Saturday, May 6, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] A Curious Decision on the Georgia Presidential Primary

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 unlock the full site and support our work. 


As mentioned earlier over at FHQ, it was reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today that Raffensperger had made his decision and that March 12 was the choice for the date on which to schedule the Georgia presidential primary for 2024. That instantly makes the Peach state the biggest draw on a day that includes primaries in Mississippi and Washington and Republican caucuses in Hawaii.

But it is a curious selection. Most outlets are treating the news as a denial of the proposed elevation of Georgia in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) calendar rules for next year. And it is, but that misses the point. First of all, the proposed February 13 date for the Georgia primary was never workable without either breaking the Republican National Committee (RNC) timing rules or splitting up the Democratic and Republican primaries and holding them on different dates.

That was clear last December when the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) first adopted the calendar rules. And it was even clearer when the full DNC followed suit this past February and when Raffensperger’s office drew a red line because of the aforementioned conflicts.
But what makes this curious and also is being missed is that there was a middle ground in this case that was never really considered. And it is not clear why. As FHQ has noted in February, the secretary could have scheduled the Georgia primary for March 1 or 2 and the move would have met the criteria set by his office. The contest would shift into the early window on the Democratic calendar, albeit later than February 13, would not violate RNC rules and would keep the two parties’ primaries together.

The only catch was that the Georgia Republican Party may have wanted to retain its winner-take-all by congressional district method of delegate allocation. That would potentially have kept the primary in the second half of March. But by selecting March 12, Raffensperger took that discretion away from Georgia Republicans. The party will be stuck with some version of proportional rules for the 2024 cycle.

Without that hitch — without Peach state Republicans insisting on winner-take-most allocation methods — there was no difference between March 1 and March 12. The winner-take-all prohibition treats both dates, and all dates before March 15, the same. But those dates, March 1 or 2 and March 12, are separated by miles in terms of potential impact. A solitary primary before Super Tuesday stands to carry a lot more weight than a primary, especially a proportional primary on the same date as other contests, a week after Super Tuesday. The former is a guaranteed impact, an influence on the Super Tuesday contests. The latter is influenced by Super Tuesday and may — MAY (It would be a gamble.) — put a candidate over the top in the delegate count or be enough to winnow the remaining viable challengers.

That point, however, is moot now. The Georgia presidential primary will fall on March 12. But that does not make it any less strange a decision.


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