Thursday, May 19, 2011

Legislation to Move Delaware Primary to April on the Horizon

Celia Cohen at Delaware Grapevine notes:
After talking it over, state party leaders for the Democrats and the Republicans mutually decided the voting should be moved to April 24.

Legislation officially shifting the primary from the first Tuesday in February to the last Tuesday in April is expected to be introduced after the General Assembly returns May 31 from a two-week recess, so it can be passed by the end of the session on June 30.

The new date would have Delaware voting at the same time as Pennsylvania.

Of course, at one point, there was discussion of Delaware aligning its primary with the then-proposed moves (to April 3) of Maryland and Washington, DC. Ms. Cohen on that point:
Here in Delaware, the Democrats were the ones to approach the Republicans about making the change. John Daniello, the Democratic state chair, suggested they set up a mini-regional primary, either by voting on April 3 with Maryland and Washington, D.C., or on April 24 with Pennsylvania.

The Republicans were inclined to listen. Not only was it consistent with their own party's thinking, but the state Senate is run by the Democrats, the state House of Representatives is run by the Democrats, and the governor is a Democrat, so the Democrats could do what they wanted, anyway.

"We found ourselves in the position of not having a lot of negotiating strength," quipped Laird Stabler, the Republican national committeeman.

Both parties preferred aligning with Pennsylvania, mainly because of the influence of Philadelphia television on candidates' advertising and appearances.

"I think it's a good fit. There is a high probability that candidates will skip over the line and come to Delaware," said Priscilla Rakestraw, the Republican national committeewoman.

Depending upon which lens through which one views this, Republicans are either acting pragmatically, yielding to the Democratic majority, or in their own self interest. More accurately, it is probably a bit of both. Republicans do not have much of a choice here, but this move -- whether it would have been to April 3 or April 24 -- is not absent any benefit for Delaware Republicans. FHQ disagrees with the Republican National committeewoman about candidates crossing state lines from Pennsylvania into Delaware. That isn't where the true gains lie.

The best test of this is the Potomac Primary in 2008; particularly looking at the candidate visits the District got relative to Maryland and Virginia.1 Sadly, FHQ doesn't have the data for DC, but the distribution of visits between Maryland (13 visits) and Virginia (41 visits) was tilted toward the more delegate-rich Old Dominion. Another, less adequate test is to look at the contests of March 4, 2008; Texas and Ohio on one hand, and Rhode Island and Vermont on the other . The regional element is removed but the big state/small state factor remains present. Again, the visits were tilted toward the larger states. Texas (116 visits) and Ohio (70 visits) found candidates on the ground much more than in Rhode Island (6 visits) and Vermont (2 visits). Now, the argument could be made that the distribution here is roughly in line with the proportion of delegates each of those states (in both test cases) has.

Those cases aside, Delaware (2 visits) would not have to do much to double or triple its number of visits from 2008 in 2012. But as a tag-a-long with Pennsylvania, First state Republicans probably will not get the bump for which they are looking. Some bump, perhaps. Big bump, not really.

No, the true gain for Delaware Republicans is in the fact that by going along with the Democratic legislative majority's plan to move back to April 24, the state party will be able to -- like Georgia, Ohio and Texas -- maintain a winner-take-all allocation method in its delegate selection process; a method the party has traditionally used. This is an emerging trend among Republicans in various states. There is a group of states (see states that have moved to March 6) that value the influence but don't mind move to proportional allocation required of all pre-April states by the RNC and those that value winner-take-all rules over influence (see above). The latter group is gambling that the nomination race will still be competitive by the time it gets to them in April and May.

We shall see. Regardless, a move to April in Delaware is imminent.

*Thanks to Celia Cohen for sending this news along to FHQ.

1 The number of candidate visits is one that depends on several factors. Competition breeds more visits. The more competitive a state is, the more visits it will receive. As a means of extension, the number of parties with competitive nomination races and the number of candidates involved also must be taken into account. 2012 will only see one competitive nomination race. Also, earlier states will receive more visits relative to later states. This is a function of the fact that recent nominations have been decided early, and furthermore, a function of the intra-primary season winnowing of candidates that takes place. On that latter point, the later it is in the process, the fewer viable candidates will be involved.

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