Showing posts with label SEC primary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SEC primary. Show all posts

Friday, February 26, 2016

SEC Primary Delegate Number Crunch

Let's do a quick simulated delegate allocation.

Bloomberg News released a Purple Strategies survey of voters in the seven southern states that will comprise the SEC primary on March 1. These numbers may prove to be off the mark when voters head to the polls on Super Tuesday. Nonetheless, if we assume that those numbers are the vote percentages in each of the seven states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia -- and their congressional districts, we can glean more than a little something from the hypothetical delegate allocation. The polling data are even more interesting in light of just how close second and third place are. Rubio and Cruz are tied at 20% each. That has some interesting implication for a simulated delegate distribution.

Before digging in, here are the assumptions of this exercise:
  1. The polling data are being treated as the vote shares of the candidates in the seven SEC primary states.
  2. That same polling data will also be treated as the vote shares of the candidates in all 75 congressional districts in the SEC primary states. [Yes, this is perhaps the assumption that asks for the largest leap of faith.]
  3. An exact tie between Cruz and Rubio makes this simulation a touch more difficult. That is particularly true when attempting to determine how to allocate the congressional district delegates. There are only three delegates in each of the 75 district. In the majority of these states the winner in a district gets two delegates and the runner-up receives the remaining one delegate. If Cruz and Rubio are tied, then the allocation of that runner-up delegate -- everywhere -- gets tough. For the purposes of this exercise, we will assume that Rubio received one more vote than Cruz on the congressional district level. Rubio was given the nod because he received more second choice support in the Bloomberg poll. 
  4. This obviously also has Cruz finishing third in his home state. That, too, may be something of a leap of faith. 

 Here's what happens:
SEC Primary Delegate Allocation Simulation
CandidateBloomberg PollAlabamaArkansasGeorgiaOklahomaTennesseeTexasVirginiaTotal

  • With 37% across all seven states and all 75 districts, Trump wins more than 55% of the delegates. This is another example of just how much the Republican delegate rules favor winners/frontrunners. 
  • Remember, we are assuming that Rubio received just one more vote than Cruz. They are both at roughly 20%, but Rubio has one more vote to push him into second place for the purposes of this exercise. That one vote make a huge difference in the delegate count. Everyone wants to win, but if you cannot win in these SEC primary states, then you definitely don't want to be in third (or lower). Why? In every state but Oklahoma and Virginia, third place means getting shut out of the congressional district haul in most cases in the other five states. This simulated allocation really drives that point home. Again, just one vote separated Rubio and Cruz, but Rubio ends up with more than twice as many delegates. This is a big deal for anyone who is consistently in third on the congressional district level. It means falling further behind in the delegate count. Third place is a bad place to be.
  • Statewide, only Trump, Rubio and Cruz clear the qualifying thresholds -- 20% in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas; 15% in Arkansas and Oklahoma. While that would mean a lot at-large delegates for Trump and that Rubio and Cruz would be allocated a similar share of at-large delegates, Cruz is getting the vast majority of his delegates from the at-large pool. Rubio's advantage is totally within the congressional districts in this exercise.
  • Overall, Trump basically carries a nearly 2:1 advantage in vote share over to an almost 2:1 advantage over Rubio in the delegate count. The New York businessman already has a more than 60 delegate advantage in the real delegate count. Not even counting the other four states allocating delegates on Super Tuesday, this hypothetical allocation of SEC primary delegates would tack another roughly 125 delegates onto that lead. Together, that would be more than the 165 delegates available on March 15 in winner-take-all Florida and Ohio. There are a number of comeback scenarios out there that are predicated on those 165 delegates.
  • Imagine if Rubio and/or Cruz slip below 20%. That would mean not qualifying delegates in the four most delegate-rich states. That would definitely be true statewide with respect to the at-large delegates, but would also apply to some of the congressional district delegates in some of those states. 
This is not a prediction. It is an exercise; a simulation. The utility here is in illustrating how the delegate allocation rules will operate in these specific circumstances (under the above assumptions). The two things demonstrated quite clearly are 1) the consistent winner gets a decided advantage in the delegate count under the rules in these states [This is not and should not be a news flash to anyone.] and 2) no candidate wants to (consistently) be in third place. The latter is a death sentence in the race for delegates.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Georgia Presidential Primary Set for March 1

This is not surprising news, but the Georgia presidential primary for 2016 is now formally set for March 1, SEC primary day.

Four years ago, the Georgia state legislature -- mimicking the method long used in New Hampshire -- ceded the power to set the date of the presidential primary in the Peach state to the secretary of state. The objective was not only to streamline the process of setting the date, but to also buy the state a bit more time in that process. By law, the work of the Georgia legislature is typically done by the beginning of May; one of the earliest adjournment points in the country. That puts Georgia at a disadvantage if other states decide to conduct earlier primaries later in that year leading up to the point at which voters are actually casting ballots in the nomination races.

So, if Florida decides late to move its primary to January, Georgia -- under the old law -- was stuck without any way of also shifting its primary to an advantageous position on the calendar.

But again, that changed in 2011. The secretary of state's office in Georgia gained the ability to set the date of the presidential primary. That made Georgia a bit of a free agent state as the calendar chaos was winding down in September 2011. Then as now, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp waited until September to finalize the date of the contest. Then as now, Secretary Kemp also set the date for the first Tuesday in March.

Unlike 2011, though, this was not much of a surprise. Kemp has spearheaded the entire SEC primary movement for the last couple of years. He has talked up the March 1 date and Georgia's place there throughout the intervening months. However, the election had not been formally set. That changed today.

Georgia is set for March 1. The Peach state will vote then alongside Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. And Georgia trails only Texas in terms of the number of delegates available (in a given state) on March  1.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Is the SEC Primary Working?

Southern politicians keep saying and the press keeps reporting that the "SEC primary is working".

That statement tends to oversimplify the dynamics at play in this instance though. Is the SEC primary working? Well, it depends on how you define "working". Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R)(and others, mind you) seem to be defining it as presidential candidates being drawn into the states participating in the effort to cluster southern presidential primaries on March 1.

But are those states drawing in more candidates/visits than was the case four years ago (or if they maintained the same positions on the calendar they had four years ago)? FHQ has touched on this before, but it bears repeating given that this same line keeps coming back up regarding the regional primary scheduled for next March. The simple answer is yes. Southern states are witnessing more candidate stops than was the case four years ago.

However, there are several explanations to the more interesting "why" question that are too readily being glossed over by the "SEC primary is working" crowd.1

1) The importance of being early.
All things held equal, any state would rather be on March 1 than June 1. Holding an earlier primary or caucus may not have a direct impact on the course of the two presidential nomination races, but one would rather weigh in before the field has been winnowed too drastically or a nominee has been identified. It was this sort of thinking that prompted the frontloading of presidential primaries and caucuses in the first place.

But if you look at the group of states participating in the SEC primary at this time only Arkansas and Texas are scheduled more than a week earlier in 2016 than they were in 2012. There may be more visits that have been paid to southern states during the 2016 cycle, but it is not solely because any member of the collective or the group of them is much earlier than in 2012.

2) One for all and all for one.
Well, perhaps it is the forming of the coalition that provides the largest impetus for increased candidate attention. Again, though, on this mark, things are not all that divergent from the 2012 baseline. Texas reverting to the first Tuesday in March date that state law there calls for is a big factor.2 But the clustering does not seem to be having a direct impact on visits.

Instead, the SEC primary grouping may have succeeded most in claiming that spot on the calendar and warding off any would-be copycats from duplicating the strategy also on March 1. The impact of any cluster of states -- or any individual state for that matter -- is contingent upon the competition it has on that date. In 1988, southern states were similarly able to crowd onto an early March date without any competition or at least any competition that offered a similar cache of delegates.

Like 1988, southern primaries have no real threat to their position on March 1, 2016. Sure, there are other states with contests on March 1, but they are neither as regional cohesive nor do they offer the number of delegates that the SEC primary does.

It should be said that the South serving as the heart of the Republican Party does not hurt the effort. A northeastern primary on March 1 would not, for example, be able to compete with a southern regional primary effectively. There might be some draw there, but most would still visit the South.

3) Calendar certainty.
At this point four years ago, Florida had yet to set a date for its presidential primary. Arizona had just threatened to move into January. With those and other states unsettled, the candidates had no idea where exactly Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina would end up.

...only that they would be first. States that followed the rules on timing and otherwise would have been on the heels of the carve-out state contests paid the price for actions outside of their borders.

Campaigns behaved accordingly. If one knows the carve-out states will be first and that the snow globe that is the next step is still being shaken, then one -- the campaigns in this case -- will focus on what they know versus what they don't. That uncertainty likely meant fewer candidate visits to states that ultimately fell into position on the calendar (but only after Florida, Arizona and others did).

The 2016 calendar is much more settled now. Campaigns have an ability during this cycle to plan ahead -- visit states deeper into the calendar -- than they did not and could not possess four years ago. And they have the luxury of doing so much earlier in the process. States as far down the calendar as March 15 have reaped the benefits, but the states in the SEC primary coalition have been big winners because of the calendar certainty. The early cluster helped too.

4) It's the field, stupid.
Finally, it should not go without saying that the size of the field of candidates should be factored into this as well. After all, more candidates yield more visits. That is a big reason why there are more visits to the South by those vying for the presidential nominations next year.

Is the SEC primary working? If the measure of that is visits to the states in the coalition, then yes. But why that is happening may be a more interesting question.

1 It should be noted that these folks have every reason to give off the impression that the regional primary is working. They have an incentive to say that more candidates are coming. It tends to bring others in.

2 An unresolved redistricting process led to the courts forcing a later (May) Texas primary in 2012.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Alabama to March 1, Joins SEC Primary

On Thursday, May 21, the Alabama House passed legislation moving the presidential primary (and those for other offices) up a week to the first Tuesday in March. The measure, SB 240, had already passed the state Senate earlier in the 2015 session.

Both moves, neither of which garnered more than three dissenting votes along the way, cleared the way for the bill to be transmitted to Governor Robert Bentley (R) for his signature. But that signature never came. Instead the bill sat on the governor's desk as the clock ran down on the state legislature's work for 2015.

This is noteworthy because that potentially put the Alabama presidential primary move in pocket veto territory; a bill passed late in the legislative session but not signed before the legislature adjourns. A bill not signed under those circumstances is vetoed. However, the legislative session ended on Thursday, June 4, two weeks after it passed both legislative chambers and was transmitted to the governor. That is close to the end of the session, but not close enough to trigger a pocket veto.

The reason for that is based on two related rules. First, bills passed by the legislature and sent to the governor have six days (not counting Sundays) to be signed. After that a passed bill becomes law without the signature of the governor. Second, due to the six day window created in that rule, only bills passed in the last five days of the legislative session are open to a pocket veto (those passed bills that do not have a full six day window for gubernatorial consideration).

The SEC primary bill was never in any danger of being pocket vetoed, but it did become law after Thursday, May 28 without Governor Bentley's signature. Alabama joins Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas on March 1. Georgia will also be a part of the southern regional primary that can also claim Oklahoma and Virginia. Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont will also conduct primaries or caucuses on that date.

UPDATE (6/9/15, 7:30pm): Odd timing, but news broke (via Mike Cason at after the posting of this piece that Governor Bentley signed SB 240 on Wednesday, May 27. That message was apparently not delivered to the Alabama state legislature as of this afternoon (screen grab):

The assignment of an act number seems to only come after a gubernatorial signature (This was the case with the 2011 bill that created a consolidated March primary.) or the expiration of the six day window mentioned above in the original text of the post.

And Secretary of State John Merrill's office press release from late this afternoon indicates that the bill will be signed tomorrow morning at 10am (screen grab):

There's a seemingly weird level of confusion on this one. Regardless, Alabama will have a March 1 presidential primary in 2016.

UPDATE (6/10/15): Ceremonial signing.

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hutchinson's Signature Moves 2016 Arkansas Presidential Primary to March

Quickly on the heels of the Arkansas state legislature wrapping up the business of its special session on Thursday, Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) signed SB 8 into law on Friday, May 29. The newly changed statute would shift the consolidated May Arkansas primaries, including the presidential primary, to the first Tuesday in March.

Arkansas now joins Tennessee and Texas on the March 1 SEC primary date on the 2016 presidential primary calendar. And despite all the legislative wrangling in both the regular and special sessions, Arkansas becomes the first state to officially move into that calendar position for 2016 during the 2015 state legislative season.1 SEC primary legislation failed in Mississippi and awaits the governor's consideration in Alabama. Georgia is also very likely to wind up on March 1.

Arkansas will share that March 1 date with those states plus neighboring Oklahoma as well as Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont and Virginia. However, the primary in the Natural state will return to its May date at the end of 2016.

1 Tennessee changed its law during 2011 for the 2012 cycle and Texas, not a part of the original SEC primary proposal, reverted to its first Tuesday in March primary date after a redistricting dispute in 2011-12 forced a temporary change. Though Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has coordinated the SEC primary effort (and holds the ultimate power to set the date of the presidential primary in the Peach state), he has not officially scheduled the 2016 Georgia presidential primary. However, it is pretty clear where Georgia will end up on the calendar.

Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News sending news of the signing on to FHQ.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Arkansas House Sends SEC Primary Bill Off to Governor Hutchinson

The Arkansas House on Thursday, May 28 passed SB 8 by a vote of 67-22. The amended version of the bill would shift the primaries for a number of offices -- including the presidential primary -- from the mid-May to the first Tuesday in March during the 2016 cycle. The compromise hammered out in the state Senate would expire at the end of 2016 returning the Arkansas primaries to May for subsequent cycles.

The House had already passed its version of the bill that would have permanently set the date of the consolidated primary for March. That same bill faced resistance in the state Senate though, forcing the compromise to only make the primaries date change for the 2016 cycle. The House passed the compromise version by a wider margin than the permanent change.

The bill now heads to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) who supported the change in his call for a special session last week.

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Arkansas Senate Passes Compromise SEC Primary Bill

Arkansas legislators worked into the evening on day two of the current special session yesterday. After failing to gather enough votes to suspend the rules and consider SB 8 on the floor of the state Senate1, senators in support of the move to join the SEC primary on March 1 redoubled their efforts to push the measure through.

Those efforts by majority party Republicans included cutting a deal with state Senate Democrats to make the move of the consolidated primary -- including the presidential primary -- to March 1 temporary. Under the provisions of the amended bill, the Arkansas presidential primary will move into the SEC primary position on the calendar, but only for the 2016 cycle. The election would automatically revert to its current May position at the end of 2016 (for the 2020 cycle). This would either save future legislators from having to change the date back to May as they have in other instances when Arkansas has moved its presidential primary forward on the calendar (see 1988 and 2008) or force them to revisit whether to hold an early primary again in 2020 and beyond.

The amended SB 8 emerged from the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee with a "Do Pass" recommendation and was subsequently passed by a 28-6 vote by the full Senate. The measure now heads to the House for consideration. The lower chamber passed the original (unamended/permanent) version of the SEC primary bill on Wednesday.

For more see coverage from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

1 The chamber was able to gain enough support to extract the bill from committee, but not enough to meet the supermajority requirement to consider the bill immediately. Without that supermajority, the bill, by rule, had to wait two calendar days before the chamber could consider it. That would have pushed the special session, originally scheduled to adjourn on Thursday, May 28, into Saturday.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Arkansas House Passes SEC Primary Bill

The Arkansas state House on Wednesday, May 27 passed HB 1006. By a vote of 56-32, the House passed the bill that would shift all primary elections in the Natural state up to the first Tuesday in March from May. Though the legislation faced resistance before getting to committee on the first day of the Arkansas special session and witnessed a number of legislators speaking against the bill on the floor today, HB 1006 passed and will now head to the Senate side of the capitol.1

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee rejected an identical bill in on day one of the special session. The real test for this version of an SEC primary bill -- a movement of a consolidated primary -- will be in the upper chamber.

1 Those speaking against the bill mostly cited problems associated with moving all of the primaries forward. That had less to do specifically with the presidential primary and dealt more with adjustments required for the primaries for the legislators themselves.

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Identical SEC Primary Bills Introduced With Mixed Reviews in Arkansas

Given the small window in which the Arkansas legislature has to act during the special session this week, things are likely to move at an expedited pace. While one anti-SEC primary bill was the first introduced on the session's first day a day ago, it was not the only bill filed. But as it turned out, HB 1002 was not the only ominous sign for the Arkansas effort to join the SEC primary on March 1 either.

The Arkansas state House and Senate also the introduction of identical bills to move all of the primaries in the Natural state from May to March. Both versions saw opposition. On the House side, HB 1006 was objected to during its introduction and second reading. However, opponents did not have the numbers to prevent the bill from being referred to the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. That committee later in the day sent the bill along to the floor with a "Do Pass" recommendation. 

The story was different in the Senate. The state Senate version of the SEC primary bill faced no pushback on its way to committee, but once it was in the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee the effort to move SB 8 along failed. Minority party Democrats voted against the legislation, effectively bottling the bill up in the committee.1 

This was one of the questions FHQ posed on the call of the the special session last week. During the regular session earlier this year, the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee (and later the full Senate) passed an SEC primary bill, but one that would have followed the example of previous Arkansas presidential primary shifts. It would have created a separate presidential primary and left all other primary election in May. An alternate bill -- one similar to the special session bill, SB 8 -- that would have moved all Arkansas primaries to March failed in committee. Entering the special session, it was an open question whether the Senate committee would balk at similar legislation (even with the governor's backing). 

It appears that question has now been answered. Though SB 8 quickly stalled in committee, the bill's sponsor, Senator Gary Stubblefield (R-6th, Branch), is contemplating discharging it from committee for consideration on the floor of the state Senate.

Overall, day one of the Arkansas special legislative session was not necessarily a positive one with respect to the SEC primary move. There was resistance in both chambers. That said, the state House will take up its version of the SEC primary bill on day two.

1 Democrats on the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee objected to moving all Arkansas primaries to March on the grounds that it would push up filing deadlines and force campaigning into holiday season in the year before the election:
Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, said it could result in an unfair advantage to incumbents. 
"You're talking about campaigning over Thanksgiving and Christmas," Chesterfield said. "We're talking about campaigning in some of the most treacherous weather around."
Others warned that history might repeat itself:
Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, also questioned whether an earlier primary date would increase Arkansas influence. With former Gov. Mike Huckabee seeking the Republican nomination and former Arkansas first-lady Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigning for the Democratic nomination, most other candidates would be reluctant to spend much time here, she suggested.
Arkansas last moved its presidential primary forward for the 2008 cycle and saw both Huckabee and Clinton run then as well. That had most candidates campaigning elsewhere, yielding the state to its favorite children.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

First Presidential Primary Bill of Arkansas Special Session Does Not Call for SEC Primary Date

In a sign of what may yet come in the short special session this week in Arkansas, the opening salvo in the effort to join the SEC primary on March 1 does not actually call for moving the presidential primary in the Natural state to March. Instead, Representative Nate Bell (R-20th, Mena), who derailed the regular session bill to create a separate presidential primary scheduled for the SEC primary date, went in a different direction.

On the opening day of the three day special session, Rep. Bell introduced HB 1002. This legislation would bump up the date of the Arkansas consolidated primary, but only to the first Tuesday in May for the 2016 cycle. Under current law, the Arkansas primary would be held on May 24, three weeks later than the proposed date from Bell. Additionally, Bell's bill would also require the state House and Senate Committees on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs to "study the effects and benefits of holding the preferential primary election and the general primary election in May" after the 2016 cycle.1

These study committees have come up from time to time and tend to lead nowhere; as in the presidential primary does not move. That was the case when Indiana in 2009 talked about but did not ultimately study the benefits of moving out of the Hoosier state's typical early May primary for something earlier.

In the Arkansas case, the study committee may be nothing more than a stall tactic. Bell chairs the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee and bottled up the previous, regular session bill there. That he has proposed alternative legislation may signal that he is willing to do the same with any SEC primary bill that may once again come over from the state Senate (with the governor's support). This is just a three day session, so running out the clock is very much an option that is on the table as far as the Arkansas effort to join the SEC primary.

1 The "general primary election" is what the runoff system is called in Arkansas. The "preferential primary election" that precedes it is what is called a primary election in the majority of states.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

SEC Primary Bill Passes Alabama House

Joining the SEC primary inched closer to reality in Alabaman this morning.

The Alabama state House on Thursday, May 21 by voice vote passed SB 240. The legislation would make only a minor tweak to the Alabama statutes, moving the consolidated primary -- including the presidential primary -- up a week to March 1. Four years ago, the Alabama legislature eliminated its separate February presidential primary and combined that election with the the June primaries for other offices. The 2011 change brought all of those elections together on the second Tuesday in March, a date that coincided with the primary in neighboring Mississippi.

Though Mississippi's bid to join the 2016 SEC primary on the first Tuesday in March failed during its regular legislative session, the Alabama shift to a week earlier on the 2016 primary calendar has now passed both chambers of the state legislature. That has Alabama poised to join Georgia*, Tennessee and Texas in the SEC primary. Tangentially regional/southern states, Oklahoma and Virginia are also scheduled to hold March 1 presidential primaries.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The SEC Primary, Seriously Y'all

Via Tim Alberta at National Journal:
Because for the first time in the modern history of the Republican Party, the path to its presidential nomination takes an early and potentially decisive detour through the South. 
As the schedule tentatively stands, following the first four nominating contests in February—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada—the campaign speeds up with a March 1 Super Tuesday dominated by Bible Belt primaries. The calendar will not be finalized until October, but Republican officials expect that at as many as six states—Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas—could wind up voting in a bloc. (It has been dubbed the "SEC primary" after the powerhouse football programs in the Southeastern Conference.) Even if Alabama and Mississippi fail to move their primaries up to March 1, they're currently scheduled to vote just one week later, on March 8, along with Oklahoma. Plus, Louisiana is holding its primary March 5, giving the South enormous influence no matter how Super Tuesday shapes up.

First time in modern history that the Republican Party has had a primary calendar with such a swing through the South? I look back sometimes and wonder where the time has gone, but 1988 is still part of the modern period of presidential nominations. In that year, the entire South with few exceptions held primaries and caucuses on March 8, a date closer to the New Hampshire primary in 1988 than the comparatively smaller group of southern states will be next year.

George H.W. Bush swept them all in 1988. Huckabee and others hope for as much in 2016. The Democrats' split decision experience in the Southern Super Tuesday in 1988 might be a better comparison though.

Now let's look at that calendar of southern contests for 2016.
Mississippi's out.
The Alabama House has been sitting on their primary bill since April.
Arkansas failed to move during its regular session, but has hope for passage during a special session.

Oklahoma is currently scheduled for March 1 after a plan to move the primary back to April failed.

North Carolina and Virginia are out there as well. Virginia is set for March 1, and North Carolina may fall anywhere in the February 23-March 8 range.

No, the calendar is not set now, but we have a pretty good idea of what it will look like. Yes, Mike Huckabee did well in the South in 2008, but there are a number of candidates who might do well in the region. That may mean a repeat of 1988.

...the Democrats' version. That would make the South -- and the SEC primary -- less decisive.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The SEC Primary Has Nothing to Do with Georgia Being More Prominent in 2016

FHQ has found Adam Wollner's reporting at the National Journal this cycle enlightening. He and I have had a handful of conversations about the primary calendar and specific maneuverings by states, and I have cited him a time or two. But Wollner lost me yesterday right in the lede of his story on Georgia's newfound position of prominence in the race for the 2016 Republican nomination.

Basically, this is a story about candidates coming to Georgia. That is fine, but the hypotheses advanced as to why the early visits are occurring fell short in FHQ's estimation. Let's explore.
Hypothesis #1: Georgia has received more visits during the 2016 cycle because of its new position on the calendar. 
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp may or may not in 2015 formally declare the date of the Georgia presidential primary as he did by law in a press conference in late September 2011. He has not yet in any event. But as Secretary Kemp is spearheading the effort to form an SEC primary coalition on March 1 and has repeatedly discussed that date, we can assume that a very strong signal has been sent as to when the Georgia presidential primary will fall in 2016.1

Even if we assume that Georgia conducts a primary on March 1, that is not a new position for the state on the primary calendar. It would be the same first Tuesday in March date on which the Georgia primary occurred in 2012. I'm having flashbacks to grad school here, but if you have a variable (calendar position) that does not vary, then you do not have anything that can explain the changes in the dependent variable (candidate visits).

Calendar positioning is not driving any increase in candidate visits then. What else?
Hypothesis #2: The SEC primary that Georgia political actors have pushed has led to more candidate visits during the 2016 presidential nomination cycle. 
This SEC primary concept is a tough one to measure. The task is even tougher in view of the fact none of the states named in the original proposal have yet moved to March 1. Tennessee was already there by state law (changed in 2011). All signs point toward Georgia being there when the calendar dust settles. Louisiana declined to participate. In Alabama, there is bipartisan support for moving their primary up a week, but it is still in the legislative process. Arkansas and Mississippi failed to pass legislation that would have moved their primaries to March 1, but Arkansas may have a second go at it.

Perhaps the strong signal that Georgia is giving about holding a March 1 primary is what is driving this (at least relative to the other states). Perhaps, but that does not really have all that much to do with the SEC primary.

FHQ is not convinced that that is the reason why more candidates are visiting Georgia though. There are at least two other better alternate explanations.
  1. Other than Texas, Georgia is the most delegate-rich state likely to hold a primary or caucuses on March 1. The perception is that this is going to be a long, drawn-out Republican nomination race (FHQ is skeptical that that will be the case.). That, in turn, means the delegate count will again take on added importance. In that situation, candidates go where the delegates are or will be. Georgia is a place where there will be delegates at stake. 
  2. Speaking of Texas, something the Lone Star state has or will have in 2016 is something that Georgia had in 2012: a favorite son running for the presidential nomination. FHQ could not believe that Newt Gingrich was only mentioned in passing in Wollner's piece. If one wants to explain why Georgia might be getting more candidate attention in 2016 than it did in 2012, then a favorite son being involved in the previous cycle might be something at which to look. It tends to have a reducing effect on the number of visits from other candidates. That is especially true in the event that said state shares a primary date with a number of other contests. This was true for Illinois in 2008. Arkansas also lost in 2008 because it shared its February 5 primary date with twenty plus other states and Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee were on the ballot. 
But there's no Newt on the ballot in 2016 and no other Georgians either. There are or will be a number of Texans running though. And that may force candidates to keep their options open, looking at other delegate-rich states instead.


Before I close let's look for a moment at the lefthand side of this equation, the dependent variable. FHQ would urge a high level of caution in reading much into the number of candidate visits a state -- any state -- receives. Particularly, I would hesitate in comparing those raw numbers across cycles. It is dangerous and potentially misleading. Let's look at Georgia and the visits that have been paid to the Peach state in the time since the 2000 primaries.
Georgia primary visits:
2000: 2
2004: 32
2008: 38
2012: 47 
This makes it look like Georgia has seen a rise in candidate visits over time, and that even accounts for the fact that only one party had an active nomination in both 2004 and 2012. The key questions to ask are 1) was the nomination race still competitive when Georgia held its presidential primary and 2) how many states shared that date with the Peach state? The answer to #1 is yes across the board in all of those cycles. Georgia was still worth visiting, then. As for #2, that is likely what is driving this relationship; a greater number of visits. Georgia has had to share its primary date with a varying number of states over time.
Number of states to share primary date with Georgia:
2000: 16
2004: 9
2008: 23
2012: 10
Those numbers do not really make that point clear. There seem to be more concurrent contests when both parties have active nominations. That means a couple of things. First, Georgia is not always the top dog, uh, dawg, in terms of delegate-richness when it shares its presidential primary date with a large number of states (typically, though not always, on the earliest date allowed by the national party delegate selection rules). Often among those states are the likes of California, New York and Ohio; all more attractive, delegate-rich states. Georgia was the most delegate-rich state on March 6 four years ago.

But second, and perhaps more important, when both parties have active nominations that tends to mean more candidates who can provide more visits. And that is definitely true for 2016. There may only be a handful of Democrats seeking the party's nomination, but there are truckload of Republicans who are running. More candidates equals more potential visits to an early, delegate-rich state. This is a super important footnote for anyone who decides to look into candidate visits in the coming months and attempts to draw anything from the aggregated numbers.

Look at Georgia. It received about a 25% increase in visits in 2012 (versus 2008) despite only the Republicans having a competitive nomination race, a favorite son on the ballot and an uncertain calendar (that did not become certain until November 20112). Why? Georgia's primary was early-ish and was the most delegate-rich contest on its date.

1 No, FHQ does not have that date listed for Georgia on the 2016 presidential primary calendar and will not until there is a formal announcement. That said, I will leave what I said above stand. It is pretty clear that Georgia will end up on March 1 next year and that an announcement will, I would guess, probably happen sooner than the end of September this year. There just is not as much chaos to the formation of the 2016 calendar as there was four years ago.

2 That uncertainty matters less in the comparison of 2012 to 2008. 2008 had just as much calendar uncertainty. However, with the calendar far clearer for 2016, that allows the candidates to better map out visits to states they know will be early, but after the carve-out states.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Arkansas Special Session May Include Measure to Move Presidential Primary to March

Though the official call has yet to go out, it appears as if the Arkansas state legislature will convene a special session starting on May 26.

As is the case in some other states (see Missouri), it is the governor's responsibility in Arkansas to not only call the special session of the legislature but also to define the issues/bills with which the session will deal. Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) on Monday, May 11 said that constitutional amendments and bonds issues dealing with the so-called "super project" industrial area would be on the agenda. But the timing of the 2016 presidential primary in the Natural state has also been discussed as a possible agenda item after failing to pass during the regular session.

It looks as if legislators may have the same options they had during the regular session also: Create and schedule a separate presidential primary (as Arkansas has done twice before -- 1988 and 2008) or move all of the primaries from May to March. Bills covering both possibilities were filed in the Arkansas state Senate by Senator Gary Stubblefield (R-6th, Branch) earlier this year. However, only the bill to create a separate presidential primary in March passed the Senate before getting bottled up in the state House.

Part of the reason that bill died was because of the $1.6 million price tag for the separate election. That issue may be resolved by moving a consolidated election from May to March, but that move would affect the renominations of state legislators themselves; a factor that has made legislators in Arkansas (and elsewhere) hesitant to support such measures.

The official call for the special session is due later this month according to the governor's office.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Alabama House Committee Favorably Reports SEC Primary Bill

The plan to shift the Alabama presidential primary up a week to March 1 has moved a step closer to reality. The state House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee this week passed SB 240 on to the full body for its consideration.

The state Senate previously passed the measure with only three votes in opposition. And the odds of final passage must seem pretty good. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) is already hyping the SEC primary. Moving from March 8 up to March 1 would mean Alabama abandoning neighboring Mississippi for other regional partners like Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia as well as Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Coda on Mississippi and the SEC Primary or Sometimes Moving Up Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be

FHQ has been meaning to get to Geoff Pender's autopsy of Mississippi's failed attempt to join the SEC primary all week. The crux of it that internal Republican politics played some role in dooming the legislation to move the presidential primary in the Magnolia state.

Though it is a fun read, FHQ is less interested in the rivalry between Mississippi Lieutenant Governor  Tate Reeves (R) and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R). What is of more use for our purposes here is the argument each is making either to move the presidential primary or to keep it where it is on March 8.

Hosemann, a proponent of Mississippi joining the SEC primary coalition made the case to Pender this way:
Hosemann says moving Mississippi's primary from March 8 to March 1 and joining with Georgia, Texas and other Southern states would force presidential candidates "to come to the South and to Mississippi and tell us their views" and listen to ours. 
He said it would also be an economic boon, forcing campaigns to hire staff, travel and buy advertising, food and accommodations.
That economic stimulus message is one that is being used in neighboring Alabama in its SEC primary discussion in the legislature.

But Reeves countered with this argument:
Reeves said Mississippi joining would have opposite the desired effect: Mississippi would be ignored in favor of the larger states. 
"Texas has more electoral votes in the San Antonio media market than we do in our entire state," Reeves said. "That's not including Dallas, Houston … same thing with Atlanta. Where do you think a candidate is going to go … if they have to choose between Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Atlanta or Hattiesburg?" 
As it stands now, Reeves said, Louisiana's will be the Saturday before Mississippi's Tuesday primary and Florida's a week after. He said this is more likely to precipitate stops in Mississippi. 
Reeves noted that in 2012, GOP candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum all campaigned in Mississippi despite its late primary. Romney notoriously said how much he liked Mississippi "cheesy grits."
That cheesy grits comment and more importantly the substance of the debate between Hosemann and Reeves were matters that FHQ discussed in depth back in December before the legislative season revved up. [Reeves and/or Pender must have done their homework. FHQ was not consulted as a part of Pender's piece.] Here's how I concluded that post, singling Alabama and Mississippi out:
That raises questions if not red flags for a move for 2016 for those latter couple of states. Does a move away from a date that still finds Alabama and Mississippi dominant and to a date shared by a number of larger southern states net more or fewer visits in 2016 over 2012? If Ohio vacates March 8 to join a later March midwestern primary protect a more winner-take-all allocation plan, would it not be more beneficial to stick with a date you dominate versus a date shared with others? Is a visit to Texas -- a regional visit -- the same as a candidate visit in Alabama or Mississippi? 
These are tough questions to answer for state actors who have a limited state legislative session window in which to act in the spring of the year before the primary. And these folks tend to be risk-averse. Alabama and Mississippi would only gain by sticking with a later date is the nomination races are ongoing once they get to the second Tuesday in March. The field may be winnowed too much by then dropping the number of visits to either. 
This is the mindset that has dominated the frontloading era. Move up or get left behind. But it isn't clear in this instance that states in the South will receive the attention they crave. In the meantime, decision makers in both Alabama and Mississippi seem to have forgotten what they gained in 2012 with their sub-regional coalition. Surely "cheesy grits" would have proven more memorable to elected officials in the Deep South. [Emphasis and edits are FHQ's.]
The skepticism of moving away from March 8 there echoes Reeves' (or vice versa). The benefits of moving to March 1 are not clear. There is more to this than merely earlier equals economic gains.

Some states value relevance in the presidential nomination process more than others. But if you are a state legislator or some other actor with a part to play in moving the date of a delegate selection event there is a great deal to weigh when making such a decision. Being relevant depends on a number of things for which decision-makers cannot account. One thing state-level actors can control is the date. The later a contest -- primary or caucuses -- is held, the more a state is gambling (on just how relevant the contest will be in the process). Again, that entails something like move up or get left behind.

If every state, or at least the majority that are/have been willing and able to move earlier on the calendar, then the outcome is the sort of Super Tuesday herding of contests typical of calendars like 2008 or 2000. That sort of logjam highlights the fact that all states are not equal when it comes to delegate-richness or ease and convenience of access (to the states) for candidates and the media. When given a choice, rationally-acting candidates tend to opt for bigger states over smaller states.

Yes, those campaigns are chasing delegates, but it is also true that there are only a finite number of candidate visits that can be paid to states. If the herding of contests is large enough, that forces candidates on the air in lieu of visits to some states, usually smaller ones. This is what makes the regional primary idea so attractive. It can somewhat circumvent that problem, offering a reduced geography (and a potential homogeneity of issues) to cover as a means of attracting visits and spending.

Yet, depending on which states are involved -- how much intra-regional herding is taking place -- the same dynamic as above may still play out but on a smaller scale. That is the argument being made by Reeves in and about Mississippi moving forward a week on the 2016 presidential primary calendar. The campaigns can see the delegates available. Do you go to Georgia that has just a handful of delegates fewer than Alabama and Mississippi combined or do you fit in trips to Alabama and Mississippi, too? Furthermore, is a visit to Georgia or Texas or Tennessee a regional visit, playing as well in Georgia (in person and in resulting news coverage) and Alabama and Mississippi? In other words, is a regional proxy visit enough?

What may be "good" for the campaigns may not end up paying the dividends that folks in Alabama or Arkansas or Mississippi think they will.

If I was advising Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi (and FHQ is not), I would suggest a two-tiered regional primary. Texas and Tennessee have already staked a claim to March 1. State laws in both have provided for those dates since the last presidential election cycle. Georgia will more than likely join them on March 1. Those three are the three most delegate-rich states on March 1. Let them have it. They are going to take the attention anyway.

Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi should form an SEC Light primary. Separate, they cannot curry much favor. The same is true if they were to share a date with the big boys on March 1. But if all three go together on a date a week later (March 8), that likely yields some attention from the candidates. Collectively, the three together would also be more delegate-rich than the states they would be competing with on March 8 (Idaho, Hawaii and Michigan). That two-tiered regional primary -- three tiers if one wants to consider the Louisiana primary scheduled between the two Tuesdays -- may serve to maximize regional influence, particularly if it solidifies/ratifies the decision made in those earlier southern contests. That, in turn, slingshots some candidate into the post-proportionality window part of the calendar (...or Florida) a week later on March 15.

Small states can only get so much out of this process. Not every state is Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Given that reality, if you can't beat the big boys, go a week later (if the state's you'd be competing with are alone and geographically dispersed). That is the sweet spot that is available to Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. But it only works if they are together. If Mississippi is the lone southern state on March 8, then Secretary Hosemann is probably right to be taken aback by Reeves' suggestion that Mississippi would fare better.

In truth, it probably would not matter much either way. Mississippi would be ignored.

...unless they had some regional partners.

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