Monday, February 6, 2023

Raffensperger Weighs in on Early Georgia Presidential Primary

For the first time since the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) officially elevated Georgia in the discussions of early presidential primary states in December, Peach state Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) has publicly shared his thoughts. 

As the AP's Bill Barrow reports, Raffensperger likes the idea: 
“Georgia would be a great early primary state in 2028. It has a good cross-section of engaged voters from both parties."
And therein lies the rub. Georgia's fate on the Democratic calendar for 2024 remains unresolved and state Democrats have until June 3, 2023 to find a fix in order receive a pre-window waiver from the national party. But the problem is that the two national parties' calendars are misaligned more than usual for 2024. The RNC voted in April 2022 on amendments to the 2024 presidential nomination rules and opted to stick with the early calendar the party has used every cycle since 2008. 

That leaves Georgia on the outside looking in on that side of the equation. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada will once again be the four early states in the Republican process, and the national party now has no means of changing it. All rules changes had to be made by September 30, 2022. But once amendments were adopted by the national party last April, that was it. There is nothing the RNC can do at this point to change its calendar.

But as Raffensperger noted in his brief comments, things could be different for the Peach state when planning for 2028 commences. 

However, an early position in 2024 is still not necessarily out of the question for Georgia. There is just very little wiggle room at this point. The rules are locked in. But Raffensperger's office has set the criteria for cooperation from their office on the primary scheduling matter. In reaction to the DNCRBC calendar vote in December, Jordan Fuchs, deputy secretary of state set the parameters:
"We’ve been clear: This needs to be equitable so that no one loses a single delegate and needs to take place on the same day to save taxpayer funds."
Georgia can hold a single primary for both parties as early as March 1 under RNC rules. Any earlier than that and Republicans in the Peach state would be vulnerable to the RNC super penalty for timing violations. That would knock the Georgia delegation to the Milwaukee convention down to just twelve delegates. 

Democrats' efforts to push the primary up to the February 13 position prescribed in the new DNC rules are likely to be futile given those penalties. And now that Michigan has passed legislation to move into its February 27 spot -- not to mention that the DNC has now also adopted its rules -- flipping Georgia and Michigan in the order seems out of the question. 

However, if the DNC is serious about nudging the Georgia primary into the pre-window and it does not mind a Michigan-and-then-Georgia pairing to close the pre-window, then perhaps the Georgia primary could fit into the space between the Michigan primary on February 27 and Super Tuesday on March 5.

Saturday, March 2 would work. 

However, wedging Georgia into that spot creates a potential spacing issue with the Michigan and Georgia contests so close together on top of Super Tuesday. That spacing is less consequential on the Democratic side if President Biden seeks reelection and faces only nominal opposition. 

But that still leaves the issue of how a primary on that date fits into the Republican calculus both nationally and in Georgia. Peach state Republicans, of which Raffensperger is one, may like the idea of the Georgia primary playing a role similar to what South Carolina's did in the Democratic process in 2020. From the same Saturday-before-Super-Tuesday position, the Palmetto state primary catapulted then-candidate Biden into Super Tuesday victorious. It is an outcome that has been viewed in retrospect as decisive. And that is not a bad spot in which to potentially be. 

Of course, that may not be the case in the Republican process and especially with a possible Michigan primary just a few days prior to a hypothetical March 2 Georgia primary. And that Michigan Republican primary on February 27 is "possible" because the Michigan GOP faces the same issue Georgia Republicans would encounter on February 13: penalties from the national party. Michigan Republicans may yet opt out of the state-run primary and hold later caucuses that comply with RNC rules. 

The RNC may also not be on board with any of this. Signaling a green light to a Georgia move -- again, within the rules -- to Saturday, March 2 may set off a race toward a Super Saturday among other states. And the national party may or may not want that complication. Granted, Raffensperger has under Georgia law until December 1 to set the date of the Georgia presidential primary. There is no rush. That may help mitigate some of the potential for a rush to March 2. 

Still, that is a lot of moving parts, not to mention the number of interested decision makers, to pull something like that off in such a narrow window. But at this point, if Georgia is to be a part of the pre-window on the Democratic side, then it may be March 2 or bust. 

Honestly, it always has been.

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