North Dakota----
WashingtonSpring State Committee Meeting:
April 30, 2011
*The Alaska Republican Party left the official date of this meeting mark as ?? in a summary of the minutes from their last central committee meeting.
**The Winter meeting took place during December.
***The Democratic side is the one worth looking at here. The Republican Party in the state has typically used the May state-funded primary for delegate allocation. The Democratic Party in Nebraska first utilized a caucus in 2008. Without a contested nomination race in 2012, Nebraska Democrats are likely to revert to the primary.

This leaves some holes, but gives us some idea of when the decision on the timing of 2012 caucuses is likely to occur. Neither of the North Dakota parties' websites were terribly forthcoming with information about party meetings, nor were the sites of many of the Republican state parties. Sadly, that is the information that is most needed. Democratic caucus timing is near inconsequential, but Republican caucuses, with a contested nomination race, are far more interesting, yet lacking for information.

Let me make a few state-specific notes:
Hawaii Republicans have already changed the date of their caucuses for 2012. At the 2009 Hawaii Republican Convention, the party moved the the delegate allocation decision from the May convention to a February caucus. We should expect a similar decision to take place at the convention again (especially considering the earlier move put the state in violation of RNC rules on delegate selection).

Minnesota's state legislature, as recently as 2009, examined the possibility of switching to a primary for 2012. Take the above information on the Land of 10,000 Lakes with a grain of salt, then. It may be that the state legislature considers that possibility again. [The Minnesota representative on the Rules and Bylaws Committee mentioned at their meeting last May that there was hopeful that the state would finally go that route.]

Finally, will Wyoming Republicans violate Republican Party rules again and hold a very early caucus in 2012? The state party early in 2007 opted to go on the same January 22 date that the Democratic Party had reserved for New Hampshire, but moved again once it was apparent that the Granite state was moving to protect their first in the nation primary status. The latter decision didn't come until August 2007.

Though there are some gaps overall, this gives us at least some information as to when some of the caucus states will decide on when they will hold their first-step meetings.

*I have attempted to be careful with my language within the context of primary movement for 2012. It may be that I slip up and use the term frontloading instead. The reason I raise this issue is that with the new national party rules attempting to curb frontloading, that isn't the issue this cycle. Instead, we're left to examine the decisions of states that are in violation of the rules and need to shift the date of their primaries and caucuses to later dates. That isn't to suggest that there will be no frontloading during this cycle. Rather, we are most certainly going to see far fewer instances of frontloading; states at the back of the pack that decide to move up to the earliest point the parties allow -- the first Tuesday in March -- or to flaunt the party rules and hold February contests.

**Colorado, Minnesota and until recently North Dakota.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Hampshire Straw Poll To Be Held Saturday

I hope they invite a representative and proportional group of independents to this straw poll to mimic what next year's primary in the Granite state might actually be like.

From the National Journal:
WMUR-TV is partnering with ABC News to conduct a straw poll on Jan. 22 at the state GOP's convention when it elects its new chair. The attendees will be the state party's nearly 493 committee members, which include many of the most important endorsements for the 2012 presidential contenders.

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Washington State Republican Party Opposes Bill to Eliminate 2012 Presidential Primary

Earlier today FHQ discussed the companion House bill that replicates the Senate bill introduced last week to cancel the 2012 presidential primary in Washington state. Both bills were initiated by Democrats in each chamber on the request of Democratic governor, Christine Gregoire and Republican secretary of state Sam Reed. The state House and Senate are both controlled by the Democratic Party (56D - 42R, House; 27D - 22R, Senate) and both bills were introduced and sponsored by members of the Democratic majority in the House and Senate.

Widespread, bipartisan support, then, may not be necessary.

And it doesn't necessarily look like it will happen. The Washington State Republican Party chair, Luke Esser, spoke against the measure yesterday at the public hearing for the Senate bill (SB 5119).

The Washington State Republican Party (WSRP) has always used the primary results to determine delegate allocations to the Republican National Convention which officially nominates the President. Eliminating the Presidential Primary disenfranchises thousands of individuals who cannot make their local precinct caucuses. Because of this the WSRP stands against eliminating the primary which was instituted via citizen initiative.

WSRP Chairman Luke Esser will be in Olympia testifying against the bill.
As was detailed in an earlier post, Washington Republicans have for several presidential nomination cycles now split the allocation of their convention delegates between both a caucus and a primary while the Democrats have typically used just a caucus with the state-funded primary serving as an advisory beauty contest. The argument from the state Republican Party reflects that difference and may ultimately fall on deaf (and Democratic) ears in committee and on the floor of each chamber should these bills make it that far. In the end, those majorities will make Republican opposition to the bill (if it exists -- The state party doesn't necessarily speak for individual Republican members of the state House or Senate.) moot.

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Companion Bill to Cancel 2012 Washington Presidential Primary Introduced in the State House

The House companion of the state Senate bill introduced last week to cancel Washington state's 2012 presidential primary was introduced on Tuesday. Both the vice chair (Sherry Appleton - D) and another member (John McCoy - D) of the committee to which the bill has been referred -- State Government and Tribal Affairs -- are serving as co-sponsors of the legislation. Like SB 5119, HB 1324 would cancel the 2012 presidential primary in the Evergreen state and allow for a January 2013 expiration of the change to the law. That sunset means that the cancelation is only in effect for the 2012 cycle and that future cancelations would be up to future state legislatures.

Both bills -- House and Senate -- were introduced at the request of the governor and secretary of state and are projected to save the state $10 million if passed and signed into law. In both cases, the bills were introduced by either chairs or vice chairs of the relevant committees that will review the legislation and appear to be fast-tracked -- to some degree -- for passage. Washington's state legislature is controlled by the Democratic Party and there seems to be enough support for the bill's passage at the top (executive branch and committee leadership) to get the bill through both chambers quickly.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2012 Republican Delegate Selection Rules Regarding Timing

The following is the passage within the 2012 Republican delegate selection rules [partial] that applies to the timing of primaries and caucuses:
No primary, caucus, or convention to elect, select, allocate, or bind delegates to the national convention shall occur prior to the first Tuesday in March in the year in which a national convention is held. Except Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada may begin their processes at any time on or after February 1 in the year in which a national convention is held and shall not be subject to the provisions of paragraph (b)(2) of this rule.

RNC Rule 15(b)(1)

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