Monday, February 6, 2012

Pennsylvania Presidential Primary on the Move?

The redistricting process may claim another victim on the presidential primary calendar.

The ongoing battle to set congressional district boundaries in Pennsylvania -- now in the courts -- may push the April 24 presidential primary in the Keystone state back on the calendar. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Saturday:
Also, without knowing how long it would take a new plan to become final, Mr. Pileggi said lawmakers will need to consider whether they should delay the primary contest. 
"Without control over that length of time, it's hard to come to a final conclusion," [Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader] Mr. Pileggi said in a teleconference with reporters. "But certainly the April 24th date is in jeopardy." 
Democrats said that moving the primary is unnecessary because the Supreme Court has said the decade-old map remains in effect until a new one is approved. 
"A new plan should not be rammed through the process without due consideration for what the court has said about redistricting," said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.
There is a hearing today on the Republican-led request to delay the primary from happening. 

What does that mean for Pennsylvania within the context of the presidential primary calendar? 

First of all, any time a primary is shifted or is forced to shift back the date on which its primary is held, it runs the risk of losing influence over the process. The discussion around this Republican nomination race has refocused lately on the delegate count, but even before the contests started, that April 24 regional primary date -- where Pennsylvania is currently scheduled -- was seen as a possibility for where (presumably) Mitt Romney might push past the 1144 delegates necessary to lock up the nomination. At the very least, that cluster of contests would conceivably push the former Massachusetts  governor to a delegate lead that may be too steep for his opponents to overcome. To move back beyond that date, then, would mean Pennsylvania would potentially be pushed out of the window of decisiveness in this race. 

But there is a caveat to that. Texas may also -- for similar reasons -- be forced to hold a later presidential primary. And Texas, along with potentially Pennsylvania moving back, shifts a lot of delegates -- 227 total delegates -- further back in the process. That may affect the delegate counting calculus at that point. Of course, the March contests will go a long way toward determining how detrimental a move back for Pennsylvania would be.

...or if it is consequential to the the process determining a presumptive nominee by that point.

A tip of the cap to Tim McNulty at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for passing this news along.

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