Showing posts with label #InvisiblePrimary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #InvisiblePrimary. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Running for 2024, but Running in 2024?

For years now, FHQ has trotted out a fairly simple question during the candidate emergence phase of the invisible primary. Increasingly that emergence occurs -- or more accurately can be seen occurring -- earlier and earlier. But then as now the parsimony of the question creates a powerful lens through which to view (prospective) presidential candidate activity long before primary voters begin to weigh in on just who each party's nominee will be.

Back in 2009, FHQ asked if anyone thought that Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) was not running for the 2012 Republican nomination and followed that up with another distinction. The former Minnesota governor could run for the 2012 nomination in 2009 but the question at that point was whether Pawlenty would actually be running in 2012.

As it turned out Pawlenty did formally announce a bid. But there was more: trips to Iowa, the formation of an exploratory committee, early biographical ads from aligned political action committees. And outside of the candidate's and his campaign's (direct) control there was early polling and general chatter in Republican circles about a Pawlenty bid.

But for all of that activity, Tim Pawlenty never made it to any of the primaries and caucuses in 2012. Instead, his run was derailed by a third place showing in the August 2011 Ames Straw Poll, an event made all the more important because the Pawlenty team had made the Hawkeye state make or break for the former governor. 

Now, why the reminiscence about Tim Pawlenty?

Well, aside from the origin story for the running for but not necessarily in maxim, it speaks to how one should observe the action of (prospective) candidates in the increasing visible but still invisible primary. Candidates run all of the time and many do not get as far or do as much as Tim Pawlenty once did from 2009-2011. Furthermore, candidates need not formally announce as Pawlenty did to have been considered a candidate running for a party's nomination. Take the journey of Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in 2018-2019. There was never any announcement that he was going to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. But there was PAC activity, hiring and trips to the usual nomination haunts. There no doubt was other activity that happened more quietly, signals that Brown got from other elites (donors, DNC members, etc.) that did not see the light of day in any reporting. But Brown ran for the 2020 Democratic nomination before ultimately passing.

And there are already signs that this is happening already in the 2024 presidential nomination cycle. There has been no lack of questions about whether both President Biden and former President Trump will run in 2024. In fact, Dave Hopkins had a wonderful piece up just yesterday in response to a Washington Post article about Biden advisors "working under the assumption that he [Biden] will once again top the Democratic ticket in 2024."

As Hopkins said, of course he is. 

And that decision, formal or not, has implications for how other prospective candidates will behave. That is true on the Republican side with respect to what Trump might do. It is not, for example, a secret that former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, is running for the 2024 Republican nomination. It just is not. And while Haley may give speeches this and next year and work through her PAC toward electing Republicans across the country in the midterm elections in 2022, none of that guarantees that she will be running in 2024. And that may or may not be because Trump throws his hat back in the ring. 

Yet just because a candidate does not run in any contests does not mean that they did not run for the nomination in that cycle. It just means that roadblocks appeared in any number of forms during the invisible primary instead of voters directly rejecting that candidate in Iowa or New Hampshire or in some other state on down the line on the primary calendar

But yes, there are candidates who are running for 2024 even now, three years out.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The Republican "Lanes" in 2024

David Siders had a nice piece up at Politico yesterday describing the difficulty prospective 2024 Republican aspirants in the US Senate might have in distinguishing themselves during and after the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. 

But peppered throughout the article laying out the minefield that Republicans like Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton or Marco Rubio or Ben Sasse may face was an old saw of recent nomination cycles: the "lanes" candidates presumably occupy in crowded and wide open presidential primary fields. 

Look, when prospective fields of presidential candidates are large, we all -- from casual onlookers to pundits/media to academics -- look for ways to group various candidates. It is a way of building a narrative around a simpler if not parsimonious concept. Bernie Sanders is the socialist candidate or Rand Paul appeals to the libertarian wing, to name a couple of examples. And while those are useful descriptions their usage is often too clever by half in the context of a process that most often requires some coalition building beyond the boundaries of the particular "lane" and/or sees some consolidation once candidates actually begin to win and lose primaries and caucuses during an election year. 

As Dave Hopkins wrote around this time two years ago on the same subject in the context of the budding 2020 Democratic field of candidates:
"...any conceptual model of nomination politics needs to incorporate a large random error term, representing the varying effects of personal charisma, persuasive advertising, memorable debate performances, catchy slogans, journalistic takedowns, verbal gaffes, and other factors that have proved difficult to anticipate yet can be just as influential as substantive positions or group membership in shaping voters' evaluations of the candidates."
And that holds even more now, two years out from any of these Republicans likely entering the 2024 race. "Lanes," to the extent they exist, bear some value but not a ton. And they are of little value this far away from any campaigning that may happen in 2023 much less any voting in the 2024 primaries. 

It is mostly too early for "lanes" chatter and 2024. And that is largely a function of the lodestar still exerting a tremendous amount of gravity within the Republican Party right now: Donald Trump. Siders lays out the anti-Trump lane and much more crowded pro-Trump lane where all the prospective candidates are attempting to separate themselves from each other. And while those "lanes" may exist now, they will continue to evolve as we all gain more information about the 2024 process. Trump will play some role, but it remains to be seen just how big that will be. 

Will he run? 

If he does not, then how will the field develop and respond to that? 

Appealing to Trump supporters will still be high on a number of candidates' lists of priorities, but it may not be the top one after the midterm elections as candidates begin in earnest to position themselves for a 2024 run. And that is really the value of Siders's article. It shows just how far there is to go in how prospective 2024 Republican primary voters view and gravitate toward particular candidates. A pro- and anti-Trump frame may be appropriate now, but that may not be the case later in the invisible primary as things become more visible. 

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Friday, January 29, 2021

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Actions versus Words

Talk can be cheap in politics. 

Recently, FHQ wrote a bit about Sen. Josh Hawley's most recent denial that he is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. And that is a good case in point. Sure, it is early enough in the 2024 invisible primary; early enough that those sorts of nays now turn into ayes or maybes later. But the bottom line is that those words are not really worth following at this point. Well, perhaps they are worth following but with the usual grains of salt. 

Instead, the better metrics to assess whether some particular candidate is running for -- albeit not necessarily in -- any given presidential is what a candidate and those potential surrogates around them are doing. Are they hiring staff? Are they running ads? Are they releasing a book? Are they fundraising (or trying to)? 

Sure, it is much much too early for any candidate to be running ads or hiring staff with 2024 specifically in mind, but that does not mean there are no maneuverings quietly occurring behind the scenes. Left for (politically) dead after the events at the Capitol on January 6, there has been some circling of the wagons behind Hawley in the time since as the Republican Party has generally settled on an overall less reactionary strategy. This and the fact that actions are more important than mere words in the invisible primary was epitomized earlier this week when news broke that the Senate Conservatives Fund was coming to the defense of Missouri's junior senator. Now, that may mean propping Hawley up for reelection or for a potential 2024 presidential bid. Regardless, it is indicative of some part of the broader Republican Party coalition acting on his behalf; something Sen. Hawley would certainly not turn down if any 2024 run were to happen. 

Often it is said to follow the money in politics. Well, that is part of the invisible primary equation, but not all of it. And those things matter more in candidate emergence than words alone. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- RNC Neutrality in 2024

One of the parlor games of the moment inside and outside the beltway in DC is the hunt for any break between the Republican Party (in its many forms) and former President Donald Trump. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly has no desire to speak to Trump again, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is headed down to Florida for a fundraiser and will speak with the former president in the process. But again, that is just one facet of the Republican Party, the party-in-government. 

The formal party apparatus itself, the RNC, recently broke with how it dealt with the president in 2019 ahead of the 2020 presidential primaries. Ronna Romney-McDaniel, the recently re-elected chair of the Republican National Committee, told the Associated Press in an interview...

“The party has to stay neutral. I’m not telling anybody to run or not to run in 2024. That’s going to be up to those candidates going forward. What I really do want to see him do, though, is help us win back majorities in 2022.” [McDaniel's response when asked whether she wanted to see Trump run again in the next presidential election.]

While that is a formal declaration of the chairwoman and is consistent with the rules regarding the conduct of the RNC in contested presidential nomination cycles, it differs from the national party's approach to 2020. It was, after all, at the RNC winter meeting in 2019 when the party stopped short of formally endorsing the president's renomination and reelection, but passed a resolution lending Trump the party's "undivided support." [The difference between a full endorsement and the symbolic show of unanimous support of the president among the party membership was one rooted in financial support (that an endorsement would have carried). But it should be noted that the RNC and the Trump reelection forces had already united by that point.]

Now, conditions are different in 2021 than they were in 2019. Trump is no longer the sitting president as he was then. Additionally, McDaniel's comments are not a reflection of any formal vote of the RNC membership (but merely a recitation of the party rules on the matter) as opposed to 2019. But in the end, formal or not, they mark a departure from the party's 2019 position and creates some light between the party and its (formal) former standard bearer. 

However, it will likely be Trump moving forward who will freeze the potential field of 2024 Republican candidates and not the Republican National Committee. But this is one to track as the invisible primary lurches forward. 

Recent posts: 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Hawley and Shermanesque/Sherman-ish Statements

Yesterday, Business Insider ran with a scoop that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) had briefly answered that he was not running for president in 2024. Now, on the surface that is both a splashy comment and scoop from someone who had since the 2020 election neither been shy about his 2024 intentions nor inactive on what one might call the invisible primary front. And even if neither of those are exactly true, Hawley's name has been bandied about in 2024 chatter and his actions -- particularly around the electoral vote tabulation in a joint session of Congress -- have been interpreted through a 2024 invisible primary lens as an attempted play at the Trump end of the Republican Party spectrum.

But here is the thing: This is not Hawley's first time saying no to a 2024 run. CNN asked him that question back in November 2020. His response? "I'm not."

Neither blunt denial, however, is all that Shermanesque. "No, I'm not running," and "I'm not" are not definitive declinations. Both leave the door wide open to, if not a change of heart, then to simply saying something along the lines of "I wasn't running then, but I am now," later on down the line. The trick for the Shermanesque statement is always whether one can effectively add "yet" to the end of the turndown response.

Compare "No, I'm not running," with Sherman's "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected." A "yet" can be added to the former but is much harder to tack onto the latter. Hawley, then, was not Shermanesque in either his November or January responses. 

But was he Sherman-ish? 

That is a different question spurred by a variation on the Shermanesque statement that gained some notoriety around the time of the 2018 midterms when the candidate side of the 2020 invisible primary was beginning to heat up. It was around that time that both Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) responded to 2020 questions with answers that looked like some variation on, "I intend to serve the full six years of my [Senate] term." Now, obviously, in O'Rourke's case that was rendered moot when he lost the election to Texas' incumbent, junior senator, Ted Cruz (R). But when he said it -- before the election -- serving the full Senate term was still at stake. 

But for Gillibrand, the statement, before and after the 2018 midterms, was not a clear denial. However, it, on the one hand, kind of painted her into a corner, but on the other, kept the door open to at least "exploring" a run for the 2020 Democratic nomination. The lengths of that exploration can be wide ranging. In her case, Gillibrand ran for 2020 -- and with a formal entry -- up until August 2019. But she never ran in 2020.

The key in the Sherman-ish statement is that "painting oneself into the corner" bit. It is not a definitive "no," but it does potentially set up roadblocks to entry later. No one wants to start a campaign off by having to answer "why did you change your mind/why are you abandoning your word and/or constituents to run?" questions (not that that is any serious obstacle).

The true measure of running or not running is less what the prospective candidates say and more about what they do. Follow those actions and one will get a much better sense of what is happening in the invisible primary. 

In Hawley's case, the statements have been neither Shermanesque nor Sherman-ish, but his actions have maybe pointed elsewhere. Yes, that includes his very public position-taking on the electoral college tabulation. But it also includes things like out-of state fundraisers (like the one that got canceled in Florida in the wake of the events of January 6).

Thursday, January 21, 2021

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Biden Running for Re-election

Four years after President Trump immediately upon being inaugurated filed to run for re-election in 2020, surrogates of President Biden took a verbal although not formal step in the same direction. 

Senator Chris Coons (D), the newly inaugurated president's fellow Delawarean, let Politico know very simply that, "He is planning to run again."

Now, part or perhaps all of this feels obligatory. No president wants to kick off his or her term as a lame duck. That gives both Congress and the bureaucracy license to dig in over time and resist or obstruct changes both big and small. This move, then, heads that off, albeit likely only temporarily. 

It also holds at bay other prospective Democrats waiting in the wings. That group, including the newly installed vice president, now has to take an even more wait-and-see approach to any possible 2024 run for the Democratic nomination. But unlike Congress and the bureaucratic end of the executive branch, those potential candidates still have time. And while there may be a flurry of early activity on the rules side for 2024 among Democrats, the majority of visible invisible primary activity is going to continue to occur among the Republicans who are likely to seek the party's nomination in likely just two years time. 

So candidate emergence, to the extent it is going to continue happening as 2024 slowly approaches is going to be a mostly Republican action. 

Recent posts: 

A Few Notes on the 2024 Presidential Primary Calendar

On the first full day of the newly sworn-in Biden administration and a day after the 2020 election cycle came to a close at the federal level, the invisible primary quietly trundled on toward the next presidential cycle. No, not everyone is ready to begin listening to or reading chatter about 2024, but it is happening. And while FHQ has made some passing mention of 2024 activities on social media in early 2021 (and before), we will begin where we often do: with a particular focus on the 2024 presidential primary calendar.

Yes, there is a very long way to go -- 1110 days until (tentative) Iowa caucuses on February 5, 2024 -- but as in the past, since-passed cycles offer a window into what the starting baseline calendar will (probably might) look like in roughly three years time. State laws continue to provide the most guidance as to when the majority of states will hold their delegate selection events next time around. Those laws can, and in some cases will, change over the next few years. But for now, the statutes are the statutes. 

Here are a few things to bear in mind about this initial iteration of the 2024 calendar early in this current invisible primary:

1. For starters, the four early states have no official dates yet. They are always among (if not) the last states to settle the dates for their contests. But the national parties have done a reasonable job during the 2016 and 2020 cycles of informally coordinating the calendar and keeping potential rogue states outside of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina in line. If one assumes that that holds in 2024, then one can project where those protected four states will end up. 

Iowa would kick things off on February 5 with the primary in New Hampshire following eight days later on February 13 based on the last couple of cycles. Now, moving on to Nevada and South Carolina is where things get a bit messier. While the two parties have agreed that Nevada and South Carolina would be among the earliest group of states, they have yet to agree on how to order the pair of states added to the early calendar for the first time in 2008. Democrats have tended to slot the Silver state caucuses third and the Palmetto state primary fourth, just before Super Tuesday. But Republicans, on the other hand, have always placed South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary third with Nevada bringing up the early calendar rear. 

When both parties have competitive nomination races -- not a given for 2024 -- then the South Carolina Republican primary and Nevada Democratic caucuses have tended to fall on the same date. But the Nevada Republican caucuses have been less settled. FHQ has opted to tentatively place it alongside the Democratic caucuses in the Silver state to start for a couple of reasons. One is that those Republican caucuses have been all over the place on the calendar. But second, there is also talk of a transition to a primary in Nevada. Such a move would make it more likely that the Democratic and Republican contests would fall on the same date as in the vast majority of primary states. But again, that would potentially leave the very date on which that contest falls more uncertain. 

That is why these dates on the FHQ calendar are all tentative (based on past information) at this point. All of this, including the order, number and identity of the early states (if any) on any rules the two national parties finalize in the summer of 2022. 

2. There are also at this time a couple of states -- Louisiana and New York -- that have contests on the books that would run afoul of the (likely) national party delegate selection rules. And both are a function of local quirks. New York is seemingly the biggest threat on February 6, a day after tentative Iowa caucuses. But since 2008, when New York held a then-compliant primary on the first Tuesday in February, it has been the custom for the New York legislature to leave the February date as is until late in the legislative session the year before the presidential election. It is then, typically in June, that the legislature in consultation with the state parties drafts legislation to codify the delegate selection plan for both parties. Any law enacted thereafter expires at the end of the presidential election year (December 31) and the whole cycle begins anew. The Empire state, then, while scheduled for February 6 is currently non-compliant but no risk of going rogue. 

The quirk in Louisiana is but a calendar/cycle quirk. The presidential primary in the Pelican state is scheduled for the first Saturday in March. In most cycles, that position follows the first Tuesday in March when non-carve-out states are allowed by the national parties to begin holding primaries and caucuses. In 2024, however, the first Saturday of March precedes that first Tuesday in March. This is a small fix and will likely be reviewed in 2023, but the Louisiana primary as currently scheduled by state law would be non-compliant under the likely national party rules. 

All in all, this is a very limited group of rogue (but not really rogue) states to begin the cycle. Both are easy or routine fixes that will end up being non-controversial. 

3. Most of the states without official contest dates are caucus states or party-run primary states. Among that group, dates are rarely set in state party rules. Hawaii Republicans are the exception to that rule. Most state parties wait until the year before the presidential election to set a timeline for delegate selection in the plans they submit to the national parties for a green light. 

But there are also a handful of states and/or territories where the primary dates are unresolved on purpose. Georgia's legislature ceded the date-setting authority for its primary to the secretary of state for the 2012 cycle. That is akin to how New Hampshire handles the scheduling of its primary. And the primary in the Peach state can fall any time before the second Tuesday in June.  

4. Bear in mind that all of this is in flux. Some of these laws will change. In fact, there were a handful of states in 2020 that explored different dates, but none of them made any changes. That may give some indication of future maneuvering, but typically that action will not occur until 2023. That does not mean that there will not be legislation, successful or otherwise, that will will be introduced between now and then. But such legislation is rarely successful. The most urgency on the scheduling of primaries and caucuses comes after the national parties finalize their rules for the cycle and during the state legislative sessions that begin following the midterm elections. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Presidential Primary Movement (So Far and Yet to Come)

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the day that was...

Presidential primary maneuvering in 2019 has gotten off to a slow start.

Obviously, the 2017 shift of the California primary weighs heavily on how one views primary movement for the 2020 cycle. And while states have changed the dates of presidential primary elections in years other than the year before the presidential election year -- like California, North Carolina and the District of Columbia have done for 2020 -- that sort of movement is the exception rather than the rule. States tend to act under a couple of primary conditions. First, legislators often wait for a period of time when there is either more urgency to move or more information to better position a contest on the calendar is available. That combination of urgency and information aligns best when newly-elected state legislatures convene after the midterm elections.

In other words, that is right now in the quadrennial cycle.

And yet, things are seemingly off to a slow start. There are at least a couple of reasons for that. For those with memories longer than just the last cycle, recall that 2011 saw a flurry of activity as a host of states with February (or earlier) contests codified in state law had to make changes to comply with new national party rules that no longer allowed February primaries. State legislatures shot out of the gate in early in 2011 and kept a constant stream of legislation going into the summer months.

But not every state played along with the new rules in 2012 and so the Republican Party in particular increased its penalties for violating the timing restrictions placed on states for scheduling their primaries and caucuses. Cleaning up that residual 2012 mess for the 2016 cycle again provided a more narrowly cast urgency to some states to move and comply with the rules.

Before 2015, four states -- Arizona, Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina -- had changed their dates for 2016. Two of those -- Arizona and Florida -- were rules breakers from 2012 and shifted back to compliant dates. Another, North Carolina, had moved to a more provocative, non-compliant position on the calendar. Combined, that alleviated some but not all of the state-level need to move. But by March 8, 2015, there still had been 20 bills introduced in state legislatures across the country, and while no state had officially moved in 2015, Florida was less than two weeks from codifying legislation to further clarify the date of the primary in the Sunshine state.

Early 2019 looks similar to 2015, but without the leftover rules breakers from the previous cycle. Yes, three states moved prior to 2019, two of them shifting a sizable chunk of delegates with them into earlier in March, but thus far just 16 bills have been proposed to change the dates of presidential primary elections in 2019 (and that includes the two 2016 caucus states, Maine and Utah, attempting to create and use presidential primaries for 2020). That is a far cry from the chaos of 2011.

Nevertheless, there are a handful of wildcards out there with the potential to add to the calendar logjam in March 2020. Colorado Democrats may be signaling a Super Tuesday primary, but that date can be officially set for any of the first three Tuesdays in March by the governor and secretary of state any time before September 1 this year. Georgia, too, grants the date-setting discretion to an officer outside of the legislature, the secretary of state. And new Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger (R) has until December 1 at the latest to settle on a date for the primary in the Peach state. Finally, New York remains a question mark. There have been some indications that a March date may be in the offing. However, that likely will not be settled until toward the end of the state legislative session in June if the past two cycles are any indication.

And keep an eye on the remaining Democratic caucus states as well. Those have tended to fall in the earlier part of the calendar in competitive cycles. Those states like Colorado and Georgia above could move into March outside of state legislatures where, so far, more attention has been granted to presidential candidate ballot access (proposed tax return requirements) than to maneuvering on the primary calendar.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Announcements: Sherrod Brown takes a surprising pass on a White House run.

2. #MoneyPrimary: Inslee is not shy about accepting super PAC support.

3. #StaffPrimary: This is not about recent hires by any campaign, but instead about the diversity among campaign managers on board with the various Democratic campaigns at this point.

4. #[Non]EndorsementPrimary: Unlike her rivals, Gillibrand is struggling to pull in home-state support. Part of this can be explained away by the fact that the junior New York senator remains in exploratory mode, but only part.  That does tell us something, but we can do better than a simple binary treatment of the aggregation of endorsement data. There are tiers even here. Which candidates have locked down their home state delegations? Which have not? There are degrees there that help us at this early stage to begin to differentiate between candidates. Booker, for instance, fits in the former category while Warren falls into the latter. That, too, tells us something or at the very least gives rise to questions of why the disparity between the two despite being from similarly-sized blue states. Anyway, we can do better than haves and have nots even at this point in time. But Gillibrand is certainly in have not territory here.

5. #EndorsementPrimary: Harris gains the support of three San Francisco area mayors and another from further south in Long Beach. The junior California senator also reeled in the support of DC's attorney general.

6. Travelogue: Sanders hit Iowa before he heads to New Hampshire this weekend. DeBlasio will continue his early state tour in South Carolina. Inslee stopped by the Hawkeye state as well.

7. Moulton is still mulling, now on national security grounds. Of course, this is terrain that Biden has begun to emphasize as well.

8. Hickenlooper states the obvious: finish strong in Iowa or New Hampshire or go home. That is true for him and just about every other Democratic candidate.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Is Bernie Sanders a Democrat Under the 2020 Democratic Rules?

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the day that was...

The answer is yes.

But since Sanders has now thrown his hat in the 2020 Democratic ring, since the rules have changed a bit since 2016, and since this keeps coming up on the areas of social media still relitigating the 2016 Democratic primary (and with greater frequency on Sander 2020, day one), FHQ will weigh in on the matter.

But FHQ will weigh in with the goal of ultimately posing another, perhaps, more important question.

However, before that, let's first lay out what both the 2020 Democratic Delegate Selection Rules (Rule 13.K.1) and the Call for the 2020 Democratic National Convention (Section VI) say about who the party views as an eligible candidate for its nomination.

Both offer discretion to the DNC chair to determine who is a "bona fide Democrat" and an overlapping definition of what that means. Basically, a Democrat in the eyes of the Democratic National Committee is someone "whose record of public service, accomplishment, public writings and/or public statements affirmatively demonstrates that the candidate is faithful to the interests, welfare, and success of the Democratic Party of the United States."

The Call also adds that a candidate must affirm in writing that they are a member of the Democratic Party (something that does not require registration with the party), will accept the party's nomination, and run and serve as a member of the party.

[The candidate affirmation form can be found in Appendix E of the Call.]

All of this is the same basic framework Sanders and the DNC agreed to during the 2016 cycle. But it has now been formally added to the nomination rules of the party. If Sanders qualified in 2016, then he will qualify for 2020.

One member of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee placed some emphasis on the timing of the affirmation; that it is to happen upon the public announcement of candidacy. That is a fair point, but it raises a different question: Have any of the announced candidates followed this newly codified protocol and signed the affirmation form?

The answer is no. Sanders may be under the spotlight, but he is not the only candidate who has to submit the form. And none have done so as of yet because the DNC has yet to distribute the forms to the various announced campaigns. That will happen at a meeting the DNC has set up for next week.

But the initial question should be put to rest. Sanders is a Democrat under the new rules.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. #StaffPrimary: Sanders adds a campaign manager.

2. #MoneyPrimary: The Vermont senator also had a productive first 24 hours on the fundraising front.

3. #EndorsementPrimary: And although the fundraising was a bigger signal, Sanders was able to point to a handful of meaningful endorsements on day one. Patrick Leahy was among them. The senior Vermont senator brings Sanders Senate endorsement total to one, the same number he had in all of the 2016 cycle. [Note: Sanders already had the support of Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA).] While that continues the trend of primarily home state support for the announced candidates, it is not the show of force a candidate returning for round two might otherwise want in an attempt at unifying the party behind him.

4. Gov. Baker (R-MA) is not yet ready to line up behind Weld 2020.

5. Delaney keeps plugging away in Iowa, opening a field office in Waterloo.

6. Sure, Biden leads in a South Carolina poll (and one in New Hampshire too), but at what point do we stop saying either 1) this is a reflection of name recognition and/or 2) state polls are largely reflecting national polls at this point? Not yet.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The Difficulties in Harris Locking Down California

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the days that were...

It is not any secret that the Kamala Harris campaign is making every effort to make the senator's home state of California its strategic centerpiece.

There is no lack of elected Democratic officials in the Golden state, and Harris has rolled out a steady drip, drip, drip of endorsements from statewide office-holders to those in the state legislature. In addition, her campaign is stocked with those seasoned in California politics. And it should be noted that her home state is a known ATM for Democratic presidential nomination fundraising; one where Harris has already shown some promise.

In sum, that is a recipe -- home state with a natural fundraising base and elected officials and campaign staff are eager to get on board -- for an attempt at warding off the competition.

But, of course, that is much easier said than done. While Team Harris is attempting to make California in 2020 to her what Iowa was to Tom Harkin in 1992, that is no small task.


For starters, Harris is not to California now what Harkin was to Iowa in 1992: an experienced legislator. That has its pros and cons in presidential nomination politics to be sure. More importantly, however, California is not Iowa. There are too many delegates there for other campaigns to leave on the table; to cede outright to Harris. That will draw other campaigns in, but to what extent?

From the perspective of Sean Clegg, a strategist with the Harris campaign, the forecast looks something like this:
"We believe the early primary, early voting, and the cost of communicating will make it virtually impossible for all but the top two or three candidates to play in the state in a meaningful way."
There is a finite amount of money floating around out there, and two to three candidates (including Harris) making a legitimate statewide push in California sounds about right. Others may make a play at some specific congressional district delegates in the state, but that is a tougher move that requires the type of targeting, the know-how of which may be concentrated in only a few campaigns (the most resourced).

But that is the way to "beat" Harris in California: a serious challenger or two and a death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy from others. The goal? To minimize any significant delegate advantage the junior California senator takes from the state.

The last two competitive Democratic presidential nomination cycles have seen candidates establish small but durable delegate advantages early on. Obama in 2008 used a caucus strategy along with a post-Super Tuesday winning streak through the remainder of February to develop a lead in the delegate count that he never relinquished. Similarly, Clinton's strength among African American voters in the 2016 SEC primary states laid the groundwork for a delegate lead that never really contracted between her and Sanders.

If one is in the Harris campaign, then, California is absolutely part of a path of least resistance to a similar delegate advantage (assuming there are also victories -- actual or relative to expectations -- in the early states). But that sort of 80-100 delegate advantage in California alone is unlikely. In the past, it has required the winning candidate to approach or exceed 60 percent of the vote statewide in a contest with a significantly winnowed field. Now, strange things -- atypical to past nomination cycles -- may occur with a less winnowed field and a 15 percent threshold stretched across the allocation of statewide and congressional district delegates.

However, even if the opposition to Harris is able to minimize the delegates she gains from the Golden state any advantage may play into a larger delegate acquisition elsewhere on Super Tuesday. And if other candidates are drawn to spend money to close the gap with Harris in California, then those are resources not being spent elsewhere. It is that zero-sum game that provides Harris with a structural, calendar-based advantage at this point.

But it is an advantage that probably cannot hold up or be fully realized without some success first in February. And that success is built during the invisible primary.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Announcements: Sanders is in, skipping the exploratory phase counter to previous reporting. Weld is exploring on the Republican side. Tammy Baldwin is not running. Merkley signals that perhaps he is inching away from a White House bid.

2. #MoneyPrimary: Sanders has also joined the group of candidates who, after launch, have quickly taken in donations from all 50 states. Bullock's PAC has done some limited spending in the early states. Brown becomes the latest Democrat to shun corporate PAC money. One outside group is working to insure that a black candidate is on the Democratic ticket.

3. #StaffPrimary: Klobuchar adds staff in Iowa. And she is not the only one with a budding team in the Hawkeye state. Iowa is not the only early state where there is a battle for staff. South Carolina is witnessing its own race for campaign talent. Campaigns are looking beyond the first states too. Bringing on staff in California is a signal of the intricacies the Golden state adds to the early half of the 2020 calendar.

4. #EndorsementPrimary: Harris continues to notch notable California endorsements, adding the support of Gov. Newsom, Rep. Lee and activist, Delores Huerta. Delaney continues a small scale build up by adding more county chair endorsements in Iowa. And the chase is on for the endorsements of the newest members of Congress; the newest superdelegates.

5. Travelogue: Candidates spent quite a bit of time in Iowa and New Hampshire over the long the Presidents Day weekend. Among the candidates who have not been to either of the first two states yet, Bennet will make his maiden trip this week to Iowa.  Jim Clyburn's daughter has become a go-to shepherd for candidates trekking to South Carolina.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The DNC Debate Qualification Rules Are In

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the day that was...

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday filled in the remaining details about its upcoming initial round of presidential primary debates. Thus far, the party had announced the scheduling of the debates for the rest of 2019 and into 2020, but had remained largely mum on how candidates could qualify for entry other than to generally say entry would happen through polling and "grassroots fundraising".

That changed with today's announcement from the party.

For the most part, the DNC followed its rubric from 2016 with respect to the polling metric. Candidates can still qualify for a spot in the debate by registering at least one percent in at least three polls of which the party approves.

But in another innovation for the 2020 cycle, the DNC also added another marker candidates can hit to gain entry to the first debate(s). Modeled after the federal matching funds system in some ways, the DNC will also allow candidates who demonstrate a fundraising base of 65,000 donors spread across at least 20 states (with a minimum of 200 donors per state) into the debates as well.

That is a new spin on the matching funds system. The focus there has always been on the amount of money raised; at least $100,000 or $5000 in each of at least 20 states. But for debates entry, the metric is slightly different. The DNC is requiring some demonstration of grassroots support via fundraising, and is thus more focused on the breadth of the network of donors rather than the depth of that fundraising (the warchest accrued).

Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, for example, have all touted the fact that they raised money from all 50 states in the immediate wake of their announcements. Each is also above one percent in most polls that have been conducted to this point in the race. And that does raise a question  about where the bar is set for debates entry and whether there might be too many candidates to qualify.

The DNC answered that too.

Neither of the two randomly drawn debate fields for the first and second debate rounds in June and July will have any more than ten candidates on the stage at once. And if too many candidates qualify, the party will accept candidates who have met both qualification standards and use polling to differentiate further if necessary.

Left unanswered by the DNC is whether the qualifications standards will increase after July. The threshold announced will only apply to the first debates. But will the bar be raised when debates resume in September and incrementally go up thereafter? The debates will likely see the 20 slots filled in June and may serve at least some winnowing role as 2019 progresses. But if the threshold to qualify for debates progresses as well, then that winnowing role may be enhanced.

On DNC Debate Requirements and Candidate Strategy

What Will a "Grassroots Fundraising" Threshold for Entry to Democratic Primary Debates Look Like?

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Warren names a campaign manager. #StaffPrimary

2. Bill Weld is going to have something to announce at Politics and Eggs.

3. Although many have been sitting on the sidelines as the race comes a bit more into focus, big Democratic donors have been hearing from Biden. #MoneyPrimary

4. Swalwell appears to finally be on the verge of jumping in.

5. Gillibrand has made some hires, including someone recently on Sherrod Brown's reelection campaign in 2018. #StaffPrimary

6. Martha Coakley is raising money for Harris. As signals go, this is a former Massachusetts attorney general helping someone other than the Massachusetts senator in the race. #MoneyPrimary #EndorsementPrimary?

7. Klobuchar had some success raking in some money after her snowy announcement. The Minnesota senator raised $1 million in the two days after and with all 50 states represented. #MoneyPrimary

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Klobuchar, Minnesota and the Primary Calendar

Thoughts on some aspect of the invisible primary and links to the movements during the days that recently were...

Over the weekend, Amy Klobuchar announced her intentions to make a run at the White House. Some of the reaction has focused on a campaign in its infancy and its early focus on midwestern states. That is a reasonable general election strategy in light of Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin flipping to the red column and the loss of ground the party incurred in Minnesota (while still holding on there at the presidential level).

But as FHQ pointed out, this is not exactly a sound strategy in the presidential nomination process. While Iowa certainly kicks the process off, the midwest is underrepresented early in the 2020 presidential primary calendar. In some ways, this raises the stakes for Klobuchar in Iowa, but that is not anything that is unique to her. Many candidates will run Iowa-or-bust campaigns. But not all candidates will attempt to make a win in Iowa, whether outright or relative to expectations, about their strength in the midwest. Indeed, given the calendar, some candidates may point toward their performance in the Hawkeye state as appealing to a particular constituency within the broader party network that better aligns with the next contest or round of contests.

Yes, FHQ is oversimplifying things here, but with a purpose in mind.

Here is the thing: Klobuchar may get some helpful calendar clarity within a few weeks. Although the next midwest contests after Iowa are technically Michigan and Ohio on March 10, Minnesota may join Super Tuesday on March 1 of this year. Yes, the Land of 10,000 Lakes has made the transition from caucus to primary for the 2020 cycle, but part of that former caucus law carried over one important aspect of the caucus process: the scheduling portion. As under the old caucus system, the parties have the option of selecting and agreeing on an alternative date for the primary. If the two major parties either cannot settle on an alternative or refuse to select an alternative, then the date of the new presidential primary is set for the first Tuesday in March.

That would add Minnesota into the mix on Super Tuesday alongside California, Texas, North Carolina and others, and perhaps provide a midwestern -- and home turf -- contest for Klobuchar (or others) if they are able to survive the first month of contests.

As of now, there is no reporting out of Minnesota about any alternatives being considered, so March 3 is the odds on favorite for a landing spot for the new primary. One way or another, that will get locked in by March 1, 2019

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. In candidacy announcement news, both Warren and Klobuchar have officially thrown their hats in the 2020 ring. Bloomberg follows O'Rourke in setting the end of February as the deadline for a 2020 decision. Sanders, on the other hand, is likely to go the exploratory committee route in February before later launching a full-fledged campaign.

2. Several others are making moves on the periphery of the invisible primary. Moulton is mulling, De Blasio is going to take a trip up north to the Granite state (or not), Holder is set to give a speech in Iowa (and announce by the end of the month), Bennet is running early sate digital ads, Abrams is casting a wide net following her State of the Union response, and Swalwell continues to say a decision on his 2020 plans is close.

3. And then there are folks like Mitch Landrieu who are seemingly passing on a 2020 bid. Joe Kennedy fits that category as well. And both were really only mentioned as possibilities without doing many of the things associated with folks who run or consider running.

4. On the travel front, Klobuchar (see above) is seemingly making the midwest a focus with treks to Iowa and Wisconsin planned on the heels of her announcement. Gillibrand made her maiden voyage as a candidate to the Palmetto state, and Hickenlooper stopped in there as well. Buttigieg and Gabbard have hit Iowa following their announcements and Bullock is heading back that way for the first time since last August.

5. In the #MoneyPrimary, Klobuchar has joined the group of candidates swearing off corporate PAC money for the 2020 cycle. California remains a presidential nomination ATM, and that includes Hollywood. Booker has a super PAC aligned with his run, but does not want it. [The New Jersey senator also has a trip planned to fundraise in the Golden state.] And there is another story about Democratic donors playing the waiting game.

6. Harris continues to make moves in the #StaffPrimary. This time adding two more to her Iowa staff and both have experience with either Clinton's or Obama's past campaigns. The California senator has also hired someone with some fundraising chops, tacked on another veteran hand in New Hampshire, and added to her South Carolina operation. Harris is not alone. Warren, too, is assembling a team in the Hawkeye state. Even Hickenlooper has gotten in on the action in Iowa.

7. There still do not appear to be many breaks in the early #EndorsementPrimary trend. Announced candidates so far are getting support from home state elected officials. Klobuchar had a big showing of elected official support at her snowy rollout. Warren picked up the support of Joe Kennedy. Harris continues to rollout home state endorsements. Even Brown, through the Draft Sherrod movement, seemingly has some Ohio-based support. Gillibrand has thus far had no such luck. Not only is Governor Cuomo more focused on Biden's potential candidacy, but Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) appears to be following suit.

8. Meanwhile, the early states have not really heard much from Biden, but folks on Capitol Hill have. Strategists, however, have their doubts about a Biden run.

9. Money is not the only thing the candidates are after from California. Their campaigns are trying to figure how the Golden state fits into their 2020 strategies. That is an important story, but there is much to the consideration about how to tackle California.

10. Yes, the idea has been floated, but according to the South Carolina Republican Party, nothing has been settled with respect to canceling the presidential primary there in 2020. That decision will come later this year at the state convention.

11. Dave Hopkins nudges back on lanes and other schema for assessing the progress of the presidential nomination process.

12. Finally, Iowa Democrats have a draft delegate selection plan, and it looks like New Hampshire is satisfied that virtual caucuses do not equate to a "similar contest". Dave Redlawsk provides a synopsis of the changes and Jonathan Bernstein gives a big picture reaction as well.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Ranked Choice Voting in the New Hampshire Primary?

Thoughts on some aspect of the invisible primary and links to the movements during the days that recently were...

Last week's AP story on the bill that would bring ranked choice voting to the presidential primary in New Hampshire had made its way around enough that by the weekend several folks reached out to ask FHQ how well the plan, if adopted, would jibe with the longstanding proportionality mandate layered into the DNC delegate selection rules.

And my answer at the time was that it depends.

It depends on how the system is set up in the legislation. The classic conception of ranked choice voting is of the system determining one winner. It does this by reallocating votes from the least preferred candidates until one most preferred candidate emerges. This is how the system under its maiden voyage in Maine worked during the 2018 midterm elections.

But the goal is different under the Democratic presidential nomination rules. Reallocating votes until one winner is determined would be a system set up to allocate all of the delegates to the winner in a hypothetical New Hampshire primary run like Maine's elections were last fall. Clearly that would not fly under the provisions of the Democratic proportionality mandate.

And the New Hampshire bill is crafted with this in mind. Instead of reallocating votes until one winner is determined, the proposed New Hampshire system would cut the reallocation off at 15 percent. The votes of candidates with less than 15 percent of the vote -- statewide and in the congressional districts -- would be shifted to candidates above that threshold based on the ranked preferences of voters.

That would not only seemingly be consistent with the DNC rules requiring a proportional allocation of delegates but would allow all voters to weigh in on the ultimate delegate allocation. Under the current system of delegate allocation at the state level, only votes for the candidates above the 15 percent qualifying threshold count toward the allocation of delegates.

It is not clear that this bill will either gain traction in New Hampshire or pass muster with the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. The idea of ranked choice voting never really came up in any meaningful way during the Unity Reform Commission deliberations on the 2020 rules during 2017 or when the baton was passed to the Rules and Bylaws Committee in 2018. It was, however, raised at the DNC meeting in Chicago in August 2018 that ultimately adopted the 2020 delegate selection rules. The motion to include ranked choice voting at the primary stage and at convention voting was dismissed, but not necessarily because there was no appetite for it. Rather, it late in the game to add something to the rules without the sort of consideration the rules that were changed received over a two year process.

This bill passing and being signed into law would force the RBC to weigh in on the matter, but that remains a ways and many steps in the legislative process in the Granite state away.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Big donors may still largely be on the sidelines, but Harris is finding some fundraising success in her own backyard. Brown is going to have to play catch up in the #MoneyPrimary. And Hickenlooper is going to have to expand his fundraising base beyond Colorado.

2. The #StaffPrimary has picked up steam over the last week. Gillibrand has made some Iowa hires. Harris tapped a couple of big names in Iowa to be a part of her campaign in the Hawkeye state. Inslee's PAC is advertising positions that sound like they may ultimately be a part of a presidential campaign. Brown has a campaign manager-in-waiting. Delaney has added staff in New Hampshire. And Booker has lined up an experienced crew across Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

3. Booker is officially in.

4. Harris' rollout has coincided with a couple of Californians bowing out of the 2020 race. LA mayor, Eric Garcetti, has done more of the typical things that prospective presidential candidates do. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has not other than going to New Hampshire and not quelling the discussions of him running. Both have now ended the discussion, and Harris is the only Golden state candidate still officially running. Swalwell may change that in the near future. #CaliforniaWinnowing

5. The #StaffPrimary is not the only component of the #InvisiblePrimary that is heating up. The first trickle of endorsements in the #EndorsementPrimary are starting to emerge. Harris has claimed a trio of House endorsements from members of the California delegation, most recently from Rep. Katie Hill and Rep. Nanette Barragan. Fresh off of his announcement, Cory Booker picked up a couple of Garden state endorsements from Senator Menendez and Governor Murphy. Meanwhile in Iowa, John Delaney has the support of a handful of rural county party chairs in the Hawkeye state. The early trend is inaction on the part of superdelegates, but the ones who are endorsing early are from the home states of the candidates who have announced. One exception is Harry Reid. His support of Warren is an endorsement without an endorsement. The only way to really test that is if Reid ends up helping some other candidate or candidates. Otherwise, he has endorsed Warren.

6. Is it Iowa or bust for Sherrod Brown?

7. Schultz passed on the Democratic nomination, but is heading to where the 2020 attention is.

8. Moulton remains mum on 2020 in New Hampshire.

9. Draft Beto hits New Hampshire as it awaits an announcement by the end of the month.

10. If the 2020 Democrats are strategically looking beyond the first few states on the primary calendar, it is not showing it in their travel itineraries. Warren is trekking to a series of states that have March 3 or earlier primary dates after her planned February 9 announcement. Gillibrand spent the last weekend in New Hampshire, and Brown was in Iowa. Harris, too, is hitting all four February states. And Booker is initially going to get to three of those four. And overall, candidates, announced or not, are visiting the Hawkeye state, and there is more to come in February.

11. Is Bill Weld going to challenge President Trump in the Republican primaries?

12. Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is looking to clamp down on the Republican nomination process in 2020 to ward off challengers.

13. Amy Klobuchar is going to Iowa and is maybe up to something else this coming weekend.

14. Finally, Biden is seemingly in campaign-in-waiting mode.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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