Thursday, October 26, 2023

Which couple of states?

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • The Biden campaign officially informing Democrats in New Hampshire that he would not file to appear on the presidential primary ballot brought out all usual points in the stories about the national party's standoff with decision makers in the Granite state. ...and all the usual omissionsAll the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Leave it to FHQ to locate and respond to something buried deep in a piece on Biden and New Hampshire. Well, in truth, that is where the primary calendar stuff usually gets tucked away. And Steven Porter's recent article at The Boston Globe saved the intrigue for the final line of a story about New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan's reaction to Biden skipping out on the primary there: 
"Scanlan said he’s not quite ready to announce the date of the 2024 primary. He’s still keeping an eye on a couple of states to make sure they don’t try to jump ahead."
But which "couple of states?"

There are not a lot of states with legislatures currently in session. And fewer are actually looking at moving presidential primaries around. None of those efforts are particularly active at this late date. So it is unlikely that Scanlan is eyeing any state with a state-run process, a primary that would definitively conflict with the oft-discussed first-in-the-nation presidential primary law in New Hampshire. 

All that leaves are some question marks in states that project to have party-run processes in 2024, party-run processes that will not necessarily trigger any action from Scanlan in Concord. What is missing on that front are answers to where contests in Alaska, Wyoming and four of the five territories will end up in the order. [Ahem.] Let's go ahead and scratch the territories from the list. Call them what one will. Primary or caucus. It really does not matter. Those contests will be party-run and in locales far away from both New Hampshire and where the candidates are likely to be next January. And there just are not a lot of delegates at stake.1 

It would appear, then, that Scanlan is referring to the uncertainty surrounding the dates of the Republican delegate selection events in Alaska and Wyoming. But a caucus, which is how Republicans in those states have typically chosen to select and allocate delegates, is not a primary. 

Now, it used to be that the distinction from the New Hampshire perspective as to defining a "similar election" was not primary or caucus -- even if that became the shorthand -- but rather, whether the threatening contest allocated delegates or not. That was the line that former New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner drew. Iowa's caucuses were always in the clear because neither Democratic nor Republican caucuses in the Hawkeye state allocated (bound) delegates to the national convention. 

Even that line got blurred in recent years. Wyoming Republicans jumped the New Hampshire primary in 2008 and stayed there on January 5, three days before the primary in the Granite state. And those caucuses allocated some but not all of Wyoming's Republican delegates that cycle. Actions in Iowa in recent cycles also helped to further muddle things. In 2016, Republicans in Iowa bound delegates to candidates for the first time in response to changes in Republican National Committee rules, and a cycle later Hawkeye state Democrats reported more than just state delegate equivalents on caucus night which more clearly bound delegates to particular candidates. In neither case did Bill Gardner opt to leapfrog Iowa. 

So what Scanlan is waiting on is probably not that. The hold up with Alaska and Wyoming Republicans is twofold. Yes, it is the when. When will the contest occur. But it is also the how. How will those parties conduct their processes. That may have something to do with what the parties in Alaska and Wyoming call their delegate selection events -- primary or caucus -- but it may have more to do with whether they include a mail-in option or something else that makes the processes more "primary-like" in Scanlan's eye.

But if past cycles are any indication, then Alaska Republicans will likely land on Super Tuesday and Wyoming Republicans will claim a spot some time in March. And it would not be a total surprise if both end up on March 2, the weekend before Super Tuesday. 

All of this is to say that it still looks very much like New Hampshire will be scheduled for January 23. Scanlan may not officially make that decision, but it is pretty safe to continue to assume that that is the date. The secretary has some time anyway before settling on a date. And it is always better safe than sorry in the Granite state. 

From around the invisible primary...

1 Now, Puerto Rico does offer more delegates than New Hampshire, but Republicans there would cede all but nine of them to penalties in order to challenge the Granite state on the calendar. There are also some quirks that do make the Puerto Rico Republican process a bit of a wild card, but it is not that wild. There is uncertainty as to what the date of the contest there may be, but it very likely will not fall on any date before March.

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

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