Sunday, April 30, 2023

Sunday Series: Have the Democrats Actually Created Calendar Chaos for 2024 and Beyond?

There have been a number of stories written over the last several months about the calendar rules changes the Democratic National Committee adopted at its winter meeting in Philadelphia back in February. And a number of them find the space to add a footnote about 2028. That, and this is a paraphrase, if Biden runs against only token opposition, then the calendar changes may not mean a whole lot in 2024 and may not last beyond then.

With President Biden officially announcing his reelection bid this past week, stories of that ilk have forced their way back onto the printed page, virtual or otherwise. That includes the narrow genre of "forfeiting New Hampshire" stories but also some broader overviews of the calendar changes that lean heavily on the uncertainty -- if not CHAOS! -- created by the DNC changes.1 Ben Jacobs had one such piece up at Vox in the wake of the president's announcement. 

First of all, let's clear the air. 2028 is a long way off. Much will happen between now and then. The events that occur will affect the next things that happen and so on. Yes, even all the way to 2028. It goes without saying, then, that this 2024 calendar trial run will have some impact on the rules that are ultimately adopted by the DNC for the 2028 cycle. But just how much impact?

After all, that is what 2024 is for Democrats: a trial run. It is a trial run that seems likely to occur under less than competitive conditions and offer little in the way of lessons that can be carried over into subsequent cycles. From a purely academic standpoint, the DNC is not going to learn much from moving South Carolina to the first position for 2024. Rules makers in the party will not be able to step back and say, for example, that the South Carolina primary was any more or less determinative in identifying a nominee in 2024 than it has been in the past. Now, that is not to say that there is not meaningful symbolism in the change at the top of the calendar, but rather, that the learning opportunities for the national party from the Iowa-for-South-Carolina swap in 2024 -- with the 2028 rules in mind -- are likely to be limited. 

But again, 2024 is a trial run and one that is unlikely to be completely devoid of learning opportunities for the national party. It is just that those chances will not come from how effective South Carolina was as a lead-off contest, or for that matter, what Michigan's primary would mean at the end of the pre-window period. Instead, the most learning will come from what has and is seemingly likely to dominate the stories of the Democratic nomination process at the outset in 2024: New Hampshire (and maybe Iowa) versus the DNC.

Any lesson gleaned from the 2024 process, then, is much more likely to come from the penalties side than anywhere else. And the early signals are that those penalties -- and the DNC -- will get a fairly stern test from New Hampshire if not Iowa. Democrats from the Hawkeye and Granite states have been quick since the winter meeting vote (but also since the December DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) adoption of the changes) to cite state laws that tie their hands with respect to (timing) compliance with the new calendar. And that foreshadows some lengthy brinkmanship in the weeks and months ahead.

Of course, there will be exit ramps along the way. The DNC adoption of the calendar rules, however, probably forestalls any retreat by the national party in the near term. But Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats will have to submit draft delegate selection plans (DSPs) to the DNCRBC in spring 2023. Democrats in the Granite state already have ahead of the May 3 deadline this coming week. However, ultimately the state parties will have to have those DSPs approved (or rejected) by the DNCRBC in the summer or early fall. If one or both of the state parties formally defy the rules in those draft DSPs or leave the contest date blank in them -- the latter is the route New Hampshire Democrats have chosen -- then that likely entrenches both sides even further. It is soon after that point that the DNCRBC is likely to not only apply the delegate penalties -- an automatic 50 percent reduction -- but to up them to a full 100 percent reduction of the delegation.

The temptation then is to fast forward to January 2024 when New Hampshire (and maybe Iowa) potentially hold rogue contests despite those national party penalties. However, that would miss a key component of the rules changes for this cycle: candidate penalties or rather, the result of potential candidate penalties. The president has thrown his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination, and his team has already signaled that he intends to abide by the rules the party Biden leads adopted for the 2024 process. Part of those rules include a prohibition on candidates campaigning in states with rogue primaries and caucuses. And part of the new and broader definition of "campaigning" for 2024 is filing to appear on the ballot in a rogue state. 

Iowa and New Hampshire have already acquired one asterisk in the Democratic presidential nomination process because neither is as diverse as the national Democratic electorate. But Biden not being on the ballot would add another asterisk to any results in 2024 and subsequently hover over consideration of the traditionally early pair as possible early calendar states in future cycles. 

And while that may be, the counter to all of that has always been that Iowa and New Hampshire do not really have that many delegates anyway. Wins in either, it has often been said, are more about the wins themselves and resulting momentum they generate than they are about the delegates accrued. True, but the flip side of that -- the rejoinder to the not that many delegates response -- is that Iowa and New Hampshire do not have that many delegates

What the DNC has really done for 2024 is create uncertainty for future cycles. Theirs has been a destabilizing action. Neither Iowa nor New Hampshire are delegate-rich. Both are already discounted contests. Furthermore, both would take some additional hit if they go rogue in 2024 and more so when the president (likely) does not file to appear on the ballot in one or both states.2 Going rogue will, in turn, draw the ire of at least a portion of those among the DNC membership who will make future decisions on the calendar. [That says nothing of Iowa and/or New Hampshire laying the groundwork for some fringe candidate to win either or both rogue contests.]

If you are a prospective 2028 Democratic presidential candidate, are you going to be champing at the bit to get into the Granite state and start campaigning in 2026, for example? In some cases, yes! [Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has already dropped in on the Granite state and plans to return next month.] It is a potential badge of honor to campaign against the national party establishment sometimes. That potentially carries with it some cachet that may move voters in and outside of New Hampshire (and/or Iowa). But it is not clear at this point that one candidate bucking the national party is going to start a rush into the Granite state given all the caveats above. 

Other deterrents 
The delegate penalties assessed on candidates by the national parties for campaigning in a rogue state are one thing that may buttress against that. But the history of the post-reform era has shown that there are other tools at the disposal of, if not the national party, then other early states. In fact, it was actors in Iowa and New Hampshire over the last half century who demonstrated the effectiveness of those alternative tools: pledges to boycott rogue states threatening the position of the early states.

Only, now the shoe is on the other foot, and it would be New Hampshire (and maybe Iowa) who are the threats and not the threatened in this and future cycles. What if South Carolina repeats as the DNC-sanctioned first state in 2028? Are candidates in a competitive 2028 field really going to snub Palmetto state Democrats to face voters in Iowa and New Hampshire? The better question is perhaps whether South Carolina Democrats will allow the candidates to campaign in rogue states without paying a price. That is what Iowa and New Hampshire have done over the years. They have used the protection of the DNC waiver (granting them early status) to effectively blackmail candidates. "Sign this pledge to stay out of that rogue state or you are done here (in Iowa or New Hampshire)." It has been a threat to kill a candidate's campaign before it really starts. 

That strategy has worked for the traditional early state duo in the past -- see 1996 or 2012 for a couple of examples -- and it can be used against them in the future (if they do not have sanctioned early status). And there is a strong argument that such efforts -- candidate pledges -- against Iowa and/or New Hampshire would be more effective because neither state is exactly reflective of the current Democratic primary electorate. One can imagine South Carolina Democrats, for example, asking candidates to sign a pledge to focus on the Palmetto state and the African Americans that make up the majority of the primary electorate there instead of spending any time in unrepresentative states like Iowa or New Hampshire. And it does not have to be just South Carolina. Nevada could be that first state. Any state that the DNC could feasibly get into the first slot in 2028 could utilize some variation on the candidate pledge that Iowa and New Hampshire have used in the past.

War of attrition
Now, if one is a prospective presidential aspirant for 2028, that is a lot to consider. Iowa and New Hampshire are already discounted in the Democratic nomination process. In the DNC rules for 2024, both have been knocked from the positions on the calendar each has held throughout the post-reform era. New Hampshire (and maybe Iowa) appear(s) likely to go rogue next year, which weakens the hand of Granite state Democrats (and potentially those from the Hawkeye state) in the resulting 2028 calendar rules discussions. Then there are penalties and potential pledges from/to officially sanctioned first states to consider in the next cycle.

From the candidate perspective, what is a win in New Hampshire (and/or Iowa) worth at that point? In other words, at what point does a contest become so discounted as to be next to meaningless? 

That is the long game the DNC is playing. The point -- the attempted point anyway -- is to discount any rogue state to the degree that is becomes meaningless to any (or most) prospective candidates. However, getting to that point hinges on the DNC doing something it has not done in the past: following through on the rules (and penalties) all the way through the national convention. 

Democrats in New Hampshire are banking on that happening again in 2024. That the DNC will cave, hand New Hampshire back its initial apportionment of delegates and seat them all at the national convention in the name of party unity. Yet, that is perhaps an uncritical view of the position the national party is in for the 2024 cycle. All of those past instances of threats to penalize Iowa and/or New Hampshire or to not seat their delegates at the national convention occurred in open and competitive nomination cycles. There was a greater need to not only demonstrate party unity to a viewing nation but to create it after fractious nomination processes. Caving was arguably more necessary.

But those are not the conditions of the 2024 cycle. President Biden is not running unopposed, but neither is he likely to face off against any viable alternatives. He and the national party under him have also orchestrated these changes to the rules for 2024, and it stands to reason that they -- and the national convention to nominate Biden -- would be more driven to see the rules through in order to establish (if not entrench) the new early calendar rotation. [Yes, New Hampshire is of some value to the Democratic coalition of states in the electoral college, but those four electoral votes are more expendable than, say, ten in Wisconsin, or 11 in Arizona or 16 in Georgia, to name a few other important states in that calculus. And yes, there are down-ballot implications too as mentioned in the footnotes.]

A cycle in which an incumbent is running for renomination and has instituted a new rules regime is maybe not the cycle to hope that the national party just caves again. 

Look, if some of the conditions of 2024 are unknown, then they are even more greatly unknown for 2028. Things could fall just right for an antiestablishment candidate, for instance, in the next cycle who could parlay a win in even a discounted rogue New Hampshire primary into something more. Still, that would be a very narrow path for a winning candidate to navigate through and become nominee given everything that continues to increasingly discount the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire within the Democratic presidential nomination process. 

But first thing first: The next step in this is how the DNCRBC reacts to the delegate selection plans from Iowa and New Hampshire when those deliberations commence over the next month or so. 

1 Incidentally, the calendar changes for 2024 will likely create some rogue states, but they will be a different kind of rogue state that is less likely to plunge the system into chaos. Some unnecessary headaches, sure. But chaos? That will take a lot more than a rogue New Hampshire primary and/or Iowa caucus.

2 "Some additional hit" is tough to define. In the context of New Hampshire in particular, the argument made there in the wake of national party calendar decisions has been that the Biden/DNC move to push the Granite state back in the order is only going to negatively affect Biden's chances in New Hampshire in the general election and hurt other New Hampshire Democrats down-ballot (but especially those holding federal office). It is a threat of mutually assured destruction -- from both sides. That will set off a battle to assign blame, the outcome of which is difficult to foresee.


Saturday, April 29, 2023

From FHQ Plus: The State of Democratic Delegate Selection Plans for 2024

The following is a cross-posted excerpt from FHQ Plus, FHQ's new subscription service. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to support our work. 


As a general note, the release of the draft 2024 delegate selection plan from Democrats in the American Samoa brings the total number of publicly available plans up to 42 (at last check). That leaves parties in 15 states and territories that have not yet released draft plans ahead of the May 3 deadline next week for submission to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC). Many of them — think California and Wisconsin — are not hiding anything. As far as the dates of those state-run primaries go, they will fall on the dates state law specifies. The draft delegate selection plans will only confirm that.

For other states — like Idaho, Kansas and Missouri — there have been recent changes to state laws (or to the progress of primary bills) that leave their plans up in the air. All are teetering on the line between a state-run primary and a party-run caucus. That is big distinction for any state party planning a delegate selection event just a few short months away. And the uncertainty about the availability of a state-run and funded election will only cause more delays. 

Another subset of states that are delayed in making public their draft plans is also understandable. Iowa, for example, has asked the national party for an extension. Georgia Democrats already have that extension, having been granted one back in February. The date in the Peach state would be in doubt anyway because Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) holds the authority to set the timing of the primary. But both are examples of state parties with potential early state positions on the calendar at stake. Georgia Democrats could lose their spot and Iowa Democrats hope to somehow slip back into the early window.

And then there are the remainder of the territories. The parties there are notoriously tardy in releasing their plans. Actually, FHQ was quite surprised to see the one from American Samoa pop up now. It was not until July 2019 that the party’s 2020 plans there came to light. 

But all told, the number of calendar question marks on the Democratic side are dwindling. Other questions remain on the Republican side.

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Friday, April 28, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Forfeiting New Hampshire?

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

It is not exactly news that New Hampshire will have the first presidential primary in 2024. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) may have relegated the primary in the Granite state to its customary second position (but behind another primary this time), but every signal from up in that part of New England since December has pointed in one direction: New Hampshire will continue to be first.

Democrats have said it. Republicans have said it. Governors have said it. And most importantly, secretaries of state -- you know, the one who makes the scheduling decision on the presidential primary in New Hampshire -- have said it. 

However, it is also not a mystery that the DNC will not grant a waiver to New Hampshire Democrats to hold anything other than a February 6 contest. Barring a reversal from the state party in the Granite state, then, the DNC is going to levy penalties against the state party during primary season at the very least. It will also assess specific penalties against candidates who campaign in the state.1 So it is not a surprise that the president will likely take a pass on any rogue New Hampshire primary. Biden would be breaking the rules of the party he leads to file for access to the ballot there. 

But that is not forfeiting the primary. That is the wrong frame for this. And it misses the point anyway. Look, the New Hampshire Democratic Party wants three things whether they say them out loud or not. First, well, they want to be first. But they also, despite the calendar rules snub, want Biden to be the Democratic nominee over the alternatives. There are no viable alternatives, and that is where the party's third want comes in: They do not want to further undermine New Hampshire's leverage for attempts at winning an early calendar waiver in future presidential cycles

And what would really undermine the state with national Democrats even further for the future is Marianne Williamson or Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. winning the New Hampshire primary next year. One of those outcomes would destroy any remaining credibility Granite staters have for making discerning decisions on presidential nominations on the Democratic side. And if one thinks New Hampshire Democrats want to go to the table with the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee in 2026 and make the case that they should have an early contest in 2028 after Williamson or Kennedy won there in 2024, then FHQ does not really know what to say. But one can say that New Hampshire Democrats -- the state party anyway -- do not relish that possibility. 

New Hampshire Democrats are stuck. They have been stuck since December between state law and new national party rules. But it is under-appreciated just how much that rules change has upset the delicate calendar balance for New Hampshire Democrats. To defy the national party means to further hurt New Hampshire's primary primacy. And that is true whether it is the party breaking the national party rules to go early or voters protesting the Biden-driven calendar changes by pulling the lever for a long shot alternative. 

But the press focus should be less on poking at the "there is not a story on the Democratic side, but let's see if we can find one" angle and more on what the New Hampshire Democratic Party is going to do, stuck between national party rules and a Democratic electorate in the Granite state riled up by the president. That is a story worth pursuing because the decisions made there by the state party may make a great deal of difference for 2028 when there will be an active Democratic nomination race. 

Never Back Down, the super PAC aligned with the nascent DeSantis bid for the Republican presidential nomination rolled out a robust slate of endorsements in Michigan on Thursday. Yes, Trump has run laps around the Florida governor on congressional endorsements from his home state, but 19 members of the Michigan House -- just more than a third of the Republican caucus in the lower chamber -- is nothing to sneeze at. 

The catch is how much value those endorsement ultimately end up carrying. New leadership in the Michigan Republican Party seems to be on the fence about the primary or caucus question for 2024. On the one hand, 19 state legislative endorsements might be a meaningful signal ahead of an early primary in the Great Lakes state (if granted a waiver from the Republican National Committee), but may be less valuable in a caucus setting, especially if participants are limited to state convention delegates already chosen. Unless those legislators are among the delegates or are connected to delegates who are participating, the endorsements may mean very little. 

Yeah, the Michigan situation is a mess. But that primary or caucus distinction matters.

In the travel primary, Donald Trump was not the only 2024 presidential candidate in New Hampshire on Thursday. Nikki Haley was there, too, and has another town hall there Friday. Former Vice President Mike Pence will be in Utah today for a roundtable at Utah Valley University. Pence is the second potential candidate to visit Super Tuesday Utah in recent days. The other, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, wraps up his trade mission abroad in London. Vivek Ramaswamy continues his bus tour of South Carolina.

Over at FHQ Plus...
  • Wyoming Democrats have a date for their 2024 caucuses (or is that party-run primary?) and Rhode Island appears to be on a fast track to a new presidential primary date next year. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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On this date... 1992, Both President George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton were dominant in wins in the Pennsylvania primary. But The New York Times account had this aside: "Still, the voting in Pennsylvania only underscored the new phase of the campaign, in which Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush begin to take each other's measure -- while keeping a wary eye on Ross Perot, the Texas businessman considering an independent campaign for the Presidency." 2020, it was to have been the date of the Acela primary -- presidential primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island -- but covid forced all six states to shift to later dates. In the end, only Ohio was active, concluding the vote-by-mail in the Buckeye state's presidential primary on this date.

1 This was incorrect in the NBC News piece: "The rules apply to Williamson and Kennedy as well, but they've indicated they're willing to accept the DNC's unspecified penalties for rule violations since they're running anti-establishment campaigns anyway."

Rule 21.C.1.b covers that. "A presidential candidate who campaigns in a state where the State Party is in violation of the timing provisions of these rules, or where a primary or caucus is set by a state’s government on a date that violates the timing provisions of these rules, shall not receive pledged delegates or delegate votes from that state." What is unspecified is that the DNC chair can go beyond that penalty if rules are broken and keep candidates out of primary debates, for example. But there are not going to be any Democratic primary debates for the 2024 cycle.


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Trump's Inevitability?

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

The invisible primary buzzword of the last 24 hours or so (if not longer) has been inevitability. As in, the impression is forming that Trump is looking like the inevitable Republican presidential nominee in 2024. It pops up in The Washington Post. And there it is in Politico as well. If one is in Trump World's orbit, then that is likely the impression they want. 

The slow yet methodical drip, drip, drip of endorsements over the course of the last few weeks may have been engineered to serve as a symbol of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's flagging support, but during the same span of time, his poll numbers began to dip and the former president's rise. It has been a well-played move by the 45th president's team before DeSantis even formally enters the race. And with no one else even threatening to break into double digit support as the invisible primary marches on, that certainly buoys the notion of Trump as inevitable. 

But is he? 

The first thing to note here is that there just is not a long and deep history of losing presidents coming back to run again. Not in the post-reform era anyway. And honestly, that trend stretches back much further into the 20th century than that. But FHQ raises that fact to suggest that as far as inevitability goes, a former president, in the abstract, would be well-positioned (if not best-positioned) to be granted inevitability status. And that has been the case for Trump. That has not changed. 

What has changed is that the attacks on DeSantis have put the governor on the defensive and he has not exactly answered the call (yet). Those attacks have worked. Additionally, Trump has been indicted. And those charges against the former president in court in Manhattan have done what threats to Trump did during his presidency (and post-presidency): they have rallied Republican support (in the near term).  

So, as long as endorsements keep coming in for Trump and his poll numbers continue to rise, there will be fuel to stoke the fires of inevitability chatter. And that may be enough. That perception may be enough stunt the growth of and effectively end any challenge to Trump for the nomination even before one vote is cast. That is definitely what Team Trump wants. But it is still relatively early -- even if it can get late early in the invisible primary -- and best-positioned though Trump may be at this time, the one thing the former president continues to invite is uncertainty. 

We may be getting a clearer picture of how a former president may do if he or she were to run for renomination for the first time in quite some time, but Trump is unique because of all the baggage he brings. He is polarizing for starters, but he also has additional potential criminal charges looming over him. He may be or become inevitable, but that uncertainty will continue to animate support for alternatives in the Republican nomination process. Voters and donors will look around now and into the future, and possible candidates will in the near term entertain if not act on their ambitions to challenge the former president. 

And those two forces -- inevitability and uncertainty -- will continue to collide over the next month or two as the field of candidates solidifies. Both bear watching.

Number of the day: 62. FHQ is often quick to dismiss polls at this stage of the invisible primary. That does not mean I do not look at them. It means I do not put too much stock into them at this point. Still, sometimes those surveys catch my eye. Take the recent Emerson poll of the Republican primary race and the Fox News poll of the Democratic presidential field. In the former, Trump is at 62 percent. And in the latter, Biden sits at 62 percent. Those numbers from individual polls do not necessarily mean anything, but folks will talk about those two 62s very differently. Trump's 62 suggests, well, inevitability while Biden's 62, some would argue, shows weakness. 

Nevertheless, he persisted. Trump may be inevitable, but there has not been any reporting to suggest that DeSantis is second-guessing a bid for the Republican nomination. In fact, with the Florida legislature set to wrap up its work early next month, that sets up the governor in the Sunshine state to throw his hat in the ring in the not-too-distant future. NBC is reporting that DeSantis will waste little time and announce an exploratory committee soon after the legislature adjourns. 

Additionally, The Guardian discusses the staff assembling in Tallahassee for an actual (not super PAC-run shadow) DeSantis campaign.

Over at FHQ Plus...
  • Those presidential primaries or primary moves in Hawaii, Missouri and Ohio? Well, the week has not been kind to any of the efforts across that trio of states. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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On this date... 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter (D) and President Gerald Ford (R) won their respective primaries in Pennsylvania. North Dakota Democrats caucused and Pennsylvania Governor Milton Schapp (D) withdrew from the Democratic presidential nomination race. 1992, Republicans in Utah held caucuses. 2004, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry (D) took the Pennsylvania primary. 2016, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), trailing Donald Trump in the delegate count for the Republican nomination, named former candidate Carly Fiorina his running mate on a short-lived ticket that did not fundamentally alter the race heading into the Indiana primary the following week.


Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Hutchinson's Turn to (Officially) Jump in

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) already spilled the beans earlier this month, but he is set to officially join the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race on Wednesday, April 26. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has a write up on the Natural state's favorite son candidate for 2024.
"We've been divided before, we have struggled before, and we're resilient," he said in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "It's because we're the greatest democracy in the world, and we have a Constitution that we try to follow. It has tensions, but we always find a way through." 
Hutchinson, 72, hopes to relay that message to the voting populace as a presidential candidate. Hutchinson announced his electoral ambitions earlier this month and will officially kick off his campaign today with an event in Bentonville.
He faces long odds in the battle for the Republican nomination. So far, Hutchinson has tested the limits of opposition to former President Trump and has drawn a launch day rebuke from a county Republican Party in his home state:
We need somebody strong,” [Saline County Republican Party Committee Vice-Chair Jennifer] Lancaster said. “We need somebody bold who is willing to take on the controversial issues and the tough issues, and he is not that person.”
And that more or less encapsulates things for Hutchinson as he sets out on a bid for the Republican nomination. He is "strong" enough to take on Trump when few others seem willing to, but not strong enough for the moment in the eyes of those who will be voting on who the Republican nominee will be in 2024. That is a tough spot to be in at the current moment with Trump riding high in most metrics that measure invisible primary success. That is especially true when "strong" is often synonymous with Trump.

FHQ does not often talk about issues or candidate position-taking on issues. But that does not mean that issue positioning by the candidates is not important. It just means that it does not often intersect with the calendar and the rules. However, it does matter in the invisible primary. And while the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision in the early summer of 2022 put the Republican Party on the defensive on abortion in the months that followed, that does provide some potential opportunities in the Republican presidential nomination race. 

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley staked out a nuanced position on abortion on Tuesday, April 25 that has the potential for her to create some daylight between her and her competition for the Republican presidential nomination. The UN ambassador during the Trump administration called for a federal role in the matter but urged consensus building on setting abortion policy at the national level rather than racing to the right on the issue. 
“I said I wanted to save as many babies and help as many moms as is possible — that is my goal,” Haley said, speaking at the pro-life Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America offices here just outside the nation’s capital. “To do that at the federal level, the next president must find national consensus.” (Haley’s speech, according to her prepared remarks, used the word “consensus” nearly a dozen times.)
The conundrum for Haley is whether this position on abortion is better suited for the primary phase or the general election phase. It may set her apart from candidates like fellow South Carolinian, Sen. Tim Scott, but it also may set her back among the Republican primary electorate in 2024 if greater value is placed on ideological rigidity on abortion orthodoxy within the broader party network. It is and will be a crowded field of candidates (and would-be candidates) in the near term. There is room for nuance, but will that register?

President Biden had an understated kickoff to his reelection bid a day ago. He got a tepid nod of support from some elected officials in New Hampshire. Which is an improvement over recent months! Here is Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH):
“What I’ve said to the president twice directly now is I think he should come. I think he should be on the ballot in New Hampshire. He’ll win handily." Even if Biden isn’t on the ballot, Kuster said he’d “probably ... win on a write-in.”
Biden even scored an endorsement from 2020 rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on day one. Look, the Sanders entry in the endorsement primary may or may not be a surprise. The party organization at the national level has only signaled support for the president, as has most of the its caucus in Congress. But a Sanders endorsement (and even lukewarm support from the Granite state) speaks to the sort of consolidation of the party that Biden is going to need, not in the primary phase necessarily, but in the general election when the party is going to need to unite anew the coalition that carried the president to victory in 2020.

Speaking of consolidating, Brian Schwartz at CNBC has the latest on big Democratic money circling the wagons on launch day for the president. The money primary will seemingly not be a problem area for Biden as 2024 approaches.

Jonathan Bernstein provides some perspective about Biden to Democrats over at Bloomberg.

Over at FHQ Plus...
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On this date... 1980, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) won a narrow plurality victory over President Carter in Michigan's Democratic caucuses. 1988, both Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis (D) and Vice President George H.W. Bush (R) won the Pennsylvania primary. The latter of the two officially became the presumptive nominee with the victory, cresting over the number of delegates necessary to claim the nomination. 2007, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore (R) entered the 2008 Republican presidential nomination race 2016, after wins in New York the previous week, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump swept the five Acela primary states in the northeast and mid-Atlantic, strengthening their grip on their respective nominations. 


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Biden's In

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

President Biden formally joined the 2024 race for the White House in a video released early Tuesday morning, April 25. It is a bid for renomination that will not go unchallenged, but is more likely than not to move ahead despite some reservations within the rank and file of the party. The polling numbers are not great, but whether this announcement and resultant campaigning in the near term begins to consolidate Democratic support ahead of 2024 remains to be seen. However, that coupled with the fact that no serious challengers are lurking in the wings, champing at the bit to attempt to push Biden to the periphery, would have the effect of exhausting any pining for an alternative if not quell some of the dissension in the ranks.

Still, this is a reelection effort that faces some unique challenges. Questions about the president's age are not going to go anywhere, again, the approval numbers are not the best and the economy has been resilient, but is on less than rock-solid footing. Those are the things that will matter as 2023 wears on and gives way to 2024. 

On the staff primary side, Reuters has a nice look at the team that is and might be around the president as the reelection effort gets off the ground.

Fox News wonders why there will not be any Democratic presidential primary debates. [Two things: 1) FHQ is hard-pressed to remember the last time an incumbent president's party had primary debates. 2) The Reuters piece above mentioned Ron Klain doing (general election) debate prep and that only made FHQ wonder about whether there will be general election debates.]

Seth Masket was in Iowa for the Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering this past weekend. He has some thoughts on the event up at Tusk.

In the endorsement primary, Trump started the week with a couple of significant gets. Failed New York gubernatorial candidate and former congressman Lee Zeldin lined up behind the former president and Montana Senator -- and 2024 NRSC chair -- Steve Daines also threw his support behind Trump. The contrast is stark as the Trump campaign continues this drip, drip, drip of endorsement announcements while the competition, well, is not following suit. Not to the same degree or at the same level anyway.

Maybe, maybe not. The Washington Examiner looks at the money primary and the fundraising behind the prospective DeSantis presidential run, but The New York Times has two of the big spenders mentioned -- Ken Griffin and Robert Bigelow -- surveying the field amidst this recent DeSantis swoon. 

Over at FHQ Plus...
  • It was a wild kickoff to the work week. One state has a new primary date and another saw its effort to resurrect its now-defunct presidential primary suffer a setback. All at FHQ Plus.
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On this date... 1972, the results in the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania primaries were split in the Democratic nomination race. South Dakota Sen. George McGovern won in the Bay state while former Vice President and 1968 nominee Hubert Humphrey took the most delegates in the Keystone state. 1984, Democrats caucused in Utah. 1988, four years later Utah Democrats were at it again. Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis won in the Beehive state going away. 


Monday, April 24, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- For 2024, a Frankenstein's monster of 2015 parts

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

It was not that long ago that some were over-reading Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' travel as potentially indicative of his approach to the early states on the 2024 presidential primary calendar. And while FHQ is often quick to preach actions, not words in the invisible primary, that long haul plan of DeSantis and his aligned super PAC, Never Back Down, is perhaps more nuanced than simply where the governor is going. [He is abroad this week, for example.]

Despite some anxiety among his supporters, DeSantis and those aligned with his nascent presidential run seem to be playing a slow and methodical long game. In a week last week when the news was bad and the polling continued to take a turn for the worse, DeSantis and Never Back Down plodded along. The governor was in first-in-the-South South Carolina and Super Tuesday Utah addressing the state convention of Beehive state Republicans while Never Back Down was making hires several layers deep for operations in all four early states. The latter, in an evolution over the super PAC apparatus the (Jeb!) Bush effort built in 2015, appears to be assembling a full shadow campaign with all the cash it has at its disposal. 

And that is an interesting amalgam at this point in the race. It seems a bit of an attempt at a better Frankenstein's monster in 2023, taking elements of the Bush super PAC build out in 2015 and melding it with the deep organizing -- staff, grassroots and delegate efforts -- of the Cruz campaign. Neither were particularly successful against Trump separately in 2015-16, but fused in some respects in 2023, it may prove different. Regardless, the evolution continues to hint at the learning that has happened for the 2024 cycle among those who opposed Trump during the competitive 2016 Republican nomination race. 

Eyes were on Iowa this past weekend as Republican candidates, announced and prospective, addressed the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. Political scientist, Steffen Schmidt, gives a reminder about why Iowa commands attention. 

Patrick Svitek has a thorough rundown of the state of the Republican presidential nomination race in Texas over at the Texas Tribune. The Lone Star state may be getting more competitive by some measures, but there are a lot of Republicans to go around to support national races. In the endorsement primary, some elected and former elected officials in the state lined up behind former President Trump ahead of his rally in Waco. 
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chaired both of Trump’s previous campaigns in Texas, has been preoccupied with the legislative session but continues to have the former president’s ear. Speaking at Trump’s March rally in Waco, Patrick blasted those who tied the event to the deadly Branch Davidian standoff in 1993, saying Trump was following his recommendation to hold the rally there.

In the week before the rally, as speculation grew that Trump was facing indictment, his campaign made a push to corral more endorsements from Texas Republicans in the U.S. House. U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson of Amarillo, who was Trump’s doctor in the White House, took the lead inside the delegation, according to a person close to him.

The effort paid dividends as his campaign prefaced the Waco rally by announcing its “Texas Leadership Team” featuring eight new congressional endorsers. Fresh supporters also included Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham and former U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores of Los Indios.
However, many are still sitting on the sidelines. And big donors in Texas have not shied away from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
As the political world waits for his official presidential campaign launch, DeSantis has cultivated some intriguing — and generous — donors from Texas. Two of last month’s top contributors to his Florida political committee were both from Texas: an entity called Rural Route 3 Holdings LP, which gave $1 million, and a Houston doctor named Clive Fields, who gave $500,000.

Rural Route 3 Holdings also contributed $250,000 to DeSantis last year.
There are not just a lot of potential endorsements and donors in Texas. The Super Tuesday primary there offers a significant chunk of delegates that will keep it at the forefront of the campaign as the invisible primary continues. 

Over at FHQ Plus...
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On this date... 1976, Rep. Mo Udall (D-AZ) won the Democratic caucuses in his home state of Arizona. 1980, Illinois Rep. John Anderson (R) withdrew from the Republican presidential nomination race (...but he would return for the fall campaign as an independent candidate). 1984, Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO) completed the sweep of 1984 Vermont contests, winning the beauty contest primary in March and taking the caucuses in the Green Mountain state on this date that April. 2004, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) won the caucuses in the territory of Guam. 2012, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) swept the five ACELA primary states (Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) to pad his delegate total against only nominal competition at that point in the race. 


Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sunday Series: Ranked Choice Voting in 2024 Presidential Primaries, Updated (April 2023)

One electoral reform that FHQ has touched on in the past and has increasingly popped up on the presidential primary radar is ranked choice voting (RCV). And let us be clear, while the idea has worked its way into state-level legislation and state party delegate selection plans, widespread adoption of the practice is not yet at hand. 

However, there has been some RCV experimentation on a modest scale in the delegate allocation process primarily in small states. And that has opened the door to its consideration in a broader swath of states across the country. States, whether state parties or state legislators, are seeing some value in allowing for a redistribution of votes based on a voter's preferences to insure, in the case of presidential primaries, that every voter has a more direct say in the resulting delegate allocation. 

That is apparent in legislation that has been proposed in state legislatures across the country as they have begun convening their 2023 sessions. Again, RCV is not sweeping the nation, as the map below of current legislation to institute the method in the presidential nomination process will attest. There are a lot of unshaded states. But if RCV was adopted across those states where it has been passed (Maine), where it has been used in Democratic state party-run processes (Alaska, Kansas and North Dakota), and where it is being considered by legislators in 2023 then it would affect the allocation of nearly a third of Democratic delegates and a little more than a quarter of Republican delegates. That is not nothing. 

The thrust of activity on adding RCV to presidential primaries for 2024 in legislatures across the country has shifted since FHQ last updated matters in March. While much of the first few months of the 2023 legislative sessions were about introducing legislation, the time since has been about moving that legislation rather than proposing new bills. As such, there were no new measures introduced to layer RCV into the presidential nomination process (or ban it altogether) since mid-March. There was, however, continued progress for some of those RCV-related bills that have been floating around out there this session. 

From 30,000 feet, the overview remains much the same. The existing pattern of legislation has been for Republican-controlled states (where legislation has been proposed) to move bans on RCV while Democratic-controlled legislatures and Democratic legislators in red states have largely been behind efforts to augment the presidential primary process with RCV. That outlook has not changed. But it has evolved to some degree. To the extent any of the RCV-related legislation has been successful, it has been more likely to move through legislatures and be signed into law in Republican-controlled states. The South Dakota measure to prohibit RCV that was before Governor Noem (R) during the last update was signed into law. Likewise, the ban bill in Idaho was signed by Governor Little (R). And in Montana, the measure to prohibit the use of RCV in the Treasure state has made it through the legislature and awaits Governor Gianforte's consideration. 

All of that maintains the status quo as it has existed in those states. And in many ways, that -- maintaining the status quo -- is the path of least resistance with regard to RCV. 

And resistance is the key word when the focus shifts to those states with active bills to institute RCV for 2024 (or beyond) in the state-run presidential nomination processes. It is not that those bills have not budged, it is that most of those bills have not easily made their way through the legislative process. Yet, most is not all. A handful of RCV measures have found some modicum of success. 

One of the Hawaii bills has passed both the state House and Senate. Only, passage of the legislation has been in two different forms and it is unclear whether the two sides will be able to iron out those differences in a bill that includes a number of other electoral changes. [And recall that Hawaii does not yet have a presidential primary. It may by the end of the 2023 legislative session, but RCV would only come to the presidential primary process in the Aloha state in 2024 if there is a presidential primary in 2024.] The Vermont Senate was also able to pass its version of an RCV bill (exclusively for the presidential primary in the Green Mountain state), but that measure has yet to be taken up in the state House. And the House version of the same bill has been untouched in committee since it was introduced in February.

Outside of that, movement has been slow or non-existent most everywhere else on pro-RCV legislation. There were committee hearings on bills in Connecticut and Illinois. But in the former there was no recommendation from the committee one way or the other and that bill continues to be dormant. The Illinois committee hearings occurred with great fanfare (or at least news coverage), but has subsequently been met with some pushback. 

And that is it. 

The picture of RCV and the 2024 presidential nomination process remains one of incremental movement at best in the first part of 2023. A handful of Republican-controlled states in the mountain West have bolstered the status quo with bans of RCV, and momentum on the pro- side has been next to negligible. Vermont and Hawaii may get RCV over the finish line, but progress has been slow. That may incrementally advance where RCV is being experimented with in the presidential nomination process for 2024. But note also that most of the experimenting is being done by state parties in party-run processes on the Democratic side. And further, regardless of whether the legislation seeks to establish RCV or ban it, most of the movement is in relatively small states. Idaho, Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota and Vermont are not the big hitters of national politics. Laboratories for or against RCV are in small states for now. And that may or may not be the best proving ground for it in the presidential nomination process (or anywhere else).

The bottom line, however, is that while RCV may be considered a remedy to some of the maladies that plague American politics, its adoption is not yet widespread. And that does not look to change much more than incrementally in 2023. 


Saturday, April 22, 2023

From FHQ Plus: Calendar Foreshadowing in New York

The following is a cross-posted excerpt from FHQ Plus, FHQ's new subscription service. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to support our work. 


One of the missing pieces of the 2024 presidential primary calendar is the primary in the Empire state. And the major reason for that is the standard protocol for scheduling the election every cycle dating back to 2012. Basically some variation of the following has taken place every cycle since the New York legislature moved the presidential primary — the “spring primary” — to February for 2008. 

  1. Faced with a noncompliant primary, the New York legislature some time in the late spring sets the parameters of the next year’s presidential primary, including the date, method of delegate allocation, etc.

  2. At the end of the presidential election year, the date of the primary — typically in April in 2012-20 period — reverts to the noncompliant February position it had to begin with.

  3. The process starts anew for the next cycle.

In the 2024 cycle, New York is stuck somewhere in step one above: saddled with a February presidential primary date that no one with decision-making power over the date of the primary intends to keep. 

But that does not mean that there have not been hints about where the thinking is in the Empire state with respect to the primary date for 2024. Those hints, however, have not come from the legislature as of yet nor even from inside the state to this point. Instead, there has been talk of concurrent Connecticut and New York primaries in early April during a committee hearing concerning a bill to reschedule the presidential primary date in the Nutmeg state. And there was another mention of a cluster of contests involving Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island on the same April 2 date for 2024 in the draft delegate selection plan (DSP) of Ocean state Democrats. 

Now, there are further indications that actors actually in New York are targeting April 2. Quietly last week, the New York Democratic Party posted for public comment its draft delegate selection plan for the upcoming cycle. And in it were details of a presidential primary to take place on April 2, 2024. That is likely more than merely aspirational. The same basic pattern occurred four years ago when the 2020 draft delegate selection plan foreshadowed the legislative change to come in Albany.

And legislative action is still required in this instance. It just is unlikely to occur before June (if recent cycles are any indication). There are currently three bills dealing with the scheduling of the presidential primary already introduced in the New York Assembly or Senate, but none of them are necessarily candidates to be vehicles for the sort of change called for in the Democrats’ delegate selection plan. Sure, all three could be amended, but it has been standard for a clean bill with details of not just the timing of the presidential primary but the preferred delegate allocation method of each of the parties to be included in the introduced legislation.

That is likely still a ways off, but this is one more clue that New York is going to have a primary cluster with Connecticut and Rhode Island on April 2. And Hawaii and Missouri could be there too.