Showing posts with label midterm elections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label midterm elections. Show all posts

Monday, January 14, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The 2018 Elections and The 2020 Presidential Primary Calendar

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

As presidential nomination cycles have come and gone over the years, the stories change in terms of how states maneuver within that system and why. That is not to suggest that the collision of states and the decision-making conditions they confront is complete chaos every four years. Rather, the terrain is constantly shifting. That is true for a lot of electoral decisions that state legislatures make, and that includes how states position their delegate selection events -- primaries and caucuses -- on the quadrennial presidential primary calendar.

Eight years ago, nearly half the states in the country had newly non-compliant primary dates leftover from a 2008 cycle that saw a slew of states push into February and cluster primarily at the beginning of the month. When the national parties informally coordinated a later start to primary season for 2012, all those February states from 2008 had to make changes to state law.

And the result was at least somewhat predictable. State governments that were under unified Republican control shifted back their dates much less than did the handful of states that were controlled by Democrats after the 2010 midterm elections. Whereas Democratic-controlled states pushed back to traditional positions (California and New Jersey back to June) or positions later on the calendar (the northeastern/mid-Atlantic regional primary in late April), most Republican-controlled states ended up somewhere in March.

At least part of the motivation, then, was partisan. Decision makers in Republican state governments were preparing for an active nomination race and attempted to schedule their primaries for advantageous -- for voters and for drawing candidate attention -- spots on the calendar. Democratic decision makers had no such similar calculus. With no real competition for the Democratic nomination, decision makers in Democratic-controlled states could afford to shift back further in 2012 to take advantage of a new series of delegate bonuses the DNC built into their delegate selection rules for that cycle.

However, when the calendar flipped over four more times, the decision-making matrix at the state level was different for 2016. Both parties had varying levels of competitive races looming and again, acted in at least somewhat predictable ways. Republican-controlled states, already largely in early positions, saw minimal movement.

But Democratic side of the ledger was different. First even in 2014, before the 2015-16 legislatures had been elected, Democrats had a clear frontrunner for 2016 in Hillary Clinton. Second, after the 2014 midterms, there were only a handful of states with unified Democratic control. That is a recipe for little movement, and, in fact, none of those seven Democratic states made any changes for the 2016 cycle.

So as the process heads into 2019, what does the balance of power look like in states across the country for 2020?

For starters, the number of Republican-controlled states is similar to 2015. While there were 23 states with unified Republican control in 2015, there are 22 in 2019. However, there are more Democratic-controlled states now than four years ago and the gains came not from Republican states, but from those with control divided in some way, whether inter-branch or intra-branch.

Not only has the map of partisan control changed, but so too have the conditions under which these decisions are made. Like 2011 or 2015 for Republicans, Democratic decision makers in 2019 seemingly have a wide open and competitive nomination race on the horizon. Those actors, like Republicans in the recent past, have incentives to potentially shift around the dates on which their presidential primaries are held.

That incentive was great enough that California moved from June to March for 2020 back in 2017, an atypical time in the cycle to make such a move.

And that incentive could be enough to motivate the cluster of Democratic-controlled states in the northeast to coordinate an earlier cluster of contests; the inverse of 2011. There is already some evidence that a western regional primary could form in a position just a week after Super Tuesday.

On the Republican side the motivation is different, and not exactly like what Democrats faced in 2011. Yes, defending the president is chief among the concerns of Republicans like the Democrats of eight years ago. However, the defense is potentially different. Democrats, with no real threat of a challenge to President Obama, made moves potentially with the general election in mind; to attempt to influence who emerged as Obama's opponent.

Republican legislators may act, but with the nomination phase in mind; to ward off a challenge to the president. This may happen, as was the case eight years ago on the Democratic side, at the behest of national Republican actors, but it will take place at the state level.

Does that mean Republican-controlled states unilaterally pull back and set later dates? That would be an historical anomaly. States have not typically done that except in situations where it has meant consolidating separated primaries in order to reduce costs; save a line on the state budget. But in more polarized times, both nationally and increasingly in state legislatures, the rules may be different.

It is early in the 2019 state legislative sessions, but it is there that these calendar decisions will be made, and begin to provide a picture of what the 2020 presidential primary calendar will eventually look like.


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Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Gillibrand end last week with a flurry of activity, whether it was lining up potential campaign headquarters, planning trips to Iowa, staffing up, or privately signaling her intentions.

2. She's not the only one headed to Iowa. Brown is going to visit the Hawkeye state too.

3. Swalwell is taking a late January trip to New Hampshire.

4. Inslee is taking flak back home from Republicans and from some New Hampshire Democrats.

5. In West Virginia, announced Democratic presidential candidate, Richard Ojeda, is resigning his state Senate seat to run for president.

6. Meanwhile, Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is in.

7. So is Julian Castro.

8. And DeBlasio isn't closing any 2020 doors, but, boy, is the clock ticking and the alarm may have already sounded for statements about door-closing/considerations being either serious or taken seriously.

9. Warren continues to add staff. This time some New Hampshire staff additions were announced while Warren was visiting the Granite state.

10. If Biden's walking, he's running [for 2020].


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

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bill Would Push Massachusetts Primary to May

No, not the presidential primary. That will stay in March, unaffected by this proposed legislation.

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Massachusetts has tended to have a later than typical statewide primary compared to most of the rest of the country, sandwiching a general election campaign into a seven week window between an early September primary and a November election.

However, recently proposed legislation would reconfigure that set up. S 391, introduced last week by Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Fifth Middlesex), would shift the statewide primary from the seventh Tuesday before the general election (which tends to fall in early September) to the third Tuesday in May. The practical effect, if this bill were to be passed and become law, is to tack an additional ten or so weeks onto the normal general election campaign for those running for federal/congressional and statewide offices.

And, in fact, that is part of the cited rationale behind the legislation: to mimic other states with earlier primaries as a means of increasing public engagement and, by extension, turnout. The move would also eliminate the late summer and early fall calendar conflicts that can arise. The scheduled primary's overlap with Labor Day in both 2012 and 2016 forced those primaries from the Tuesday immediately following the holiday to the Thursday of the same week. The former also conflicted with the Democratic National Convention.

This is not a new idea in the Bay state. For the last several years there has also been legislation to consolidate the Massachusetts primaries -- including the presidential primaries -- in June. Those efforts have met dead ends in the past. Whether this new bill meets the same fate remains unanswered.