Wednesday, December 28, 2022

"It will be a state-sponsored public opinion poll"

Anthony Brooks of WBUR had a nice report on Here and Now about the showdown over the New Hampshire presidential primary between Granite state Democrats and the Democratic National Committee. 

Regular readers of FHQ will note that it covers familiar ground, but Brooks also did well to get DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) Co-chair Jim Roosevelt on record for the piece. And Roosevelt's comments were illuminating:

On New Hampshire generally...
"New Hampshire has done this [held the first-in-the-nation primary] and done this well for a century or more, but they have always abided by the party rules. This is the first time they are not doing that."

On the effects of punishments for DNC rule breaking... 
"It [the New Hampshire presidential primary] will be a state-sponsored public opinion poll."

Neither of those statements is all that surprising. The notion of the DNCRBC going beyond the 50 percent penalty on states that violate the rules on the timing of primaries and caucuses came up at the panel's meeting in early December. It is not even a revelation that this is the first time in the post-reform era that New Hampshire will have broken the DNC timing rules. FHQ has covered that ground.

However, what is surprising -- or perhaps, noteworthy -- is that Brooks even reached out to Roosevelt for comment or that Roosevelt went on the record. It is not exactly common for rules committee members, much less chairs, to either comment or be a part of these stories. It is not that chairs cannot or should not do so, but rather, that they usually do not. Roosevelt's comments represent a small counter to the very vocal defiance from the Granite state to this point following the DNCRBC adoption of the president's calendar proposal. But it does say something about how the DNCRBC is signaling it will deal with states that run afoul of the party rules. ...even New Hampshire.

There is one other thing from the Brooks interview that merits mentioning. The edit of the final story transitions from Brooks describing the penalties New Hampshire Democrats may face -- mainly focused on not seating delegates at the national convention -- to Roosevelt's comment about the state-sponsored public opinion poll. Unfortunately, it is not clear at this point whether those two things necessarily track one another. 

In personal conversations, Roosevelt has always made plain to me the fact that the delegate penalties on candidates or states apply during primary season; meaning a violating state's/candidate's delegates are not included in the various delegate counts that are tallied as the race moves from one state to another. It is a perceptual (if not real) penalty. [The count is very real to the perception of how the race is going and how it typically ends.]

The convention and the seating of delegates are different matters. A convention -- or its Credentials Committee -- makes the decisions on whether to seat delegates, and those decisions are made after primary season (and typically after the nomination race) has concluded. Alternatively, a presumptive nominee can urge the full seating of a sanctioned state's delegation as Barack Obama did with Florida and Michigan in 2008 (reversing a May 2008 decision by the DNCRBC to seat all of the two states' delegates but only count each delegate's vote as half).

So, it is not clear from this Here and Now story that Roosevelt is threatening to hypothetically not seat the New Hampshire delegation at the 2024 Democratic National Convention (should the state ultimately not be in compliance). It is clear that the DNCRBC has only so much power and it exists mainly before and during primary season. But a national convention is the ultimate arbiter in either national party. And a convention has different goals from what the party is attempting to accomplish during a nomination race. It can go against a previous decision by one of the party's standing committees. 

But, that Roosevelt is speaking out now suggests that such an eventuality will not come without a fight. And that is really the take home message from all of this. New Hampshire Democrats are telegraphing that they intend to break what are likely to be the DNC calendar rules (when adopted in February). And Roosevelt is signaling that New Hampshire will not be protected in 2024. It will be treated as any other state that breaks the timing rules. 


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