Friday, July 9, 2010

Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting in DC Today and Tomorrow

From First Read:
Setting the 2012 calendar: There’s another meeting to watch today -- this one in D.C. At 1:00 pm ET, DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee meets, and it’s expected that they’ll vote on dates for the pre-window states (IA, NH, SC, NV) and reducing the influence of superdelegates.
FHQ doubts very seriously that the R&B selects the dates for the four exempt states. They might set the parameters from which those states will make their choices, but they won't set the dates. Each will wait as late as possible in the process (next year) to finalize those dates -- to ensure that they are as safe as possible at the beginning of the process.

We haven't touched base with Frank Leone at DemRulz, but he is expected to be on-site today and tomorrow. Check in there for updates and here for some ex post facto thoughts on the full meeting on Monday.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar (6/30/10)

There has been enough chatter on the primary/caucus scheduling front in the last few days to warrant a long overdue update of the 2012 presidential calendar from FHQ. Here again are the guidelines for reading the calendar from the last update in May 2009:
  1. Caucus states are italicized while primary states are not. Several caucus states are missing from the list because they have not formalized the date on which their contests will be held in 2012. Colorado appears because the caucuses dates there are set by the state, whereas a state like Alaska has caucuses run by the state parties and as such do not have their dates codified in state law.
  2. States that have changed dates appear twice (or more) on the calendar; once by the old date and once by the new date. The old date will be struck through while the new date will be color-coded with the amount of movement (in days) in parentheses. States in green are states that have moved to earlier dates on the calendar and states in red are those that have moved to later dates. Arkansas, for example, has moved its 2012 primary and moved it back 104 days from its 2008 position.
2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

Monday, January 16, 2012: Iowa caucuses*

Tuesday, January 24
: New Hampshire*

Saturday, January 28: Nevada caucuses*, South Carolina*

A note on the placement of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Tuesday, January 31
: Florida

Tuesday, February 7 (Super Tuesday): Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Montana Republican caucuses, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah

Saturday, February 11: Louisiana

Tuesday, February 14: Maryland, Virginia

Tuesday, February 21: Hawaii Republican caucuses (+87), Wisconsin

Tuesday, February 28: Arizona**, Michigan***

Tuesday, March 6: Massachusetts***, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont

Tuesday, March 13: Mississippi

Tuesday, March 20: Colorado caucuses****, Illinois (-42)

Tuesday, April 24: Pennsylvania

Tuesday, May 8: Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia

Tuesday, May 15: Nebraska, Oregon

Tuesday, May 22: Arkansas (-104), Idaho, Kentucky

Tuesday, June 5: Montana (GOP -119), New Mexico***** and South Dakota

*New Hampshire law calls for the Granite state to hold a primary on the second Tuesday of March or seven days prior to any other similar election, whichever is earlier. Florida is first now, so New Hampshire would be a week earlier at the latest. Traditionally, Iowa has gone on the Monday a week prior to New Hampshire. For the time being we'll wedge Nevada and South Carolina in on the Saturday between New Hampshire and Florida, but these are just guesses at the moment. Any rogue states could cause a shift.

**In Arizona the governor can use his or her proclamation powers to move the state's primary to a date on which the event would have an impact on the nomination. In 2004 and 2008 the primary was moved to the first Tuesday in February.

***Massachusetts and Michigan are the only states that passed a frontloading bill prior to 2008 that was not permanent. The Bay state reverts to its first Tuesday in March date in 2012 while Michigan will fall back to the fourth Tuesday in February.

****The Colorado Democratic and Republican parties have the option to move their caucuses from the third Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February.

*****The law in New Mexico allows the parties to decide when to hold their nominating contests. The Democrats have gone in early February in the last two cycles, but the GOP has held steady in June. They have the option of moving however.

1. There have been several states (state legislatures) and parties that have made changes with 2012 in mind:
  • The Illinois legislature moved the date of the state's presidential primary (and that of state and local primaries as well since all are held concurrently) from the first Tuesday in February to the third Tuesday in March when the elections had been held prior to 2008. The main motivation behind the legislation (SB 355) was to move the other primaries back to their original date so as not to lengthen the general election campaigns for other offices. Apparently the financial hit that would have been caused by separating the presidential primary was too steep. Illinois is also one of the states that has always insisted on having both sets of contests held together. That also makes Illinois one of the rare states to have both held their all their primary elections at once and moved to an earlier date on the presidential primary calendar. Rare may be a bit strong, but those states with separate presidential primaries -- separate from those for state and local offices -- are much more likely to move and have moved their contests in the post-reform era.
  • Montana Republicans just recently opted to forgo their scheduled February 2012 caucus and take advantage of the state-funded primary. The influence they sought by moving to February in 2008 was lacking with over half of the country either voting on or before that February 5 date on which the GOP caucus was held in Montana. Not unlike Arkansas, Montana Republicans didn't find the greener (more influential) pastures in 2008 they thought they would when the moves were made.
  • The New Hampshire General Court did not settle on a date for 2012 -- that's up to Secretary of State William Gardner anyway -- but they did act to protect the state's first-in-the-nation status by tweaking the Granite State's election law. HB 341 carried over from last year and was passed, though in a modified form. The version from 2009 contained more specific language implying that only Iowa could precede New Hampshire on the calendar. That segment was missing in the 2010 version, replaced with the line, "The purpose of this section is to protect the tradition of the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation presidential primary." The bottom line is that New Hampshire will be among, if not the, last state to decide the date on which its 2012 primary will be held (...or if it will be held in 2012 at all. No, FHQ doesn't think that's a possibility, but time will tell.).
2. Of most interest to those following this calendar shaping process is what the parties decide on in terms of rules later this summer. If both parties, as expected, call for a return to pre-2004 timing rules (read: no February contests for non-exempt states), the focus will shift to those states that will have to move their contests in order to comply with the new rules. That count now sits at 18 primary states and one caucus state, not to mention the four exempt states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina).

3. I've gotten several comments on a "recent" post I wrote about the 2012 rules and calendar. Let me make clear that that post was an exercise that assumed the exempted states opted to move first in the process by voluntarily accepting the proposed scheduling rules. Under that scenario, Florida would be in the catbird seat: first but in need of a change to comply with the new rules. This will not happen. Florida may opt to stick with that last Tuesday in January date, but Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will make their scheduling decisions after Florida has acted, or not acted, on their date. More than anything that post was to serve as a visual for why Florida should flaunt the rules again in 2012.

Friday, June 11, 2010

South Carolina's Alphabetical Disorder

This is out of FHQ's wheelhouse, but we have, like many others, been intrigued by the events surrounding the Democratic nomination race for Senate in South Carolina this week. To a fault -- or perhaps not -- I have been trained to both resist simple answers and play devil's advocate. At the same time, I'm also hesitant to latch onto conspiracy theories. In other words, FHQ has not subscribed to either the alphabetical order argument nor does it necessarily accept the "Republican plant" argument that Jim Clyburn has been pushing the last couple of days. To me, something else is up with this race and it rests somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

John Sides over at The Monkey Cage has looked into the alphabetical explanation:
"And I’m not sure that the potential ballot order effect is implausibly large. Assume for the moment that voters were essentially choosing at random between the candidates. That would imply a 50-50 outcome. The actual outcome was 58-41, which only implies that 8-9% of voters were influenced by ballot margin."
The only thing that bothers me about that line of reasoning -- and I find it sound -- is that the 2008 Senate nomination race, as folks within the South Carolina Democratic Party have pointed out, was between two equally unknown candidates statewide and the result was a near draw. However, if one is looking for ballot order effects between two unknown candidates, the 2008 race may have been mitigated by the fact that both candidates had very similar last names. Michael Cone and Bob Conley. Conley won 50.36-49.64 and went on to lose to Lindsey Graham in November.

So what else could explain the out-of-nowhere performance Alvin Greene turned in on Tuesday? Some have speculated that race was also a factor; that somehow Greene's name may have tipped off voters in a primary electorate that is overwhelmingly African American. Again, this one is tough to isolate. Sides also examined the relationship between the share of the vote that Greene got across each of South Carolina's 46 counties and the percentage of each county that was African American in the 2000 Census. There was a slight relationship there, but as Sides points out, it wasn't statistically significant.

But let's try and find some middle ground between the simple explanations and the conspiracy theories. This one is just too fishy to me, and here's why. If one wants to find some irregularities, one has to go looking for them. My thought was to look at the turnout numbers from Tuesday. First of all, Greene lost four of 46 counties statewide and cleared 60% in 29 of those 42. That seems more systematic than random. But let's assume that it was random for a moment and keep poking around. The other oddity is that turnout among Democrats was actually up compared to the Democratic primaries of 2006 and 2008. Those two elections were -- at least nationally -- cycles that favored Democrats while 2010 does not. The numbers in 2010 were actually comparable to the Senate race in 2004 which saw Inez Tenenbaum, the state's Education Superintendant, emerge with the nomination. But she was a known quantity while neither Vic Rawl nor Alvin Greene were in 2010.

Total Turnout (Democratic primaries):

Fine. Turnout was up in an otherwise down year for Democrats (nationally). So what? That doesn't mean anything is going on in South Carolina. No, it doesn't, but let's have a look at the county by county numbers (click on View All Data) in 2010 versus 2008 and see if there is any pattern to the vote increases. The problem here is that the raw vote totals in each county cannot be used. What I did then was look at each county's share of the statewide Democratic vote total in the Senate primaries in each election cycle. This percentage is a means of pseudo-standardizing the measure. The 2008 percentage was then subtracted from the 2010 percentage. In turn, that gives us an idea of which counties increased their total vote shares the most. My thought when I started this exercise was that if any ballot boxes were going to be stuffed (or machines tampered with), the best place to hide it would be in high vote areas. I quickly glanced through the data for all 46 counties and saw that a disproportionate number of the gainers -- those states that gained the greatest share of the vote from 2008 to 2010 -- were the most populous states. In fact, of the top ten gainers, seven were among the top ten most populous counties. Additionally, the gains across all of the top 10 most populous counties (distinct from the top ten gainers) accounted for over 24,000 votes or about 80% of the more than 30,000 margin by which Greene won.

While this seems to indicate that something might be amiss in the most population dense areas of the state, there are two big problems with this experiment.

1) Now it is true that there seems to be a pattern here; that more populous counties were more likely to see above average gains in their share of the statewide total. But that just accounts for the difference between 2008 and 2010. What if that is a typical trend from cycle to cycle? As a simple check I did the same exercise but compared the difference between the Democratic Senate primaries of 2004 and 2008 (see footnote below for explanation on 2006). The population-based pattern exhibited in the changes from 2008 to 2010 was non-existent in the change over from 2004 to 2008. The latter had no real detectable pattern and indeed looked quite randomly distributed. In the 2004-2008 example, only three of the top ten most populous were among the states that gained in terms of their share of the statewide vote from one Senate cycle to the next. There may be something here.

2) There may be something here, but we've left out one important part. It's fine for those counties to have gained a larger share of the total statewide vote from 2008 to 2010, but how did Greene actually perform in those counties? This is where the wheels come off this explanation somewhat. Greene actually underperformed his statewide average of 59% in the ten most populous counties. The mystery candidate garnered only 57.5% in those ten counties. The raw votes increased, in other words, but that didn't translate into Greene or someone acting behind the scenes stuffing the ballot box on his behalf.

Is this the end of the road for this idea? No, I think there still may be something here, but that there needs to be a greater focus on some sort of an interaction between the percentage urban and percentage black for each county. If there is a large degree of overlap between the two, that likely punches some holes in the racialized argument. But South Carolina is still part of the South and urban doesn't necessarily mean black in the way it does in other states with major metropolitan areas.

If there is some conspiracy here, whoever is behind it left some clues behind but didn't make anything easy on the slew of political scientists who are acting like CSI forensics experts with this thing. In the meantime, FHQ will keep digging and let you know if we turn up anything more.

*There was no Senate race in South Carolina in 2006. These numbers are from the top of the ticket race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Update: Tom Schaller over at FiveThirtyEight has much more.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New 2012 Rules, New 2012 Primary Calendar

The following is a look at the calendar with Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina placed where the national parties have specified and when contests in the remaining primary states are scheduled according to state law. For a glimpse at what the 2012 presidential primary calendar looks like currently, click here.

No, nothing is official and nothing will be regarding the 2012 presidential nomination rules until August. However, let's assume for a moment that the rules as currently proposed in both parties will be adopted. That means that Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina can hold contests in February while the remaining states and territories have to carve out a space between the first Tuesday in March and the first Tuesday in June. The scuttlebutt from New Hampshire -- at least following the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee recommendations -- has been that, under that scenario, Iowa would hold its caucuses on the first Monday in February followed by the New Hampshire primary eight days later. Nevada and South Carolina would hold their events at least a week later. Then, once March 7 hits, all the remaining states would be free to schedule their delegate selection events.

Yes FHQ, but how would the calendar look? I'm glad you asked.

2012 Presidential Primary Calendar (under proposed new rules--pre-sanction)

Tuesday, January 31
: Florida

Monday, February 6: Iowa caucuses

Tuesday, February 7 (Super Tuesday): Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah

Saturday, February 11: Louisiana

Tuesday, February 14: New Hampshire, Maryland, Virginia

Tuesday, February 21: Nevada caucuses, South Carolina Republican primary, Hawaii Republican caucuses, Wisconsin

Tuesday, February 28: Arizona**, Michigan***

Tuesday, March 6: Massachusetts***, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont

Tuesday, March 13: Mississippi

Tuesday, March 20: Colorado caucuses****, Illinois

Tuesday, April 24: Pennsylvania

Tuesday, May 8: Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia

Tuesday, May 15: Nebraska, Oregon

Tuesday, May 22: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky

Tuesday, June 5: Montana, New Mexico***** and South Dakota

*New Hampshire law calls for the Granite state to hold a primary on the second Tuesday of March or seven days prior to any other similar election, whichever is earlier. Florida is first now, so New Hampshire would be a week earlier at the latest. Traditionally, Iowa has gone on the Monday a week prior to New Hampshire. For the time being we'll wedge Nevada and South Carolina in on the Saturday between New Hampshire and Florida, but these are just guesses at the moment. Any rogue states could cause a shift.

**In Arizona the governor can use his or her proclamation powers to move the state's primary to a date on which the event would have an impact on the nomination. In 2004 and 2008 the primary was moved to the first Tuesday in February.

***Massachusetts and Michigan are the only states that passed a frontloading bill prior to 2008 that was not permanent. The Bay state reverts to its first Tuesday in March date in 2012 while Michigan will fall back to the fourth Tuesday in February.

****The Colorado Democratic and Republican parties have the option to move their caucuses from the third Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February.

*****The law in New Mexico allows the parties to decide when to hold their nominating contests. The Democrats have gone in early February in the last two cycles, but the GOP has held steady in June. They have the option of moving however.

No, I doubt Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina volunteer to take those spots, too. None of those states will jump first and wait on the remaining early states to move back to comply with the national parties' proposed rules. Iowa won't volunteer to go after Florida and New Hampshire won't willingly hold its primary after Super Tuesday. Iowa and New Hampshire are never the first to move anyway. They reserve the right to move last -- after every other state has locked into position.

FHQ doesn't want to risk beating a dead horse here, but this is just another way of showing how difficult it is going to be for the parties to get those February states in line. The "yes, but look what happens if we stay put" argument comes out in full force if there isn't an adequate enforcement mechanism in place. I think Florida would quite like this set up, don't you? Of course, Iowa and New Hampshire would shift the dates of their contests to something like this* if that happened.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The 2012 Frontloading Problem: What's Our Incentive?

Yesterday I spoke with someone from Gannett about both parties' current attempts to devise rules systems governing the 2012 presidential nomination process. We discussed a lot in our five minute conversation, but the thing that struck me was his question on the likelihood of more rogue states in 2012. FHQ's standard answer is that as long as both parties are on the same page on the issue of timing, then most states will fall in line.

However, I think that there is some need for a caveat. The big what if in the back of the minds of those within the national parties is whether states will actually go along with that. What if they don't? What's is the incentive for those 19 pre-March states to move back to comply with the likely rules for 2012? In most cases, in the opinion of this site, states will just comply. It just won't be an issue. Yet, for other states there may be no incentive to move back. Additionally, that latter group of states may not flinch at the enforcement mechanism put in place by either or both parties. And therein lies the question that came out at the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting last week: What is that enforcement mechanism? I don't know about the Republican Party, but I got the sense that no one in the room last week knew what that was or more importantly what it should be.

As I said, I don't think it will be a problem in a majority of the 19 cases.* Most states will fall in line and the system will revert to its earlier nothing-before-the-first-Tuesday-in-March form. There are, in FHQ's estimation, a small handful of states that could dare the national parties to do something -- anything -- to sanction them by sticking to their 2008 calendar positions. And I don't think the parties would have much recourse but to let them.

Yes, but where is that line of demarcation? Which states would be better able to call the national parties' bluff if they really wanted to?

Allow us to enlist the help of our Electoral College Spectrum [This version of the spectrum is based on the final results in the 2008 election.]. The idea of the spectrum is simple: It rank orders the states from the most lopsided Democratic state (Hawaii in the top left corner) to the most lopsided Republican state (Wyoming in the bottom right corner). The two extreme columns aren't that helpful to us. Those are the most reliably Democratic and Republican states. But as we move inward the states get more competitive. And the more competitive a state gets, the more leverage it would have on the national parties in terms of primary timing.

The Electoral College Spectrum*
*Follow the link for a detailed explanation on how to read the Electoral College Spectrum.
**The numbers in the parentheses refer to the number of electoral votes a candidate would have if he won all the states ranked prior to that state. If, for example, McCain won all the states up to and including Colorado (all Obama's toss up states plus Colorado), he would have 269 electoral votes. McCain's numbers are only totaled through the states he would have needed in order to get to 270. In those cases, Obama's number is on the left and McCain's is on the right in italics.

Colorado is the state where Obama crossed the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election. That line is referred to as the victory line.
****Nebraska allocates electoral votes based on statewide results and the results within each of its congressional districts. Nebraska's 2nd district voted for Barack Obama on November 4.

Let me parse this out.

Say you're a state legislator or the governor in Florida. Your primary is already scheduled for the last Tuesday in January. You have a pretty good idea that you'll be a competitive state in the general election. You also know that losing half your delegates is a meaningless threat from the parties. It is the influence over the identity of the nominee that counts. That's all the Republicans did in 2008. The Democrats initially had that same sanction, but added a candidate-focused penalty as well. Candidates who campaigned in rogue states would not have any delegates they won in that state's contest seated at the Democratic convention. [Of course, it didn't play out that way for the Democrats in 2008.]

Given that information and the 2008 experience (Think Indiana and North Carolina from the primaries to the general election for the Democrats.), what would you do? Personally, I'd balk at the parties. If you are a state that is already scheduled early (earlier than the proposed party-designated March starting point), why not roll the dice? The parties would be stuck. Why would they pass up a golden opportunity for some early grassroots party-building for the general election in a state that will ultimately prove consequential to either side's electoral college calculus? They wouldn't; not in the way the Democrats did with Florida and Michigan in 2008. If all either party is doing is stripping a rogue state of half their delegates, then it could be open season for movement, as it isn't likely to deter states from either staying early or moving to earlier dates. But if they are trying to keep the candidates out of the state -- like the Democrats did in 2008 -- then the move is potentially counterproductive down the road in the general election.

The parties could come down hard on states that would go their way in November regardless. They could keep those states in line with little or no threat of it coming back to haunt the party and their candidate in November. I could also foresee the national parties being able to strong arm state parties making the decisions on caucuses to comply (That extra filter of the state government doesn't exist in those states.). But in competitive general election states? The parties would have to be blinded by the need to sanction rule-breakers in the short term to hamstring themselves long term in the general election in an electorally consequential state.

So, if you're Florida or Virginia or Arizona or Missouri or Michigan and you are already scheduled in the pre-window period, why not hold your spot and see what the parties will do to you? [Of course, I don't see the Republicans attempting that kind of sanction. Then again, I didn't see the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee proposing to require early states to allocate delegates proportionally versus having the freedom to determine the mode of allocation either.] In a nutshell, there isn't a whole lot the national parties could (or would) do in that case. It would hurt them in the general election.

* I should note that there is a sequence to all of this. If one of these states telegraphs that it is going to stay in place, thus violating the proposed rules the two parties have out there at the moment, it could open up the floodgates. A handful of states with some leverage could become a full scale 19 -- or more -- state problem.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thoughts on the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting

As FHQ alluded to on Friday, we sat in on the festivities at the Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting on both Friday and Saturday. The intent of the meeting was to begin reconciling the recommendations of the Democratic Change Commission with the political and structural realities on the ground with regard to the rules governing the 2012 Democratic presidential nomination.

[For a blow-by-blow account of the two day rule-a-thon, you can follow our real-time Twittering at @FHQ.]

As some have already said, this was a jump off the deep end into the minutiae of delegate selection rules. However, the committee members revved up for the discussions surrounding the three areas the Change Commission was tasked with re-examining: primary and caucus timing, superdelegate reduction/elimination and caucus rule uniformity. The most animated portions of the proceedings came at the tail end of Friday's session and at the beginning of Saturday's. Of the 21 rules -- based on the 2008 delegate selection rules -- Rules 9 (superdelegates) and 11 (timing) seemed to elicit the most concern; the departure from the '08 rules the Change Commission's recommendations represented did, at least. The decisions on both rules were tabled at this meeting pending further discussion at the July 9 and 10 meeting in Washington that will finalize a set of rules for the full DNC to vote on in August.

But let's look at some of the discussion around these two issues from Friday and Saturday:

Well, if the Change Commission's recommendation is approved, they won't be superdelegates anymore. They'll be NPLEOs (National Pledged Party Leader and Elected Official). That's right. The recommendation calls for the elimination of add-on delegates and a change to the superdelegates as we knew them in 2008. Under these rules, the party and elected officials would lose their independence in 2012. They would be proportionally pledged to candidates based on the results in the primaries or caucuses in their states.

As you might imagine, this didn't sit particularly well with a group of folks (the RBC) who happen to be superdelegates. No one seemed to like the loss of independence (read: influence). That loss prompted RBC member, Mame Reiley, to ask if leaders shouldn't be able to lead instead of follow. She cited Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Obama ahead of the Massachusetts primary (and Hillary Clinton's win there) as an example. In other words, how could you tell an elite within the party to support someone they don't want to support (with the only alternative being to become a non-voting delegate)? To FHQ's mind this isn't any different from the average delegate moving over to the actual nominee at the convention despite that earlier pledge. It happens routinely. Still, the members of the RBC took issue with the proportionality calculus and how that would play out in reality. Some made the argument that it was the job of the RBC to plan for the worst case scenario, a floor fight over the nomination. But while that may be true, it isn't likely to be the reality in 2012. As RBC member, Ray Buckley said, "I'm ambivalent about this...because I don't think the president will be challenged in 2012."

There were some alternate proposals bandied about. The one that seemed to resonate was one that had alternate delegates becoming actual delegates as a means of diluting the influence of the superdelegates. This seemed like a clever enough idea, but obviously needs to be fleshed out some. That represents quite an expansion of the number of delegates which has implications for floor seating because there would still have to be alternates who also get a spot on the floor even if they are not voting.

I don't see that proposal making it nor do I necessarily see the Change Commission's proposal getting through the full DNC. One thing we can likely count on is the elimination of the add-on delegates. Beyond that, there may not be a whole lot of movement on the superdelegates issue. With Obama running unchallenged in 2012 (more than likely), that group will return to its spot in the background of the process.

[Before I shift gears to the timing issue, there's one other point I'd like to raise about superdelegates and conventions. It was interesting to me from my basement position in the ivory tower to see how these matters were viewed by some of the elites within the party. Academics tend to take a macro view of conventions. They matter in that they move the needle in the polls in their immediate aftermath. But as Seth Masket pointed out last week when the GOP tapped Tampa to be its 2012 convention site, the link between conventions location and electoral results is tenuous at best. The same holds for conventions overall. But members of the parties involved in the process don't necessarily share the same view. Instead of a macro view, they adopt a micro view. To the elites, winning in November matters, but things like convention seating and hotel arrangements matter. One of the DNC staffers was joking with me before the Saturday session about the Michigan delegates having to stay in Boulder during the 2008 convention in Denver. Rick Stafford, and RBC member from Minnesota, said the Democrats from the Land of 10,000 Lakes suffered a similar fate for holding a pre-window caucus in 1988; staying "somewhere in Georgia." These folks will protect that turf unless compelled to do otherwise. The bottom line is that these sorts of things matter to folks within the RBC and that obviously has the potential to impact the rules that emerge from this process.]

This issue was why FHQ went to Washington for this meeting in the first place. Presidential primary and caucus scheduling (or movement from cycle to cycle) is our bread and butter. And while Tom Schaller is right that not much substance came out of this meeting, the group will have a large discussion in July that will have found its roots in the groundwork laid on Friday and Saturday.

First, the Change Commission has called for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to retain their privileged positions in the pre-window period of the primary calendar from 2008. The Democrats got a major assist on making that recommendation a reality from the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee last week. The TDSC followed the Change Commission's lead in not only keeping those four states early but in knocking back the start date of the process from January to February and preventing all other states from going before a the first Tuesday in March (A return to -- at least for the Democrats -- something akin to the 2000 primary calendar.). That's a big deal and it certainly helps both parties on the enforcement front somewhat. If both parties have the same timing rules, it makes it far less likely that a Republican-controlled state government, for example, will opt to flaunt Democratic Party rules to maintain or move to an earlier, pre-window date on the calendar (This assumes a scenario where the Democrats adopt the Change Commission recommendations on timing, but the Republicans are more open to allowing earlier contests.). Enforcement of the delegate selection rules is more difficult when the parties aren't on the same page. However, just because it appears that the parties will, I won't call it coordinate, but correspond with each other on timing, doesn't necessarily mean there won't be any rogue states like Florida and Michigan in 2012. Enforcement of the timing strictures was one of the sticking points with members of the RBC during this discussion. In the end, it really wasn't dealt with, but pushed to the July meeting instead. There are enticements (bonus delegates) for going later, but will that get the 19 states currently scheduled (according to state law) in February to move their primaries in accordance with the possible rules changes? That is the question at this point. Nothing has worked thus far on that front as a means of curbing frontloading, but both parties will have to hope that all works out for the best when and if both produce similar calendars for 2012.

There was also a varied discussion over the Change Commission's recommendation for encouraging more regionally or subregionally clustered primaries. More questions than answers emerged from this particular topic. What constituted a cluster? Are big states like California and New York large enough on their own to constitute clusters? How do you get states to cluster? What enticements can be used? How do you go about scheduling which cluster goes first? Getting states to cluster is the conundrum. It seems that Democratic-controlled states would be better able to cluster states controlled by the Republicans or with some form or fashion of divided government. [Truth be told, that is one of the major findings of my dissertation on frontloading decisions over time. But who am I to toot my own horn?] Some states are better able to move and the creation of clusters also seems as if it might be fraught with the same sort of Iowa/New Hampshire privileged position issue. [Hello unintended consequences.] I don't know that there is any way of getting to this point other than to allow states to come to clustering conclusions organically. [Think Potomac Primary or the Great Lakes or Yankee Primaries in 1996.]

One final thing that received quite a lot of discussion was the idea of opening the pre-window period to a bidding process for those four slots. A similar proposal system was used by the Levin Commission in 2006 before it added Nevada and South Carolina to the Democratic pre-window period for 2008. But RBC member, Michael Steed, proposed opening all four slots (including Iowa's and New Hampshire's) up for 2012. This received some support in the room, but was shot down by RBC member, Jeff Berman, who said it was too late in the process for that (especially if a set of rules was going to be in place for the full DNC to consider and vote on in August). The proposal process was already well underway at this point in the cycle before 2008. Another talking point concerned just adding an additional slot or two in the pre-window period. This, too, was denied, but an amendment was added to the rule that this be considered for 2016. That was passed while the rest of the timing issue was tabled for the July meeting.

At this point, the calendar will is very likely to be adopted by the full DNC, but the questions of clustering and enforcement still remain in shadowy territory. There are no clear answers for either.

Parting Shots
The theme of this meeting was the balance between crafting a set of delegate selection rules that rectifies some of the issues raised by the Democrats' 2008 primary race and reelecting the president. To some members of the RBC those two were countervailing forces. The "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" argument that RBC member Alice Germond made is a tough one to counter. Indeed. Why mess with a formula that worked? Upon further reflection, FHQ is not terribly sympathetic to that line of thought. Now, we don't have a dog in this fight. Reform or not, this site will have an eye to the 2012 rules regardless. However, this argument seems like a veiled attempt to maintain the status quo. After all, how much of the election results in November 2008 were attributable to what happened in the winter and early spring? A Democrat would have won in November regardless, whether it was Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John Edwards. [Well, Edwards would have been in some hot water in August 2008 with the Rielle Hunter ordeal if he was the presumptive nominee at that point.] At the margins, the competitive races in Indiana and North Carolina may have helped lay the groundwork for Obama and the Democrats successfully turning those long-standing red states blue. But those 26 electoral votes would not have been decisive. They were luxuries that a severely toxic 2008 Republican brand afforded the Obama campaign and the Democrats trying to elect the president.

That said, here are a few things to note. The status quo with some minor changes is probably what both the Democrats and Republicans will produce for this upcoming cycle. There were some problems with the rules in 2008, but that was mostly a function of a close Democratic race. In the post-reform era, that has been more an anomaly rather than commonplace. The best argument for the status quo is not that it worked in 2008 or any other year, but rather that wholesale changes to the system could lead to unintended consequences. For example, no one in the Democratic Party in 1984 could have imagined the potential impact superdelegates -- new in 1984 -- would/could have had in the 2008 process. [This was a point that was raised by someone on the RBC at the meeting this weekend.]

Now, some of the points outlined above regarding the status quo may be moot. It may not matter and here's why: The head of the Democratic Party may want to make the Democratic Change Commission's recommendations a reality. Changes to the rules are not likely to affect the president's chances at renomination. The likelihood of him being challenged for the Democratic Party nod is as close to nil as it gets at the moment. So, why not push these recommendations through? The DNC probably won't balk at the president if this is what he wants. But is that what the president wants? That's the $64 question; the one that is likely to determine the extent to which the Rules and Bylaws Committee goes along with the Change Commission's recommendations.

But we'll have to wait until the July meeting for that answer.

[For more, please go over to DemRulz and read Frank Leone's write up of the events from the weekend as well. He offers a different perspective; both legal and from within the DNC.]

Friday, May 21, 2010

FHQ at the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting (2012 Nomination Rules)

FHQ is on site at the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting to discuss the Democratic Change Commission's 2012 presidential nomination rules recommendations. I'll have some longer updates later, but for now, you can follow in real-time with updates via Twitter.

You can follow us here:

*Also note that our Twitter feed is also in the right sidebar. [But I don't know how quickly that will update.]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's too bad Kentucky's primary is so late

From GOP12:
A new Magellan Strategies survey (pdf) has Sarah Palin leading her prospective 2012 rivals in Kentucky.

1. Sarah Palin 28%

2. Mike Huckabee 24%

3. Mitt Romney 16%

4. Newt Gingrich 12%

5. Ron Paul 4%

6. Tim Pawlenty 2%

If Sarah Palin wins Kentucky in 2012, she'll already be the Republican nominee. But that's all FHQ is willing to say. As of now Kentucky is scheduled to hold a May 22 presidential primary in 2012.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gallup on 2012: Obama in a Deadlock with Generic Republican

Oh, and there was an open-ended GOP primary question too. [Here's the Gallup release.]

2012 General Election
Obama: 44%
Republican: 42%
Other: 3%
Not Sure: 11%

Sample: 1025 adults (nationwide)
Margin of Error: +/- 4%
Conducted: Feb 1-3, 2010

Notes: Obama garners nearly 90% support from Democrats and the Republican gets 86% from Republicans in the survey. Among independents, though, the GOP holds a 45%-31% advantage over the president.

2012 GOP Primary Race
Romney: 14%
Palin: 11%
McCain: 7%
(Scott) Brown: 4%
Huckabee: 3%
Gingrich: 3%
Paul: 2%
Pawlenty: 1%
(Bob) McDonnell: 1%
Fred Thompson: 1%
Jindal: 1%

Other: 10%
None/No Opinion: 42%

Sample: 495 Republicans or Republican-leaning independents (nationwide)
Margin of Error: +/-5%
Conducted: Feb 1-3, 2010

Notes: That's a lot of survey respondents who have no opinion or chose no one. Despite that lack of a clear "face of the party," the generic GOP candidate still fares rather well against the president. Yes, generics usually do pretty well, but still, it isn't a bad place to be if you happen to be on the right.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Palin for President

Well, I think it is safe to say that Sarah Palin's drop-in on the Tea Party convention in Nashville has accomplished one thing: everyone is talking about her running for president again. Some folks never stopped, but the chatter has hit a new stride post-Tea Party.

Marc Ambinder sees a Palin paradigm shift.

...and Nate Silver is already looking ahead to the 2012 primaries (I don't like the calendar he's using there. For FHQ, it is too hypothetical. We would take a more conservative approach and use a more traditional calendar -- until there's actual proof of a calendar like that having been signed off on by either of the two major parties.)