Showing posts with label 1980 presidential primaries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1980 presidential primaries. Show all posts

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: Reading Room

This is part five in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future. You can also find part one (National Primary with a Twist) here, part two (Two Birds, One Stone) here and the first installment of part three (Fair and Representative Presidential Primaries Act of 2009) here (second installment here). Finally, part four (covering the implications for reform based on the National Association of Secretaries of State change-over of power) can be found here.

I wanted to close Presidential Primary Reform Week with a heads up on some great reading out there on the subject. Yes, if you've tuned into this series of posts since last Monday, you've already been given a lot to look at and read, but there are a couple of books (one already out and one to-be-released book) that are on my wish list for the near future -- in times that are less dissertation-dominated.

The first book is an edited volume -- Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process by Steven S. Smith and Melanie J. Springer -- that the Brookings Institution released earlier this year. In fact, a made a similar claim about this book being on my wish list about a year ago before it hit the shelves. Eerie, isn't it? The entire process is seemingly broken down, but the book ends with chapters from Larry Sabato calling "reform by constitutional amendment," Thomas Mann dissecting the reform fallout from 2008 and Dan Lowenstein discussing congressional intervention in the process. I've mentioned the Lowenstein chapter before and it bears mentioning here again. It is the piece that breaks the system of reform down from a legal perspective and has the most usefulness for our discussions here. Highly recommended reading.

The details are sketchier for Barbara Norrander's new book on reform. It is, depending on where you look, it is due out either in September or next year sometime. However, around FHQ, this will be highly anticipated reading. Norrander has made a career in political science out of researching the nomination process (just look at her publications and this thorough list of primaries literature on her website -- pdf) and her upcoming book on reform shouldn't disappoint. Well, it won't disappoint me, anyhow. Here's the publisher's blurb on the book, Can Presidential Primaries Be Reformed?:
"Many people complain about the complex system used to nominate presidents. The system is hardly rational because it was never carefully planned. Because of the dissatisfaction over the idiosyncrasies of the current system, periodic calls arise to reform the presidential nomination process. However, the last major series of reforms from the 1970s produced many unintended consequences. Further, many of the current reform proposals are actually solutions for lesser problems and solutions for more major problems are highly unlikely to be enacted.

The main theme of the book is to be careful what you wish for. Reforming the presidential nomination process is as complex as the current system. In this book Norrander explores how presidential candidates are nominated, discusses past and current proposals for reform, and examines the possiblity for more practical, incremental changes to the electoral rules."

"Be careful what you wish for." Sounds like something uttered around these parts.

Anyway, both of these books get FHQ's seal of approval. If you're interested in learning more about the process, you probably won't have to look any further. Happy reading.

Recent Posts:
Oops! A 2012 GOP Primary Poll FHQ Missed and Another Rant on the Over-Interpretation of These Polls

Presidential Primary Reform Week: The National Association of Secretaries of State's New President

ABC/WaPo Poll: 2012 GOP Primary--Huckabee Back on Top, but...

Friday, March 14, 2008

1980 vs. 2008

I've been in the "lab" this last week working with dissertation data and noticed a bit of a quirk in the nomination calendars of past cycles. [Yes, the exciting life of a person who examines delegate selection event positioning. Ooh and technical jargon, too!] The calendar for the 1980 cycle and the one for this current cycle are exactly the same. No, I don't mean that California went on June 3 during both years because California definitely doesn't have another presidential primary planned for this year [...that I know of]. The actual yearly calendars for both years are the same though. So it was interesting to look at where states were then versus where they have gone or will go this year.

Pennsylvania drew my attention to this. I looked and saw that the Keystone state held its nominating contest on the same April 22 date in 1980 that they will hold their contest on this year. And seven other states fit the same category in one way or another. Indiana, North Carolina (both May 6) and Oregon (May 20) are holding primaries for both parties on the same dates they did in 1980. Nebraska (May 13) and Idaho (May 27) Republicans are also holding primaries on the same dates they did twenty-eight years ago. Both are state funded primaries that Democrats have opted out of. Nebraska Democrats just this cycle abandoned that third Tuesday in May date for a caucus the weekend after Super Tuesday. Idaho Democrats have long shunned the state primary in favor of a caucus (every cycle from the 1980 onward). And though Montana Democrats (June 3) have switched back and forth several times between holding independent caucuses or state run primaries to select delegates, they have opted to employ the first Tuesday in June date on which the state's primaries are typically held. Finally, Kentucky has frontloaded its primary for 2008 versus 1980; moving up a week from May 27 to May 20 over the course of those twenty-eight years.

The question is: What stands in the way of these states moving like all the rest? Well, all of these states with the exception of Indiana have moved since 1980. North Carolina and Kentucky moved up for the Southern Super Tuesday in 1988. [Actually Kentucky switched to a caucus for 1984 and was a part of a Southern Super week. Following Alabama, Florida and Georgia's second Tuesday in March contests, Kentucky, Arkansas and Mississippi all held caucuses on the Saturday after.] The legislation in both cases called for temporary moves. Oregon moved to mid-March in 1996 and Pennsylvania moved to early April in 2000 before immediately returning to their traditional dates. And even though Idaho, Montana and Nebraska have maintained the same state funded presidential primary dates throughout this period, one party has consistently shown the willingness to opt out and hold a caucus independent of the state.

Why then is Indiana different? Part of the reason is that Indiana holds their presidential primaries simultaneously with its state and local primaries. Moving entails either moving all of the primaries or creating an all new election; both of which have costs. Incidentally, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania all are in the same boat. Both Alabama and Arkansas were in similar situations before both severed the bond between presidential and state/local primaries to hold a separate presidential primary in 2008. Those moves underscore a couple of trends that have emerged. First, more and more states have been willing to split primaries over this period. There has also been a movement away from temporary moves toward more permanent moves. I would argue that as the frontloaded/Super Tuesday model became normalized, states shifted from temporary moves to test the waters of the new process to permanent moves to be a part of the established system or be left on the outside looking in.

This split primaries issue is the basis of one of my dissertation chapters, the roots of which can be found in this paper from SPSA 2007.