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

Saturday, June 3, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] Uncertainty and the 2024 Presidential Primary Calendar

The following is cross-posted from FHQ Plus, FHQ's subscription newsletter. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to unlock the full site and support our work. 


The 2024 invisible primary has gotten to a point where more and more folks are starting to look at the calendar of nominating contests that the Republicans vying for the presidential nomination will face next year. And due to the proximity to the beginning of primary season seven-ish months away, the order of those contests is taking on increasing importance. 

But here things are, seven months or so from the kickoff of primary season 2024, and uncertainty remains. And it exists at the very beginning of the calendar. There is not one Republican primary or caucus in any state that has an official date on the calendar before Super Tuesday. Or stated differently, every state one might expect to fall before Super Tuesday in 2024 has at least one caveat that makes it impossible to know exactly where those states may end up when the calendar dust settles.

Now, some of us are of a mind that all of this will shake out with some drama over the coming months, but limited drama. It all depends on the moves the various players make. Here are a few of the moves about which there is uncertainty, but from which the calendar answers will come.

  • Michigan Republicans: Do Republicans in the Great Lakes state opt into the late February presidential primary or choose to select and allocate national convention delegates in a party-run caucus/convention process? The party is in a bind either way (but this will not directly affect the earlier protected states in the Republican process).

  • Nevada Republicans: Same question, different state Republican party: Do Nevada Republicans opt into the state-run presidential primary on February 6 or decide to use a slightly later (but before a Michigan Republican primary) caucus/convention process? The later caucus option may save Republicans from starting primary season in early instead of mid-January. [And just this week, there were signals from Silver state Republicans that they are aiming for caucuses.]

  • South Carolina Republicans: Theoretically, the decision here will hinge to some degree on what Michigan and Nevada decide. But what Palmetto state Republicans decide is also colored by the political custom in the state for the parties have (state-run) primaries on 1) a Saturday and 2) on different days. Breaking from those traditions may provide some additional leeway, but they are traditions for a reason. If Nevada Republicans opt into the primary in the Silver state, then South Carolina Republicans would likely have a primary no later than February 3 alongside Democrats in the state. However, if they follow tradition, then Republicans in the first-in-the-South primary state would likely hold a primary a week earlier on January 27. And that would leave Iowa and New Hampshire with a very narrow sliver of calendar in which to operate (under the traditional rules of calendar engagement).

  • New Hampshire: The secretary of state in the Granite state -- the person who makes the primary scheduling decision -- is cross-pressured on two sides, sandwiched between the decisions Iowa and South Carolina actors may make. But the South Carolina Democratic primary is scheduled for February 3. That means that the New Hampshire primary will be no later than January 23, on a Tuesday at least seven days before any other similar election. South Carolina Republicans may push that a little earlier if they schedule a January primary. On the other side, Iowa Democrats' decision to conduct a vote-by-mail presidential preference vote raises red flags in New Hampshire because it too closely resembles a primary. But there is no date for the conclusion of that preference vote. If that vote concludes on caucus night, whenever in January that ends up, then that could draw New Hampshire to an even earlier date ahead of Iowa.

  • Iowa Republicans: Decision makers within the Republican Party of Iowa are also stuck to some extent; stuck between what Iowa Democrats are planning and what New Hampshire's secretary of state may do in response. But the party is mostly stuck because decision makers seem to want to make a decision on the caucus date for 2024 some time early this summer when there may not yet be enough information to make a decision that protects the traditional calendar order in the Republican process. Waiting for Iowa Democrats' preference vote (conclusion) date to settle is likely to resolve much of this drama at the very front end of the calendar. 

The takeaway is that there is some uncertainty that is sure to create some drama over the final calendar, but it is uncertainty that can be boiled down to a handful of decisions in a handful of states. Admittedly, it can go in a number of different directions -- choose your own adventure! -- but there is a pretty narrow range of possibilities. 

Follow the evolving calendar here.


[Side note: FHQ likes the Ballotpedia way of looking at the primary calendar. While FHQ attempts to explain all of the chaos away (or to put it into context), their model is simpler: what is confirmed. But if one is going to do that, then one has to actually confirm confirmed primary dates. Ballotpedia lists Colorado as confirmed for Super Tuesday. Now, FHQ fully expects that that is where the presidential primary in the Centennial state ends up in 2024. The secretary of state has it on the calendarThe Colorado Democratic Party has it in their delegate selection plan. But the date is not official yet. The secretary of state and the governor make that decision. And nothing has been said publicly about that yet. For comparison, Governor Polis announced the 2020 presidential primary date at the end of April 2019. By law, decision makers have until September 1 of this year to set the date.]


Saturday, May 20, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] The Quirks of Scheduling a South Carolina Presidential Primary

The following is a cross-posted excerpt from FHQ Plus, FHQ's new subscription service. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to unlock the full site and support our work. 


Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recently made the curious decision to schedule the presidential primary in the Peach state for March 12, a week after Super Tuesday. And the move not only ended the hopes of Georgia Democrats holding a primary in the pre-window on the 2024 presidential primary calendar, but it also highlighted why South Carolina got the nod from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to take over the lead off slot

The Raffensperger obstacle in Georgia, whether viewed through the lens of partisanship or not, is something with which decision makers in the Palmetto state do not have to contend. After all, like Georgia, the state of South Carolina foots the bill for the election. However, unlike Georgia, the it is the state parties in South Carolina that set the date of the contest. It is a unique power that grants the state’s primaries more scheduling mobility than the vast majority of the states and allows South Carolina to remain first-in-the-South (if not first-in-the-nation).

But that freedom in South Carolina is not without some fetters. 

Caitlin Byrd and Alexander Thompson had a nice “yes, South Carolina Democrats are actually having the first primary in 2024” story over the weekend. And complications with rogue New Hampshire (and the very likely resulting penalties from the DNC) aside, they are. South Carolina Democrats will have a February 3 primary next year. 

But as the piece notes, it is not all smooth sailing in the Palmetto state. 

But not everyone is convinced that a 2024 presidential primary would be a major financial or organizing boost. Former party chair Dick Harpootlian questioned the value of holding a potentially costly event for a predictable outcome.  

“The question is, do we have one if it’s the president versus nobody, because it costs a tremendous amount of money to do that,” he said.

Two Democrats so far have announced challenging Biden for the 2024 presidential nomination: Marianne Williamson and Robert Kennedy Jr., both widely viewed as long shots. 

Pressed if he would want a primary with the current field, Harpootlian replied, “I wouldn’t have it.”

Again, South Carolina Democrats are going to have that February 3 primary. But Harpootlian hints at some of the historical quirks in South Carolina, quirks that have taken new shape under state and national party changes. Yes, the parties have the freedom to set the date of the contest for anywhere on the calendar they wish, so long as it follows party rules. And in years past when incumbent presidents have run for reelection, those same state parties have had the freedom to cancel the contest and select delegates through a caucus/convention process. It is not some sinister plot to foil the plans of also-ran candidates. Instead, it is a nod to reality. If the president is going to be renominated, then why, in recent years since the state began funding the primaries, spend taxpayer money (or party money before that) to fund a beauty contest election? The answer is that those state parties have not. There was no big, first-in-the-South primary when Bill Clinton ran for reelection in 1996, or for George W. Bush in 2004, or Barack Obama in 2012 or Donald Trump in 2020. Caucuses and/or conventions were held instead. 

But South Carolina Democrats do not have that freedom for 2024. And no one seems to be lamenting that loss. Everyone is too busy celebrating the elevation of the primary to the first spot on the calendar instead. Well, perhaps not Dick Harpootlian. But he is not wrong, per se, nor is South Carolina alone. The primary is alone at the top, of course, but even other states or state parties that might otherwise go small in 2024 with a Democratic president running again have to go through the motions of a primary because of the Rule 2 encouragements layered into DNC rules for the 2020 cycle, the encouragements to hold the most open and accessible nominating contests as is feasible.

To be sure, folks at the DNC would push back against the notion that any state or state party is “going through the motions.” The argument from the national party would most certainly be that the party is creating the most open, inclusive and accessible process for Democratic primary voters. However, the trade-off, if one wants to call it that, is that the party loses out on the incumbent-cycle streamlining of the process. 

And that streamlining, scaling down from a primary to a caucus, is something that some, if not all of the folks, at the DNC would say is no real loss. While that may be in the eye of the beholder, it is also true that there are and have been limited opportunities to streamline anyway. State parties with party-run nominating events may downgrade — hold caucuses over a party-run primary or a convention over caucuses. And some state parties do opt out of state-run primaries in incumbent cycles. Arizona and South Carolina did on the Republican side in 2020. Democrats in Florida and Michigan did in 2012 to avoid non-compliant primaries that were scheduled too early. And Washington Democrats in the legislature canceled the primary there that cycle, a primary the party never used until 2020 (after the legislature brought it back). And there ends up being a handful of states each cycle that automatically cancel a primary if only one candidate is on the ballot. 

So, there are a few instances each cycle where contests are canceled, but South Carolina is unique among state-funded primary states in that Democrats and Republicans can choose, and have chosen, separate dates throughout the post-reform era. And since the state got into the primary funding business for 2008, just two of the four cycles have seen primary cancelations. But 2024 will be the first one where an incumbent is running and a primary is not canceled. It will be the first time the state of South Carolina has had to pay for a largely uncompetitive presidential primary involving an incumbent president.

Again, this is not the custom elsewhere. In all other primary states, there is one primary. A state party with an incumbent president may opt out, but on the whole primaries are held and delegates are allocated, typically based on lopsided results that hand the president the overwhelming majority if not all of the delegates. But the cost constraint in South Carolina represents a unique obstacle with the state parties holding primaries on separate dates. That is two separate elections to fund. 

And that brings this back to 2024. There will be two primaries. But this will be the first time the state has funded primaries when the incumbent president’s party is not opting out. No one is complaining. The legislature is not threatening the funding. It is spent in service of keeping South Carolina first-in-the-South. But as Byrd and Thompson noted in their article, Palmetto state Republicans used the costs as a justification for opting out in 2020. Democrats in the state are not doing that for 2024. 

The question is whether that action will be the only first in South Carolina for 2024. Separate Democratic and Republican primaries have been the norm. But they do not have to be on different dates. South Carolina Republicans could join Democrats on February 3, save the state the second expenditure and provide a little more room for Iowa and New Hampshire to maneuver in January. 

But that may be a bridge too far in a state with a number of quirks.