Friday, May 13, 2011

Michigan GOP to Decide in August on Timing of 2012 Primary/Caucus

From Kathy Barks Hoffman at the AP:

Michigan Republicans will decide in mid-August how they'll pick their presidential favorite, and may choose to join Florida in holding the earliest 2012 primaries.

The Associated Press on Friday confirmed the contents of a memo sent by state GOP Chairman Robert "Bobby" Schostak that says the Michigan Republican State Committee will vote at its Aug. 13 meeting on what kind of contest to hold and when.

The committee meets Saturday to discuss its options.

One possibility is a first-in-the-nation Jan. 31 primary held with Florida ahead of traditional early states, ignoring a schedule set by the Republican and Democratic national committees. The 2012 nominating process isn't supposed to start until next February, when Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada would hold primaries and caucuses. Other states couldn't hold a primary or caucus before March 6 without being penalized.

Good luck with that first in the nation thing. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada will go before any other state no matter how early any state outside of that quartet holds a contest. That isn't up for debate.

That said, this is noteworthy. Given the effort in Michigan in 2007 to move the Wolverine state's 2008 presidential primary to a non-compliant date and the fact that a bill has already been introduced in the Michigan House to move the 2012 presidential primary to the last week in January, Michigan is always good for mixing it up. But a few notes should be made here. First of all the caucus option is still apparently on the table. That's the "how" of the how and when speculation from the AP. That makes sense.

What doesn't is that the state party appears to be superseding the Michigan legislature in terms the primary option. Yes, the party has the final say on how its delegates are allocated, but that say is typically either "the timing of the state-funded primary is fine, we'll go with that" or "the primary is too early/late, we'll have to hold a caucus". That is not the case here. Of course, the Michigan GOP has the advantage of a Republican-controlled state legislature (and a Republican governor), so if the party opts for the primary, the state legislature -- one with a year-round session -- can and probably will accommodate them. After all, it was August 2007 when the Michigan-in-January discussion began ahead of the 2008 presidential primary cycle.

What is interesting here is the idea of Michigan and Florida going on the same date. Will Florida be warm to that idea? There is no telling. Yet, this likely sets off a game of brinksmanship if Florida wants a spot to itself. The proposed Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee in Florida has until October 1 to choose a primary date (assuming HB 1355 is signed into law, creating the committee), and if the Michigan GOP signals the desire for an earlier date in August, it will likely delay the PPPDSC's decision on the Florida primary date. Even then, with the flexibility of a year-round legislative cycle, the Michigan legislature could technically wait Florida out and opt to go concurrent with or earlier than the primary in the Sunshine state.

Notice also that there has been no mention of the first four primary/caucus states for a while. If Florida and Michigan battle it out to the earliest date, that only pushes Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada earlier. And there's always Arizona. Already locked into at least February 28, 2012, Governor Jan Brewer could hypothetically throw the Grand Canyon state into the Florida/Michigan mix under the rationale that "if we're already in violation of the national party rules, we may as well go as early as we want".

No, that scenario wouldn't sit well with the national parties, particularly the RNC. I don't know that they envisioned this type of challenge to their new delegate selection rules when they crafted them.

...but they should have.

Hat tip to Saul Anuzis for sharing this news via Twitter.

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