Monday, October 3, 2011

South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary to January 21

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CNN is reporting that the South Carolina Republican Party will choose a January 21 date for its presidential primary.1 The date puts South Carolina ten days before the recently-scheduled Florida primary; just as it was in 2008. The move also places a great deal of pressure on the remaining three early states -- Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada -- to fit their contests into a 17 day window from January 1-17. Realistically, the three will be shoehorned into an even smaller window based on the holidays.

As FHQ mentioned last night, any date earlier than January 24 for the South Carolina primary risks pushing the process into December. This brings into starker contrast the proposed four day window between Nevada and New Hampshire, a Nevada Republican Party rule that violates New Hampshire law. According to New Hampshire law, no similar contest can can be held within a week after New Hampshire's primary. More accurately, the New Hampshire primary cannot be scheduled for a date that is within a week after the primary in the Granite state.

Again, how that difference is resolved with determine the final calendar. And the task just got harder. It can still be done, but the Nevada Republican Party will have to change its rule that places its caucuses on the Saturday after New Hampshire.

That would look something like this:

Monday, January 2: Iowa
Tuesday, January 10: New Hampshire
Tuesday, January 17: Nevada
Saturday, January 21: South Carolina
Tuesday, January 31: Florida

I don't know what the feeling in Nevada is about Tuesday caucus meetings, but the Nevada GOP may have to warm to the idea. The alternative is that New Hampshire either opts to push the button and hold a primary in December or New Hampshire pushes its primary up to a point that forces Iowa to slip into late December.

But as I said yesterday, get ready for an increased level of December threats coming from New Hampshire.

1 Here is the release from the South Carolina Republican Party:

SCGOP Chairman Connelly announces 2012 Presidential Primary dateFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Columbia, S.C. – SCGOP Chairman Chad Connelly today announced South Carolina’s 2012 Republican Presidential Primary date. Chairman Connelly commented: 
“Last Friday, a nine person committee brought chaos to the 2012 calendar. Today, South Carolina is making things right. 
“South Carolina Republicans have a thirty year track record of picking the eventual Republican Presidential nominee. We will continue that historic tradition on January 21, 2012. 
“It will undoubtedly be a spirited campaign to make Barack Obama just the worst ONE term President in American history. We are united in this mission, and any candidate who ignores South Carolina does so at great peril.” 
Additional Note: In conjunction with Fox News, the South Carolina Republican Party will also host a “First in the South” Republican Debate in the days leading up to the primary.

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astrojob said...

What's the absolute earliest date that NH could schedule its primary for? Legally and logistically, there has to be enough time after the candidate filing deadline to print the ballots and mail them out to absentee voters. How early can that be done?

Josh Putnam said...

Bill Gardner? Wanna take that?

Looking at the law, that post-filing deadline to primary date buffer -- like we saw in AZ and GA -- is not specified. That is part of the flexibility that NH has. I wish I could verify this, but the rule of thumb that I have always heard and have attributed to Gardner (or maybe Jim Splaine -- NH representative who wrote the law) is that NH can schedule and prepare to run a primary in two weeks.

That would allow them to vote in mid-November given the close of the filing period on October 28.

Now, that may be fine for them, but it doesn't do much for the candidates and the other states.

astrojob said...

I thought the federal MOVE Act required them to mail out absentee ballots 45 days before the election? Or do I have that wrong?

If it is 45 days, you still need time from filing deadline to actually print the ballots and organize the mailing, etc. I don't know how long that would take. But presumably at least a few days. If so, I'd guess that they can't go much earlier than Christmas.

Josh Putnam said...

Good question. There is a financial penalty associated with not observing the 45 day MOVE act window, but one that I have speculated in the past NH would not mind incurring to protect its first in the nation but seven days before anyone else status.

NH did not address their September primary for state and local offices that is in conflict with the MOVE act either. I don't think they're thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

January 28-29 is a very quiet weekend sports-wise. Nevada would be wise to pick Jan. 28 over Jan. 14, which is during the NFL's divisional playoffs.

astrojob said...

Check out this article:

"Politicos involved with preliminary caucus discussions in the Hawkeye State tell The Iowa Independent that the state is likely to move to a date between Jan. 3 and 8, which would rule out a Monday night event. January 2, 2012 is the date the nation will observe the New Year’s Day holiday, and is the date set for the Rose Bowl football game. Likewise, January 9 is the BCS national championship game."

Josh Putnam said...

Hmmm. Anon1243, that is an interesting point. I don't think Nevada will take a backseat to South Carolina, but that is worth filing away for the time when and if Nevada changes its Saturday after New Hampshire rule. That date still keeps them first in the west, but upsets the position they thought they were supposed to have.

I saw that article this morning over breakfast, MP, and thought of your comment from the other day. You'll notice I've added the 3rd to Iowa's options on the calendar(s).

Of course, the 3rd is now part of New Hampshire's options as well.

Anonymous said...

In early '08, Nate Silver and others looked at the historic peak-bounce date post-NH and post-IA. IIRC, it was before n+7, where n = date of victory for candidate getting the bounce. If I were in Nevada GOP's shoes, I would prefer to be 3 or 4 days before SC or FL, rather than 4 days after NH and a week or more ahead of the next big contest. I don't see the point in coming 4 days after NH, unless the idea is to give the NH winner the biggest bounce in NV...wish may well be what they're up to!

Josh Putnam said...

NV's new tether rule is an indication of their desire to be third more than anything else. That four day buffer prevents other states -- mostly South Carolina -- from jumping between the Silver state and New Hampshire.

With South Carolina out of the way now, I really don't think they are wedded to the idea of being just four days after New Hampshire. And if they are, then they will lose that game of chicken with Bill Gardner.

That's an interesting theory about the echo effect -- presumably for Romney -- though. That works well in theory, but again, that's probably not a game Bill Gardner is willing to play.