Showing posts with label Sunday Series. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sunday Series. Show all posts

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Sunday Series: About that Unique Michigan Republican Primary-Caucus Plan (Part One)

News broke Friday that Michigan Republicans had come to a consensus and were prepared to vote on whether the party would go the primary or caucus route in the presidential nomination process for 2024. 

Rather than automatically utilize the state-run primary as the state party had done every competitive Republican presidential nomination cycle following 1988, the Michigan GOP was backed into a corner on its 2024 plans based on four main factors:
  1. Democrats in the state took unified control of state government in the Great Lakes state after the November 2022 midterm elections. 
  2. At least partially (if not completely) because of that flip in control of the state legislature and Democrats retaining the governor's office, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted to add the Michigan presidential primary to early window lineup of states on the 2024 presidential primary calendar. Michigan Democrats seized on the opportunity to have an earlier, if not greater, voice in the nomination process and moved to comply with the new DNC calendar rules for 2024.
  3. However, the new February 27 date for the state-run Michigan presidential primary would violate Republican National Committee (RNC) rules prohibiting states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina from holding primaries or caucuses before March 1. Opting into the primary, would open Michigan Republicans up to the super penalty associated with a violation of those timing rules, which would strip the state party of all but 12 delegates (nine delegates plus the three automatic/party delegates) to the national convention. 
  4. Regardless of the potential for penalties from a rogue primary, Michigan Republicans, under new leadership as of early 2023, were already leery of a state-run presidential primary process that would be open not only to Republicans and independents (who want to affiliate with the party in the primary) but Democrats as well. 
Given those factors, the Michigan GOP in consultation with the RNC did not look on the primary or caucus question for 2024 as either/or but rather as one and the other. In a revised resolution of intent adopted on Saturday, June 10, Michigan Republicans chose to split 2024 delegate allocation across both the February 27 primary and congressional district caucuses to be held on Saturday, March 2. In a statement following the vote the Michigan Republican Party said the following1:
In a move that threatens electoral representation and undermines the voices of Republican voters in Michigan, the Michigan’s Democrat controlled legislature advanced the Michigan presidential primary to February 27th. This would automatically cause an RNC penalty reducing Michigan Republican delegates at the RNC convention in Milwaukee from 55 to 12!  
This resolution complies with RNC rules and avoids the penalty. 
The Democrats thought they held the keys to whether Michigan Republicans have a voice regarding who is our nominee for president. 
They set the stage to make our process dependent upon when the Democrats end the Michigan’s legislative session. Today that control was destroyed. 

Cutting through the spin
Okay, revisit those four factors FHQ laid out above because they are important in pushing past the spin in all of this and getting to the crux of the matter. 

First, it is highly unlikely that either Michigan Democrats or Democrats in the national party were ever rubbing their hands together, saying "We've got Michigan Republicans now!" The timeline on the Democratic primary calendar decision suggests otherwise. The national party waited until after the midterms -- after it was clear which party was going to be in control of a variety of state governments -- before it settled on a lineup for the 2024 early window. Michigan, already an attractive option to the members of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, became even more attractive once it was clear after the November elections that the state would be under Democratic control. 

The national party decision on the calendar and any subsequent moves made in Lansing were made to affect the Democratic primary. There was little regard for the Republican process. And perhaps that is problematic. However, national Democrats have been rebuffed by the RNC over the last two cycles in their efforts to even informally coordinate the calendar. And on the state level in Michigan, it was Republicans in the state legislature who were driving a legislative push to an even earlier February primary date just a few months ago in late 2022. 

But shunt all of that to side for a moment. Democrats in Lansing and elsewhere were never really in control of anything other than moving the state-run primary anyway. Michigan Republicans always had paths out of trouble. But they were going to need a waiver from the RNC no matter what they chose to do. The point is that Michigan Republicans potentially had a national party waiver at their disposal if they successfully made that case before the RNC. Ultimately, it was state Democrats who had made the change and shifted the primary to a point on the calendar that violated RNC rules. And those rules have outs for just these types of possibilities.

Yet, choosing to go the caucus route would have potentially required a waiver from the RNC too. Michigan Republicans could not just choose to conduct caucuses. Those caucuses would have had to follow the February 27 primary to remain compliant with the RNC rules on timing. But merely opting to hold caucuses would not have ended the primary. Under state law that primary would have gone on as a beauty contest. And under RNC Rule 16 (a)(1), any statewide vote "must be used to allocate and bind the state's delegation to the national convention..." [Put a pin in section of the RNC rules. It is important for Part Two.] To hold caucuses after a statewide vote like that is counter to the intent of the rule, the language of which was added to prevent a double vote and/or non-binding scenario like those that proliferated in the 2012 cycle.

An RNC waiver would have provided a way to circumvent that conflict. But so, too, would have legal action on first amendment, freedom of association grounds (if the national party was for some reason not receptive to issuing a waiver). Political parties have a right to determine how they associate and who associates with the organization. Nominations fall under that banner, or precedent holds that they do anyway. 

The bottom line is this: If Michigan Republicans want to say that Democrats made the primary change without consulting them, then that is fine. That is a fair criticism. If the state party additionally wants to argue it prefers a caucus/convention system closed to all but registered Republicans to an open primary that allows non-Republicans to participate, then that is fine too. That is also legitimate. But exaggerating the control state Democrats have over the process is just that: an exaggeration. That is even more true in light of the fact that Michigan Republicans had recourse. They had ways around Democratic "control." One need not pretend otherwise.

1 The full statement from the Michigan Republican Party after the vote on the resolution:
The Michigan Republican Party Protects the Voice of Michigan Republican Voters 
Grand Rapids, MI – June 10th, 2023 – In a move that threatens electoral representation and undermines the voices of Republican voters in Michigan, the Michigan’s Democrat controlled legislature advanced the Michigan presidential primary to February 27th. This would automatically cause an RNC penalty reducing Michigan Republican delegates at the RNC convention in Milwaukee from 55 to 12!  
This resolution complies with RNC rules and avoids the penalty. 
The Democrats thought they held the keys to whether Michigan Republicans have a voice regarding who is our nominee for president. 
They set the stage to make our process dependent upon when the Democrats end the Michigan’s legislative session. Today that control was destroyed.  
The Michigan Republican Party would have been derelict in duty, and grossly irresponsible to leave the decision of full delegate representation of Michigan Republicans in the hands of the Democrats.  
Republican voters are tired of the party seeking to cut deals with Democrats instead of protecting the voice and interest of Republican voters.  
This drastic reduction in representation at the Republican National Convention would have marginalized millions of voters and stifled our ability to have a meaningful say in the selection of the 2024 Republican presidential nominee. The Resolution of Intent passed by the Michigan Republican Party State Committee protects the voice of millions of Republican voters across Michigan by ensuring the will of those voting in the primary will be heard.  
This resolution simultaneously prevents the RNC penalty.  
Recognizing the urgency and gravity of this situation, the Michigan Republican Party State Committee took decisive action today. The Michigan Republican Party has taken a crucial step towards ensuring fair representation for their constituents. 
"The Michigan Republican Party stands firmly against any attempts to diminish representation of Michigan Republicans," said Kristina Karamo, Chair of the Michigan Republican Party.  
"We are committed to preserving the integrity of the electoral process and guaranteeing that all Michigan voters, regardless of their political affiliation, have an equal opportunity to participate in the primary process." 
For those in the party who do not trust the election system run by the Secretary of State due to election integrity concerns, they now have a representative voice for some of the delegates from Michigan.  
By asserting their commitment to protecting the rights of Republican voters in the state, the Michigan Republican Party has demonstrated their dedication to preserving a fair and inclusive electoral system. 
The Michigan Republican Party encourages all Michigan voters to stay informed and engaged in the political process. By participating in the upcoming primary elections, voters can make their voices heard and contribute to shaping the future of our great state. 


Sunday, June 4, 2023

Sunday Series: Demystifying Delegate Allocation and Delegate Selection

Delegate allocation.

Delegate selection.

Delegates, delegates, delegates.

The 2024 invisible primary is deep in the heart of rules season. Each of the national parties have settled on the rules that will govern their respective presidential nomination processes next year. Well, both parties have mostly done that. The Democratic National Committee still has to finalize which states will receive (or not receive) waivers to conduct primaries or caucuses during the early part of the primary calendar next year. But other than that (not insignificant) detail, the guidelines within which states and state parties can operate for 2024 have been set for some time. And states and state parties have been, are and will continue to make decisions -- when to schedule primaries and caucuses, how to allocate and select delegates, etc. -- as 2023 progresses. 

And those are important decisions that can influence the path a presidential candidate takes in getting to the nomination. But together, all of those rules, the layers of national party guidelines, state laws and state party rules, form a complicated matrix that seems far removed from a voter walking into a polling place and pulling the lever for their preferred presidential candidate. 

For most, those who, like FHQ, grew up or currently reside in a state with a presidential primary, that can seem like the extent of the process. One expresses their presidential preference, some candidate wins the primary and the candidate who wins the most across the country becomes the nominee. More often than not, that is true. However, that description of the process is a vast oversimplification that smooths over many of the complexities that can render that way of understanding things false. 

In truth, what happens every four years is that those votes in primaries and caucuses throughout the United States translate into delegates and it is those delegates who decide at the national convention who a party's presidential nominee is going to be. But that process of votes producing delegates for the various candidates can be shrouded in mystery, or perhaps more appropriately, complexities. 

Many of those complexities owe to the fact that there are two parallel events taking place in that translation of votes to delegates. One of those, delegate allocation, most folks at least vaguely understand. If a candidate wins more votes, they more often than not win more delegates. There are exceptions to that rule, but in the vast majority of cases, the candidate with the most votes in a given state's contest is the candidate who is awarded the most delegates. This is true if the state party rules for delegate allocation are proportional (where if a candidate wins 53 percent of the vote, that candidate wins around 53 percent of the delegates), winner-take-all (where a plurality winner statewide can win all of a state's delegates) or something in between those two.

But as FHQ has often described it, that allocation process is only granting the various candidates delegate slots based on the results of the primaries or caucuses. There is a second process -- delegate selection -- that operates in the background to actually fill those slots. They end up filled with people that go the national conventions aligned with and/or bound to the candidates to whom the slots have been awarded. 

Taylor Swift and National Conventions

Confused yet? 

Yeah, it happens. And FHQ gets asked about this a lot. I can launch into that "Well, the nomination process is one of two parallel processes..." and folks' eyes start to glaze over. There are a lot of layers involved in this process and it quickly gets messy. So let's think about all of this delegate allocation and selection a bit differently. 

Think of a national convention like a Taylor Swift concert. Sure, one's mileage may vary in terms of the entertainment value of those two events, but the convoluted nature of the process to actually get into either event is similarly opaque and complicated. Just as Swifties in the fall of 2022 wanted to get tickets to see the singer/songwriter in concert, candidates want to get as many of their delegates into the national convention (in order to be nominated as the party's standard bearer). But just like those diehard Taylor Swift fans, the various candidates have to compete against other candidates, some with vastly more resources (like ticket resellers buying in bulk), to gain access. 

But both are competing for something similar. Swifties want tickets that reserve a spot for them at the concert. Presidential candidates are vying in primaries and caucuses for delegate slots that reserve spots for their delegates at the convention. That is the delegate allocation process. It is getting tickets to the show. 

Now, suppose you are the parent of two young Swift fans. Ideally, you want three tickets so you and your two kids can see Taylor. Only, because of the process -- ahem, allocation -- you manage to get just two tickets. Who gets those two tickets? You cannot possibly let your two underage kids go alone. Or can you? But how do you choose between the two kids in the scenario that a chaperone is necessary? Do you flip a coin? Do you let them literally battle it out in hand-to-hand combat to see who goes? Do you design some Taylor Swift trivia contest? And assuming your kids are not twins, you have to design a process that levels the playing field for them that does not advantage the older kid. In fact, you probably want to use some system that does not appear to play favorites at all. 

That is the delegate selection process; the rules of deciding (or that decide) who goes. 

And state parties operate within national party guidelines to set the rules for both allocation and selection. They set the rules for 1) how folks get tickets and that 2) decide who gets to go based on how many tickets were acquired. The getting the tickets part is allocation. Those are the proportional and winner-take-all rules mentioned above. All states are proportional in the Democratic process, but there is a mixture of those rules (and various hybrid forms in between) across the states and territories in the Republican system. Voters vote in the primaries and (the first round of) caucuses and that determines how many of the delegate slots -- those tickets to the national convention -- are allocated to the various candidates. Each state has a set number of tickets to allocate based on different formulas across the parties that weigh population (the bigger the state, the more tickets it gets) and partisan voting history (the more Republican a state is, for example, the more tickets it gets to the Republican convention).

But how do state parties decide the actual people that get to go to the concert; those who get the tickets?

Again, that is the delegate selection process. In some states, like Alabama, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Rhode Island, when voters vote in a presidential primary, those voters vote for their presidential preference and also vote for delegate candidates. Those states merge the ticket acquisition portion with the process of deciding who gets to go. To some degree, it is similar in caucus states. Caucus-goers attend their precinct caucuses and collectively their votes determine how many delegate slots are allocated to which candidates and start the process of deciding who gets to go, a process that plays out through county, district and/or state conventions. This is the way things have been for, say, Iowa Democrats in the past and will continue to be the case for Iowa Republicans in 2024. 

Yet, in most cases and in most states, there are two very separate processes: a primary for delegate allocation and a caucus/convention system for delegate selection. The latter is something that almost universally gets missed by casual observers in this whole process. In other words, even in primary states there are caucuses. But they are separate caucuses with separate (or if not completely separate, then a subset of) decision makers from the primaries. It is in those caucuses where that subset of typically very tuned-in partisans begins to decide who gets those tickets, who fills a candidate's allocated slots to the national convention.

Take New Hampshire, a traditional primary state. All one ever hears about is the primary there. It has been first, after all, for more than a century. But delegates are selected in the Granite state before the primary. Slates of delegate candidates are selected for each candidate in pre-primary caucuses and then folks are pulled from those slates to fill slots allocated to the candidate once the results of the primary are in. This is basically the model Iowa Democrats appear to be proposing for their 2024 process and from where some of the recent confusion comes. The state party is abandoning the merged allocation and (start of the) selection processes and is proposing to bifurcate them. The idea is that the traditional caucuses will be held on the same January night that Republicans hold theirs, but the decisions made that night only affect the selection process (who goes to the convention). A separate all-mail preference vote (one that presumably concludes after the initial caucuses) will be what determines the allocation (how many tickets each candidate gets).

In most primary states, however, the selection process in those caucuses follows the primary. But again, they are separate. 

Hijacking who gets tickets

There is one additional layer to all of this that separates the two major parties and how each handles the selection process overall. Think of it as a safeguard that Democrats at the national level have added to their selection process that does not exist in the Republican process. The rules that state parties operate under on the Democratic side give the candidates the right of review over who fills any delegate slots allocated to them. Candidates who have been allocated any delegates have the ability to weed out any delegate candidates who have made it through the selection process and into one of their allocated slots but who are not actually affiliated with or sympathetic to the candidate. To extend the concert analogy, Democratic candidates have some backend control over who gets their tickets.

By comparison, there is no such safeguard on the Republican side. There is no right of review. A candidate may lose a primary but if that candidate has a dedicated enough following at the grassroots level, those supporters may be able to overrun a caucus and/or convention and force through a disproportionate number of delegate candidates. That produces a delegation that may be bound through the allocation process to support a particular candidate but one that is made up of people filling those allocated slots who support someone else. Recall that during the 2016 Republican primaries there was some talk about the possibility that delegate slots allocated to Donald Trump may be filled with people aligned with another candidate. That talk has returned for 2024.

Now sure, that may sound as if it is undemocratic, the idea that one candidate may be able to make an end run around another candidate who has received more votes overall in the primaries and caucuses. But it is (or has been) much easier to speculate about that than it has been for a candidate to actually successfully implement such a strategy across enough states to change the course of the nomination at the convention. But still, the possibility exists that a well-organized campaign can come in and hijack the decision on who gets a ticket to the national convention. 


Obviously there is more to it all than this. There are maybe more layers that make the Taylor Swift concert ticket analogy work better in some facets of the delegate allocation/selection process than others. But complicated though all of this may be, it helps to think of allocation like getting tickets to the national convention and selection as deciding who gets to use those tickets and actually go to Chicago or Milwaukee in 2024. The rules governing each process may be stretched beyond this simple example, but for the most part this is basically how it works. 


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Sunday Series: Ranked Choice Voting in 2024 Presidential Primaries, Updated (May 2023)

One electoral reform that FHQ has touched on in the past and has increasingly popped up on the presidential primary radar is ranked choice voting (RCV). And let us be clear, while the idea has worked its way into state-level legislation and state party delegate selection plans, widespread adoption of the practice is not yet at hand. 

However, there has been some RCV experimentation on a modest scale in the delegate allocation process primarily in small states. And that has opened the door to its consideration in a broader swath of states across the country. States, whether state parties or state legislators, are seeing some value in allowing for a redistribution of votes based on a voter's preferences to insure, in the case of presidential primaries, that every voter has a more direct say in the resulting delegate allocation. 

That is apparent in legislation that has been proposed in state legislatures across the country as they have begun convening their 2023 sessions. Again, RCV is not sweeping the nation, as the map below of current legislation to institute the method in the presidential nomination process will attest. There are a lot of unshaded states. But if RCV was adopted across those states where it has been passed (Maine), where it has been used in Democratic state party-run processes (Alaska, Kansas and North Dakota), and where it is being considered by legislators in 2023 then it would affect the allocation of nearly a third of Democratic delegates and a little more than a quarter of Republican delegates. That is not nothing. 

The thrust of activity on adding RCV to presidential primaries for 2024 in legislatures across the country has shifted since FHQ last updated the situation in April. While much of the first few months of the 2023 state legislative sessions were about introducing legislation, the time since has mostly been about moving that legislation, and in recent days, doing so before legislatures adjourn. 

Unlike much of April, however, there were a few new bills proposed since the last update. A pair of companion bills in both chambers of the New Jersey legislature were introduced to establish RCV in presidential primaries and for the election of electors to the Electoral College. In Colorado, a measure to set up RCV for the 2028 cycle quickly came and went. SB 301 was proposed in late April and went nowhere before the legislature in the Centennial state adjourned for the year earlier this month. And just this last week, a trio of New York Republican members of the US House introduced legislation to prohibit the use of RCV in elections to federal offices. It is not clear whether that extends to the nomination phase as well. But not much is clear about the bill without text. Currently, the details are missing.

There was, however, continued progress for some of those RCV-related bills that have previously been floating around out there this session. 

From 30,000 feet, the overview remains much the same. The existing pattern of legislation has been for Republican-controlled states (where legislation has been proposed) to move bans on RCV while Democratic-controlled legislatures and Democratic legislators in red states have largely been behind efforts to augment the presidential primary process with RCV. That outlook has not changed. But it has evolved to some degree. To the extent any of the RCV-related legislation has been successful, it has been more likely to move through legislatures and be signed into law in Republican-controlled states. The Montana measure to prohibit RCV that was before Governor Gianforte (R) during the last update was signed into law, for instance. It brings the Treasure state in line with other neighbors -- Idaho and South Dakota -- in banning RCV during the 2023 session. 

All of that maintains the status quo as it has existed in those states. And in many ways, that -- maintaining the status quo -- is the path of least resistance with regard to RCV. 

And resistance is the key word when the focus shifts to those states with active bills to institute RCV for 2024 (or beyond) in the state-run presidential nomination processes. It is not that those bills have not budged, it is that most of those bills have not easily made their way through the legislative process. Yet, most is not all. A handful of RCV measures have found some modicum of success. 

In Hawaii, the differences across passed versions of the bill raised last month were squared and that measure was sent off to Governor Josh Green (D) for his consideration. But while that may bring RCV to the Aloha state, any new law will not affect state-run presidential primaries. That is because while the Hawaii legislature was able to push HB 1294 through before adjournment in early May, the bill to create a state-run presidential primary failed. However, Aloha state Democrats do intend to use RCV in their party-run primary again in 2024. Beyond that, the only other measures that moved since late April were ones in Minnesota and Oregon. HB 2004 in Oregon passed the lower chamber there and awaits action in the state Senate. And in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, an appropriation bill with a RCV rider passed the legislature and was signed into law. However, the money will be used not for implementing RCV but for the Secretary of State of Minnesota to include consideration of the process in a broader voting study.

And that is it. 

The last month may have seen incremental developments, but those changes have occurred as legislatures have been adjourning. And that may be the biggest change this month. More RCV-related bills have been rendered inactive or dormant as legislatures have tagged out for the year (or for regular sessions anyway with no guarantee that RCV will be revisited). That claimed both bills that had been proposed in Vermont, for example. The Senate version passed the upper chamber, but stalled in the House and never moved before the legislature in the Green Mountain state ended its session. 

The picture, then, of RCV and the 2024 presidential nomination process remains one of incremental movement at best in the first half of 2023. A handful of Republican-controlled states in the mountain West have bolstered the status quo with bans of RCV, and momentum on the pro- side has been next to negligible. There may be incremental advances where RCV is being experimented with in the presidential nomination process for 2024. But note also that most of the experimenting is being done by state parties in party-run processes on the Democratic side. And further, regardless of whether the legislation has sought to establish RCV or ban it, most of the movement has been in relatively small states. Idaho, Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota and Vermont are not the big hitters of national politics. Laboratories for or against RCV are in small states for now. And that may or may not be the best proving ground for it in the presidential nomination process (or anywhere else).

The bottom line, however, is that while RCV may be considered a remedy to some of the maladies that plague American politics, its adoption is not yet widespread. And that does not look to change much more than incrementally in 2023. 


Sunday, May 21, 2023

Sunday Series: Biden, Incumbent Presidents and Setting the Rules of Renomination

This past week has been a week in which Iowa, New Hampshire and the 2024 presidential primary calendar have come back into clearer view. 

Iowa Republicans are reported to be simultaneously planning on January caucuses, but lamenting the uncertainty that Hawkeye state Democrats have thrust upon the overall scheduling process by insisting on a vote-by-mail presidential preference vote.

In New Hampshire, Democrats continue to 1) resist DNC calendar changes that would push the state out of the first primary position in 2024 and 2) refuse to consider alternatives to a "predicament ... of the president's own making."

And to compound matters, Biden surrogate and 2020 nomination kingmaker Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) recently "said the quiet part out loud," noting that the DNC calendar changes for 2024 were made with Biden "avoiding embarrassment" in Iowa and New Hampshire in mind.

Dems in disarray, right? What is the party doing?

Well, outside of the takes generator that is spitting out tales of Democratic own goals with respect to the national party and the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination process, there are a few big picture things going on that many are glossing over. Most of it is typical of incumbent parties defending the White House and some of it is new to 2024. 

Coalition maintenance
The macro view of what the Democrats have done and are doing for the 2024 cycle is twofold. First, the Biden administration and the Democratic National Committee under it are doing what big tent parties tend to do. Namely, the party is tending to constituencies in an effort to maintain the winning coalition from 2020. And some of that, through a zero-sum lens, is the messy business of picking winners and losers, choosing which policies and other actions to prioritize. 

So, there has been a push to continue to appeal to black and brown voters who are the bedrock of the party's coalition. Voting rights and criminal justice reform met resistance in Congress, but the Biden administration advanced the cause of representation on the nation's highest court by seeing the nomination of Ketanji Brown-Jackson through to her installation, thus fulfilling a campaign promise. Along the same lines, the president pushed for a change in the early calendar lineup of states for the first time since the 2008 cycle. And importantly, the administration once again attempted to elevate the voices of black and brown voters in the nomination process by supplanting Iowa and New Hampshire with South Carolina in the lead-off spot. 

But beyond mere constituency concerns on that calendar decision, there were clear winners and losers. South Carolina won. Michigan won. Iowa and New Hampshire, on the other hand, both lost. Each lost, and in New Hampshire's case, Democrats there were resistant and have remained defiant. And while the national party decision was perhaps out of the ordinary, the reaction in the Granite state has not been. And while that reaction has added some drama (and the attention that comes along with it) to an incumbent presidential renomination process that is unlikely to offer much of it, it does once again point out just how difficult it is to alter institutions that have long since become normalized fixtures of the presidential election process. 

Again, if it was easy to change, then any number of component parts of the presidential nomination process -- including but not exclusively Iowa and New Hampshire -- would have been changed by now. Grumbling about Iowa, New Hampshire and their positions atop the presidential primary calendar is not new. It did not just start in 2020 when Iowa Democrats botched their caucuses. That grousing goes back years

However, the extent to which the subject has arisen between elections has ebbed and flowed, but it always comes up. In some years, like between 2004 and 2008, the party examined it closely. The result was that Nevada and South Carolina got added to the early window (and before the fallout from Florida and Michigan, Nevada's Democratic caucuses were to have been between Iowa and New Hampshire). In other cycles, such as between 2008 and 2012, Iowa and New Hampshire came up but the Rules and Bylaws Committee punted, saving the battle for another time.  

But to reiterate, it always comes up. And that pre-2012 example is instructive. That was the last cycle that a sitting Democratic president was seeking renomination. Theoretically, the stakes are lower in those times than they are or would be in a competitive nomination environment. It is then, or in the case of the 2024 cycle, now that a change in the early calendar would hypothetically be easiest. And it may, in fact, be easier than if this were a seriously contested cycle, but uprooting Iowa and New Hampshire is by no stretch of the imagination easy. If anything, Team Biden is bearing witness to just how not easy it is right now. 

So why take on the task of changing the calendar at all? 

Well, coalition maintenance is one answer. Creating a more representative early calendar lineup of states is and has been a long-time priority to some within the broader Democratic Party network. And just like changing the superdelegate rules for the 2020 cycle, it was not only a priority but there was sufficient support for the reform within the DNC. Yet, unlike the case of the superdelegate reform -- thorny as that was -- reforming the early calendar is not completely within the jurisdiction of the national party. Ultimately, credentialing and seating delegates from a state that has followed its state law and happens to be rogue relative to national party rules is within the DNC (or the convention's) purview, but bringing that to fruition and keeping Democrats from said rogue (and aggrieved) state out is a long process with a number of potential pressure points along the way that makes it politically difficult. 

It may be that Iowa and New Hampshire's time has simply come. But Iowa and, to a seemingly larger degree, New Hampshire will have something to say about that. 

Strategic considerations
Perhaps, then, the coalition maintenance hypothesis is not fully adequate to answer the "why take this task on now?" question. Maybe there are strategic concerns too. But even that explanation seems dubious. Before all of this, it was not exactly clear that Iowa and New Hampshire were going to make life, much less renomination, difficult for President Biden in 2024. No challengers of any great import were champing at the bit to throw their hats in the ring and attempt to dethrone a sitting Democratic president. Sure, California Governor Gavin Newsom and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker were both doing some of the things that potential presidential aspirants do, but it is also difficult to tease out whether that was midterm campaign activity/surrogacy or something else (like laying the groundwork in case Biden did not run). It also is not clear that either governor shut the door on a run (and have subsequently joined Biden's reelection advisory board) because Team Biden made the calendar "harder" for challengers. The calendar change was merely another signal that the president intended to run and that in supporting the change, the DNC was behind him. All this despite the fact that the guessing game on whether Biden would run persisted well into 2023 after the initial DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee vote on the calendar. 

But take a step back for a moment. How common is it for sitting presidents and their parties to create favorable conditions for a renomination bid? The answer is that it is quite common. And it is probably better cast as reducing token resistance rather than some nefarious attempt to squelch democracy. 

In the past, all of this has mainly fallen into two categories: not holding primary debates and cancelling or downscaling contests (cancelling caucuses or shifting from primaries to caucuses). Both parties have done this. When was the last time an incumbent party sponsored a presidential primary debate? The RNC went so far as to eliminate the national party rule calling for a committee to sanction debates in 2020 only to bring it back for 2024. And yes, Republican state parties cancelled or downscaled a number of contests for the 2020 cycle, but those were not precedent-setting actions. Instead, it was par for the course. It is so commonplace that one almost has to skip incumbent years in gathering time-series data on presidential primaries (depending on the research question). In my own research on the movement of primaries and caucuses, it is next to useless to account for incumbent party years. State parties opting out of state-run primaries and primaries being cancelled because of only one candidate making the ballot make it nearly impossible. 

And how does the DNC look on both of those fronts for 2024? For starters, there are no plans for primary debates. But it is a funny thing on cancelled and downscaled contests. It is more difficult now than it has ever been to do either in a Democratic presidential nomination contest. Notice that Iowa Democrats are not talking about cancelling the caucuses like Republicans in the Hawkeye state did in 2020 to avoid any of the calendar messiness that has supposedly gripped the 2024 Democratic process. In fact, Iowa Democrats are going in the opposite direction. The party is planning on making the caucuses meaningless with respect to delegate allocation and adding a presidential preference vote(-by-mail) to allocate delegates. No states are planning on cancelling caucuses. There are none left now that Iowa and Nevada off the board. [Wyoming Democrats cannot decide if the party wants to call their process in 2024 a caucus or a party-run primary.] 


DNC encouragements added to Rule 2 for 2020 require state parties to provide for open and accessible contests. Parties have to demonstrate in their delegate selection plans that they are doing all they can to create the most open and accessible process possible. And state parties have heeded that guidance in practice in 2020 and in draft delegate selection plans for 2024. 

As a result of that rules change, the DNC and Team Biden did not have cancelling or downscaling contests as an option to potentially help streamline the process against token opposition. One avenue available as a streamlining opportunity, however, was the primary calendar order. And there, the options were limited. The status quo was an option. The path of least resistance in setting the rules was always to keep Iowa and New Hampshire as the lead-off contests (or shunt Iowa out of the early window because of 2020 and move New Hampshire up).

But does an incumbent president and/or the national party behind them want to leave to chance the start of a nomination process in two states where the president did not even win during the previous nomination cycle (even against token opposition in the coming cycle)? It certainly could all work out. But it could also be a situation like President Lyndon Johnson failing to meet expectations in New Hampshire in 1968 despite winning. And it is worth pointing out that Donald Trump still has not won the Iowa caucuses. He lost in 2016 and the caucuses were cancelled for 2020. Biden does not have the luxury, under DNC rules, of Iowa Democrats simply cancelling their caucuses next year. 

No, the alternative was to explore an alternative early calendar lineup, something the DNC Rules and Bylaws was already considering through a process that eliminated for 2024 guaranteed spots for traditional early states. It was a process open to any an all states that wanted to make a pitch. And the Biden administration took that opening -- the process of states applying for those early slots -- to swing for the fences.

They pushed a plan that placed South Carolina first, the first state the former vice president had won in 2020. But that was not exactly the driver behind the calendar decision. Shifting African American voices to an earlier position on the calendar was a priority but the options were limited in terms of states that the DNC could feasibly get into place. Look at the Georgia experience. Try as they might, Democrats nationally and in Georgia could not convince a Republican secretary of state to commit to the plan to add the Peach state to the mix. And the same would have been true for any other southern state with high levels of black and brown voters. Republican-controlled state governments stood in the way.

The exception?

South Carolina. Since the date-setting authority in the Palmetto state is in the hands of the state parties, the South Carolina primary could be moved into an even earlier position on the calendar with relative ease. 

This is not some grand conspiracy. The whole process has been one that, in part, has done what past incumbent presidents have done. However, due to rules changes on the Democrats side, the Biden team could not do exactly what past incumbents running for renomination have done. Instead, they took a calendar process already underway (and open) before the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee and used it to break a long standing precedent (Iowa and New Hampshire up front), fulfill a priority for many in (and out of) the party in the process (uprooting Iowa and New Hampshire) and potentially streamline a nomination race in which Biden was already the overwhelming favorite. 

...just like other incumbents in the post-reform era. 


Sunday, May 14, 2023

Sunday Series: An Update on 2024 Presidential Primary Movement

Back in March, FHQ had an initial glimpse at early legislation to move, establish or eliminate state-run presidential primary elections for the 2024 cycle. And the picture then was one of a fairly sleepy cycle for movers and shakers on the 2024 presidential primary calendar. In the two months since, things have changed, but the story has basically stayed the same. 

First of all, 2023 looks a lot like the other years immediately prior to a presidential election year during the 21st century. That is the year -- the legislative session -- in the cycle that sees the most activity. To most state legislators, there is more, or has proven to be more, urgency to establish and/or position state-run (and funded) contests at that point than at any other time. It is on their radars. 

The 2023 legislative session has not strayed from that trend, but two months further on into it, the activity has not necessarily remained sleepy. In fact, there are now more bills that have been introduced in state legislatures across the country to schedule or reschedule presidential primaries for 2024 than there were in all of 2019 ahead of the competitive Democratic presidential nomination race. Part of the reason for that is partisan. Despite Democratic gains in state legislatures in the 2018 midterm cycle, Republicans continued to control the bulk of state legislatures in 2019. Presidential primary positioning may have been on the minds of Republican majorities in state legislatures, but it was not the priority to them that it would have been to Democratic legislators. 

However, even with fewer bills introduced overall, 2019 saw a higher success rate -- primary scheduling bills signed into law -- than the 2023 session has seen to this point. Yes, more and more state legislatures are adjourning their regular sessions for the year, but 2023 is still young. Primary bills have passed and been signed into law in four states as of mid-May: Idaho, Kansas, Maryland and Michigan. But there are more in the pipeline that look poised to pass (Connecticut, Rhode Island) and others where legislation is likely to eventually move (Pennsylvania) or be introduced in the first place (New Jersey, New York).

And that particular subset of states -- those in the northeast and mid-Atlantic -- are all signaling (or potentially signaling) an alignment that will have some impact on the overall calendar. Most of those states have in recent cycles occupied spots on the calendar in late April. Yet, with Passover falling in that window in 2024, legislators in some of those states are looking at a point a little earlier in the calendar: April 2. If Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all join Wisconsin on that first Tuesday in April, then it will likely serve as the backside bookend of the delegate sweet spot on the calendar. All at once, the winner-take-all window will open in the Republican process on March 19 and the number of delegates allocated will hit 50 percent and then 75 percent in quick succession by April 2.1 And that would trigger the 50-75 rule that has so often been a guide to when Republican nomination races of the recent past have signaled the presumptive nominee. 

But all of that depends to some degree on what happens in that group of northeastern/mid-Atlantic states. Legislators actually have to do the hard work of legislating. And as both Idaho and Missouri have proven already in 2023, that endeavor is easier said than done. Regular sessions have ended in both states and neither has a state-run presidential primary option for 2024. Idaho eliminated their stand-alone March presidential primary and Missouri failed to reestablish their own. Yet, the door is not completely closed on either state. Revived pushes for a presidential primary option may come up in special sessions should they be called. That not only raises the possibility of primaries coming back, but also more bills to be added to the mix above both in terms of the overall number of primary bills and the success rate as well. 

Finally, note that none of the bills discussed or hinted at thus far are in any way threatening the beginning of the calendar. That is significant. Yes, that Michigan bill that was signed into law shifted the presidential primary in the Great Lakes state into the early window in the Democratic process, but that will have limited impact on how the beginning of the 2024 presidential primary calendar shakes out during the rest of 2023. Iowa Democrats appear to have found a way out of the penalties trap and New Hampshire continues to indicate its intention to go rogue, but how far into January Iowa Republicans and New Hampshire end up depends on what Nevada Republicans opt to do (and to a lesser extent how South Carolina Republicans react to that).

Many wondered aloud whether the Democratic National Committee decision to shuffle the primary calendar would set off a rush to the beginning of the calendar like in 2008. It has not. However, that decision has increased the level of uncertainty about the early part of the calendar. But the South Carolina Democratic primary being scheduled on February 3 means that there is a pretty narrow range of possibilities for the remaining undecided early states on the Republican side of the ledger. The big thing about the early calendar to internalize at this point is that neither Iowa nor New Hampshire are scheduled for early February. They never have been and will not be from the look of things at this point in 2023.

1 A reminder: Just because the Republican winner-take-all window opens on March 15 does not mean that every state after that point will use winner-take-all rules. It just means that they all will have that option. 


Sunday, May 7, 2023

Sunday Series: There's no budding feud between Iowa and New Hampshire, but the Democratic parties in each are approaching 2024 differently. Here is how.

Much happened this past week with respect to the maneuvering at the very front of the 2024 presidential primary calendar. Iowa Democrats finally revealed an initial draft of their 2024 delegate selection plan. In the General Assembly in the Hawkeye state, the Senate pushed through a bill intended to protect the first-in-the-nation caucuses that now heads to Governor Kim Reynolds (R). And the motivation, at least part of it anyway, for that bill was to further insulate the caucuses from triggering the first-in-the-nation law in fellow early state, New Hampshire. 

But in the rush to draw battle lines between the pair of traditionally early states -- battle lines that do not really exist in the first place -- many missed an important story developing in plain sight. In the face of new calendar rules for 2024 on the Democratic side, state Democratic parties in Iowa and New Hampshire are taking vastly different approaches to protecting their early calendar turf. 

In the Granite state, Democrats started off defiant in December when the new DNC calendar rules were unveiled, have stayed defiant and give every indication that they intend to see this through to the national convention next  summer if they have to. Much of that defiance has come directly from the state parties and elected officials in the Granite state of all partisan stripes. But it is also right there in the delegate selection plan New Hampshire Democrats released back in March:
The newly released draft DSP specifies no date, a break from the past protocol. Additionally, it says what New Hampshire Democrats have been saying for months
The “first determining step” of New Hampshire's delegate selection process will occur on a date to be determined by the New Hampshire Secretary of State in accordance with NH RSA 653:9, with a “Presidential Preference Primary.” The Republican Presidential Preference Primary will be held in conjunction with the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary.
And, in truth, Iowa Democrats have not been saying much different from what their brethren in the Granite state have been. In February, new Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart was quick to strike a similar tone to New Hampshire's above in the immediate aftermath of the full DNC vote to adopt the 2024 rules.
“Iowa does not have the luxury of conducting a state-run primary, nor are Iowa Republicans likely to support legislation that would establish one. Our state law requires us to hold precinct caucuses before the last Tuesday in February, and before any other contest.”
Of course, none of that is surprising. Folks from both Iowa and New Hampshire have uttered similar things in past cycles when the calendar positions of each have been threatened. The mantra is simple in both states (for better or worse): When in doubt, lean on the state laws that protect the caucuses in Iowa and the New Hampshire primary. But on the surface this past week, it looked like Iowa Democrats were now doing the same thing in their delegate selection plan that New Hampshire Democrats did in March in theirs. Which is to say, it looked like the party was planning to defy the national party rules. 

Headlines that made their way to the fore after the release of the plan seemed to reflect that: "Iowa Democrats plan to caucus same night as Republicans." But under the hood, in the weeds of the Iowa Democratic Party delegate selection plan, the state party was telling a different story. The caucuses will take place on the same night that Iowa Republicans caucus. And that is likely to be sometime in January 2024. However, those precinct caucuses, at least according to the plan, will have no direct effect on delegate allocation in the Iowa Democratic process. It is not, to use the DNC terminology, the first determining step, the part of the process where voters indicate presidential preference which, in turn, determines delegate allocation. That is the step the DNC is watching. That is the step that would draw penalties should it occur prior to March 5, 2024, the first Tuesday in March for this cycle. 

What the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee is concerned with is when that all-mail presidential preference vote concludes. It is that vote that will affect delegate allocation. Like the New Hampshire primary in the delegate selection plan in the Granite state, the date the preference vote is set to conclude was left unspecified. If the end of that vote-by-mail process coincides with the likely January caucuses, then it would be a problem. If the point at which the preference vote results are revealed falls later in the calendar, it may not (depending on where that is). 

The key here is that Iowa Democrats are more clearly than ever bifurcating the allocation and selection processes. Their plan does not roll everything into one "caucus" as has been the case in past cycles. The January caucuses will only advance the delegate selection process. That will not influence delegate allocation. Even if delegates aligned with, say, Marianne Williamson were to move to the county stage from the precinct caucuses and set themselves up to be selected to move on to the district and state convention stages, that would not mean that they would be eligible to fill any Biden-allocated slots (as determined by the preference vote). That is something that can occur in the Republican nomination process, but on the Democratic side, the candidates and their campaigns have the ability to approve the delegates that are pledged to them. It is a failsafe the Republican process does not have. 

Bifurcation, then, allows Iowa Democrats to have their cake and eat it too. They can continue to hold first-in-the-nation caucuses (as part of the selection process) that complies with state law but also comply with DNC rules by using a later vote-by-mail presidential preference vote as the first determining step in the allocation process. 

One could argue that there is a structural difference between Iowa and New Hampshire in this instance. The Iowa Democratic Party has more control over its party-run process than New Hampshire Democrats do with respect to a state-run presidential primary. And while that is true, it also obscures the fact that New Hampshire Democrats are not completely without discretion here. Granite state Democrats have chosen to live free or die with the state-run primary option as a means of protecting the first-in-the nation institution. 

But New Hampshire Democrats do have a choice. The state party has the same first amendment/free association rights as the state Democratic Party in Iowa. But they have chosen -- and folks, it makes sense for them to do so politically in New Hampshire -- to stick with the state-run primary rather than explore other options. That could be some party-run process or lobbying majority Republicans in the New Hampshire General Court to create a carve-out for either the Democratic Party or the party with an incumbent president running for reelection. As an example, there could be a state-run/state-funded option for Democrats aligned with town meeting day in March

But again, New Hampshire Democrats have chosen a different path in response to the new DNC calendar rules than Iowa Democrats have. And as FHQ has argued, New Hampshire Democrats may be vindicated in the end. They are banking on the fact that the national party will cave at the national convention and seat any New Hampshire Democratic delegates if the fight lasts that long. 

In the near term, however, Iowa Democrats are differently approaching the threat to the caucuses (or what they are continuing to call caucuses). Their plan, rather than coming out defiant buys the state party both time and flexibility. And both are useful as the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee moves into the job of reviewing and approving 2024 delegate selection plans. Continued New Hampshire defiance in that process coupled with the flexibility the Iowa Democratic Party plan provides them means that, should New Hampshire Democrats draw sanctions from the DNC, then Iowa Democrats are well-positioned to make the case that their vote-by-mail presidential preference vote should be a part of the early window. That part of the process may not be first -- the caucuses, after all, will be in the selection phase -- but the all-mail preference vote could make the cut. 

...if the DNC feels compelled to keep four or five [compliant] states in the window before Super Tuesday. South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan are already there. Could more states be added? Iowa and Delaware, where things have been quite quiet, could be poised to move into that area of the calendar

The bottom line here is that there is no budding feud between Iowa and New Hampshire. Yet, the in the face of threats, state Democratic parties in each are taking on the new challenge in markedly and notably different ways. That is a story that merits more attention than any attempt to manufacture some non-existent calendar drama between the two. 


Sunday, April 30, 2023

Sunday Series: Have the Democrats Actually Created Calendar Chaos for 2024 and Beyond?

There have been a number of stories written over the last several months about the calendar rules changes the Democratic National Committee adopted at its winter meeting in Philadelphia back in February. And a number of them find the space to add a footnote about 2028. That, and this is a paraphrase, if Biden runs against only token opposition, then the calendar changes may not mean a whole lot in 2024 and may not last beyond then.

With President Biden officially announcing his reelection bid this past week, stories of that ilk have forced their way back onto the printed page, virtual or otherwise. That includes the narrow genre of "forfeiting New Hampshire" stories but also some broader overviews of the calendar changes that lean heavily on the uncertainty -- if not CHAOS! -- created by the DNC changes.1 Ben Jacobs had one such piece up at Vox in the wake of the president's announcement. 

First of all, let's clear the air. 2028 is a long way off. Much will happen between now and then. The events that occur will affect the next things that happen and so on. Yes, even all the way to 2028. It goes without saying, then, that this 2024 calendar trial run will have some impact on the rules that are ultimately adopted by the DNC for the 2028 cycle. But just how much impact?

After all, that is what 2024 is for Democrats: a trial run. It is a trial run that seems likely to occur under less than competitive conditions and offer little in the way of lessons that can be carried over into subsequent cycles. From a purely academic standpoint, the DNC is not going to learn much from moving South Carolina to the first position for 2024. Rules makers in the party will not be able to step back and say, for example, that the South Carolina primary was any more or less determinative in identifying a nominee in 2024 than it has been in the past. Now, that is not to say that there is not meaningful symbolism in the change at the top of the calendar, but rather, that the learning opportunities for the national party from the Iowa-for-South-Carolina swap in 2024 -- with the 2028 rules in mind -- are likely to be limited. 

But again, 2024 is a trial run and one that is unlikely to be completely devoid of learning opportunities for the national party. It is just that those chances will not come from how effective South Carolina was as a lead-off contest, or for that matter, what Michigan's primary would mean at the end of the pre-window period. Instead, the most learning will come from what has and is seemingly likely to dominate the stories of the Democratic nomination process at the outset in 2024: New Hampshire (and maybe Iowa) versus the DNC.

Any lesson gleaned from the 2024 process, then, is much more likely to come from the penalties side than anywhere else. And the early signals are that those penalties -- and the DNC -- will get a fairly stern test from New Hampshire if not Iowa. Democrats from the Hawkeye and Granite states have been quick since the winter meeting vote (but also since the December DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) adoption of the changes) to cite state laws that tie their hands with respect to (timing) compliance with the new calendar. And that foreshadows some lengthy brinkmanship in the weeks and months ahead.

Of course, there will be exit ramps along the way. The DNC adoption of the calendar rules, however, probably forestalls any retreat by the national party in the near term. But Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats will have to submit draft delegate selection plans (DSPs) to the DNCRBC in spring 2023. Democrats in the Granite state already have ahead of the May 3 deadline this coming week. However, ultimately the state parties will have to have those DSPs approved (or rejected) by the DNCRBC in the summer or early fall. If one or both of the state parties formally defy the rules in those draft DSPs or leave the contest date blank in them -- the latter is the route New Hampshire Democrats have chosen -- then that likely entrenches both sides even further. It is soon after that point that the DNCRBC is likely to not only apply the delegate penalties -- an automatic 50 percent reduction -- but to up them to a full 100 percent reduction of the delegation.

The temptation then is to fast forward to January 2024 when New Hampshire (and maybe Iowa) potentially hold rogue contests despite those national party penalties. However, that would miss a key component of the rules changes for this cycle: candidate penalties or rather, the result of potential candidate penalties. The president has thrown his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination, and his team has already signaled that he intends to abide by the rules the party Biden leads adopted for the 2024 process. Part of those rules include a prohibition on candidates campaigning in states with rogue primaries and caucuses. And part of the new and broader definition of "campaigning" for 2024 is filing to appear on the ballot in a rogue state. 

Iowa and New Hampshire have already acquired one asterisk in the Democratic presidential nomination process because neither is as diverse as the national Democratic electorate. But Biden not being on the ballot would add another asterisk to any results in 2024 and subsequently hover over consideration of the traditionally early pair as possible early calendar states in future cycles. 

And while that may be, the counter to all of that has always been that Iowa and New Hampshire do not really have that many delegates anyway. Wins in either, it has often been said, are more about the wins themselves and resulting momentum they generate than they are about the delegates accrued. True, but the flip side of that -- the rejoinder to the not that many delegates response -- is that Iowa and New Hampshire do not have that many delegates

What the DNC has really done for 2024 is create uncertainty for future cycles. Theirs has been a destabilizing action. Neither Iowa nor New Hampshire are delegate-rich. Both are already discounted contests. Furthermore, both would take some additional hit if they go rogue in 2024 and more so when the president (likely) does not file to appear on the ballot in one or both states.2 Going rogue will, in turn, draw the ire of at least a portion of those among the DNC membership who will make future decisions on the calendar. [That says nothing of Iowa and/or New Hampshire laying the groundwork for some fringe candidate to win either or both rogue contests.]

If you are a prospective 2028 Democratic presidential candidate, are you going to be champing at the bit to get into the Granite state and start campaigning in 2026, for example? In some cases, yes! [Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has already dropped in on the Granite state and plans to return next month.] It is a potential badge of honor to campaign against the national party establishment sometimes. That potentially carries with it some cachet that may move voters in and outside of New Hampshire (and/or Iowa). But it is not clear at this point that one candidate bucking the national party is going to start a rush into the Granite state given all the caveats above. 

Other deterrents 
The delegate penalties assessed on candidates by the national parties for campaigning in a rogue state are one thing that may buttress against that. But the history of the post-reform era has shown that there are other tools at the disposal of, if not the national party, then other early states. In fact, it was actors in Iowa and New Hampshire over the last half century who demonstrated the effectiveness of those alternative tools: pledges to boycott rogue states threatening the position of the early states.

Only, now the shoe is on the other foot, and it would be New Hampshire (and maybe Iowa) who are the threats and not the threatened in this and future cycles. What if South Carolina repeats as the DNC-sanctioned first state in 2028? Are candidates in a competitive 2028 field really going to snub Palmetto state Democrats to face voters in Iowa and New Hampshire? The better question is perhaps whether South Carolina Democrats will allow the candidates to campaign in rogue states without paying a price. That is what Iowa and New Hampshire have done over the years. They have used the protection of the DNC waiver (granting them early status) to effectively blackmail candidates. "Sign this pledge to stay out of that rogue state or you are done here (in Iowa or New Hampshire)." It has been a threat to kill a candidate's campaign before it really starts. 

That strategy has worked for the traditional early state duo in the past -- see 1996 or 2012 for a couple of examples -- and it can be used against them in the future (if they do not have sanctioned early status). And there is a strong argument that such efforts -- candidate pledges -- against Iowa and/or New Hampshire would be more effective because neither state is exactly reflective of the current Democratic primary electorate. One can imagine South Carolina Democrats, for example, asking candidates to sign a pledge to focus on the Palmetto state and the African Americans that make up the majority of the primary electorate there instead of spending any time in unrepresentative states like Iowa or New Hampshire. And it does not have to be just South Carolina. Nevada could be that first state. Any state that the DNC could feasibly get into the first slot in 2028 could utilize some variation on the candidate pledge that Iowa and New Hampshire have used in the past.

War of attrition
Now, if one is a prospective presidential aspirant for 2028, that is a lot to consider. Iowa and New Hampshire are already discounted in the Democratic nomination process. In the DNC rules for 2024, both have been knocked from the positions on the calendar each has held throughout the post-reform era. New Hampshire (and maybe Iowa) appear(s) likely to go rogue next year, which weakens the hand of Granite state Democrats (and potentially those from the Hawkeye state) in the resulting 2028 calendar rules discussions. Then there are penalties and potential pledges from/to officially sanctioned first states to consider in the next cycle.

From the candidate perspective, what is a win in New Hampshire (and/or Iowa) worth at that point? In other words, at what point does a contest become so discounted as to be next to meaningless? 

That is the long game the DNC is playing. The point -- the attempted point anyway -- is to discount any rogue state to the degree that is becomes meaningless to any (or most) prospective candidates. However, getting to that point hinges on the DNC doing something it has not done in the past: following through on the rules (and penalties) all the way through the national convention. 

Democrats in New Hampshire are banking on that happening again in 2024. That the DNC will cave, hand New Hampshire back its initial apportionment of delegates and seat them all at the national convention in the name of party unity. Yet, that is perhaps an uncritical view of the position the national party is in for the 2024 cycle. All of those past instances of threats to penalize Iowa and/or New Hampshire or to not seat their delegates at the national convention occurred in open and competitive nomination cycles. There was a greater need to not only demonstrate party unity to a viewing nation but to create it after fractious nomination processes. Caving was arguably more necessary.

But those are not the conditions of the 2024 cycle. President Biden is not running unopposed, but neither is he likely to face off against any viable alternatives. He and the national party under him have also orchestrated these changes to the rules for 2024, and it stands to reason that they -- and the national convention to nominate Biden -- would be more driven to see the rules through in order to establish (if not entrench) the new early calendar rotation. [Yes, New Hampshire is of some value to the Democratic coalition of states in the electoral college, but those four electoral votes are more expendable than, say, ten in Wisconsin, or 11 in Arizona or 16 in Georgia, to name a few other important states in that calculus. And yes, there are down-ballot implications too as mentioned in the footnotes.]

A cycle in which an incumbent is running for renomination and has instituted a new rules regime is maybe not the cycle to hope that the national party just caves again. 

Look, if some of the conditions of 2024 are unknown, then they are even more greatly unknown for 2028. Things could fall just right for an antiestablishment candidate, for instance, in the next cycle who could parlay a win in even a discounted rogue New Hampshire primary into something more. Still, that would be a very narrow path for a winning candidate to navigate through and become nominee given everything that continues to increasingly discount the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire within the Democratic presidential nomination process. 

But first thing first: The next step in this is how the DNCRBC reacts to the delegate selection plans from Iowa and New Hampshire when those deliberations commence over the next month or so. 

1 Incidentally, the calendar changes for 2024 will likely create some rogue states, but they will be a different kind of rogue state that is less likely to plunge the system into chaos. Some unnecessary headaches, sure. But chaos? That will take a lot more than a rogue New Hampshire primary and/or Iowa caucus.

2 "Some additional hit" is tough to define. In the context of New Hampshire in particular, the argument made there in the wake of national party calendar decisions has been that the Biden/DNC move to push the Granite state back in the order is only going to negatively affect Biden's chances in New Hampshire in the general election and hurt other New Hampshire Democrats down-ballot (but especially those holding federal office). It is a threat of mutually assured destruction -- from both sides. That will set off a battle to assign blame, the outcome of which is difficult to foresee.