Friday, November 19, 2010

Bill Introduced in Texas House to Move 2012 Presidential Primary from March to February

All the talk coming out of the Texas legislature this week has been about the birther bill introduced that would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to share with the Texas secretary of state their birth certificates in order to run. FHQ isn't here to debate that bill so much as point out that it has overshadowed another bill that was filed this week; one that would shift the state's presidential primary from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February. State representative, Roberto Alonzo, as he did prior to 2008, introduced a bill to enhance Texas' impact on the presidential nomination process.

Of course, that 2007 bill, pushed by Democrats, got bottled up in committee -- a committee controlled by Republicans -- and Texas stood pat in March. That maintenance of the status quo actually worked well for both parties. Texas was among the states that put McCain over the top in the Republican nomination race and helped Clinton stem the flow of Obama victories after the February 5 Super Tuesday (effectively keeping the contest going).

The 2011 version of the bill (HB 318) is simply a repeat of what happened in 2007. Same Democratic sponsor, same Republican-controlled committee and same goal: Move the primary from March to February. What has changed, however, is that the national parties have a different set of rules regarding the timing of primaries and caucuses in 2012 than they did in 2008. Both parties are in agreement that only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina can go prior to March 2012. All other states, according to the rules drafted and accepted by both national parties, are required to hold delegate selection events in March or later.

On at least one level, those rules make this Texas bill moot. If every other state outside of the exempt states is holding their primary or caucus on the first Tuesday in March or later, then Texas is already positioned on the earliest possible date. However, as FHQ has attempted to point out since the parties began drafting their rules for 2012, this is something that isn't necessarily be easy. In any event, it is a decision -- shifting the date on which a state's primary or caucus is scheduled -- that is fraught with problems.

First of all, with all other factors held equal, the national parties have still not developed a successful incentive or penalty regime to prevent states from ignoring the rules and scheduling their contests outside of the required timeframe. Taking away half of a state's delegates (or all of them) did not deter Florida (or Michigan) from breaking the national party rules in 2008. In fact, both states are still scheduled to have February primaries in 2012, given current election laws in both states. The expectation here at FHQ has always been that the states that are currently outside of that timeframe for 2012 would be where the action was in terms of primary/caucus movement. Yet, states currently in compliance with those timing rules can opt to position their primaries on dates that are in violation of those rules as well. Texas is in that group.

The second set of issues concerns partisanship within the primary date-setting bodies on the state level. Typically, it is the party outside of the White House that tinkers the most with its rules (see Klinkner 1994). In other words, Democrats intent on reelecting President Obama are less interested in shifting the dates on which their primaries or caucuses are scheduled than the Republicans who have a competitive nomination race. In Texas in the case of this bill, that notion is turned on its head; particularly if the same thing that happened in 2007 happens again in 2011. The bill is being sponsored by a Democrat, but the state legislature and the governor's mansion are controlled by Republicans. Those Texas Republicans may opt to go along with the national party rules, but they may also be tempted this time around to flaunt those rules and attempt to give Texas an outsized voice in the Republican nomination race by moving forward.

As such, HB 318, is one to keep an eye on as the Texas legislative session progresses next year.

Are you following FHQ on Twitter and/or Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Art of Redistricting

Maximize one's gains or solidify what one already has?

There have been a couple of good pieces I've read over the last couple of weeks that encapsulate the dilemma that faces those in control of the redistricting process.

Carl Bialik dips into the political science literature and finds while redistricting has an impact, it is limited by a host of factors.

Aaron Blake hits on some of the same themes, but does so through a case study of the dilemma facing Republicans in Texas.

Given the GOP's run through gubernatorial and state legislative races two weeks ago, the party has a distinct advantage in a series of states where they control the redistricting process. That said, those state governmental advantages may have a limited impact due to the question posed at the outset. The temptation of the former is tough to resist for any party that has unified control of a state government, but the latter is a pragmatic option that offers a safer and longer term effect. None of this is to suggest that the Republicans won't gain seats as a result of their victories on the state level. Rather, the point is merely to highlight the fact that parties with unified control of their state governments can only carve out so many additional districts for themselves before they begin to hurt the incumbents of their own party. That goes for Republicans and Democrats.

Are you following FHQ on Twitter and/or Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Friday, November 12, 2010

2010 Midterm Election Wrap Up -- Political Science Perspective

If you're looking for answers to why what happened in last week's elections happened, the early political science perspective is beginning to emerge.

Eric McGhee, Brendan Nyhan and John Sides have a rundown of the elections up at the Boston Review.

And this morning University of Georgia professor of political science, Keith Poole, is hosting a conference with John Petrocik on the 2010 midterms. The event is streaming live here and you can find a program of the day-long event here. [Bob Erikson is speaking right now as a part of the Public Opinion and Elections panel.]

Are you following FHQ on Twitter and/or Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It WILL NOT Happen!

Tom Harkin and the 1992 Democratic nomination are ancient history.

FHQ is as guilty as most in the 2012 gazing. [We've been doing since November 2008.] However, this speculation on Mitt Romney and New Hampshire seems misguided to me. Yes, it is way too early and yes, that lead Romney holds in the Granite state may not hold over the next two years. Yet, even if it does, it would be suicide for any of the prospective Republican candidates to skip the state. This has not happened since 1992 when Democratic candidates opted to cede Iowa to favorite son, Tom Harkin. Actually it has happened. Rudy Giuliani skipped Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to focus on Florida. And how did that work out? Not well. Once McCain won the Sunshine state primary on January 29, 2008, Giuliani was done. Why pass up a chance to put a major kink in the Romney armor in early 2012?

Look, Karl Rove's "attack you opponent's strength" is now among the dominant strategies in campaign politics. To pass up challenging Romney in New Hampshire is to pass up an opportunity to completely undermine his presidential candidacy. Let's not forget that running for president is about winning, but depending on the cycle winning is defined differently. In a George W. Bush in 2000 type of race, it is about overwhelming your competition on your way to the nomination. In more competitive races, though, it is important to win, but also important to beat expectations.

The Republican nomination race in 2012 will be competitive, and the expectations -- given the polls of the state that have trickled out since 2008 -- Romney is "supposed" to win handily. Of course, Bill Clinton was "supposed" to get swamped in the Granite state in 1992. Yet, all we talk about is his comeback and second place finish. Who won that primary? Why President Paul Tsongas, of course. No, Tsongas didn't win the 1992 Democratic nomination despite the win in New Hampshire. Bill Clinton did and taught us a valuable lesson about expectations in presidential nomination races.

  • Obama wasn't supposed to win Iowa in 2008, but he did by seven points.

  • McCain was supposedly done in the summer of 2007, yet his fourth place finish -- given the resources he had spent in Iowa -- was seen as a fairly good result.

  • John Edwards had to win South Carolina in 2008 after winning there in 2004. But he didn't and that was a damning indictment on his candidacy.

Yes, these are all examples from 2008, but the premise can be extended to other cycles as well. Expectations matter in the context of presidential primaries and caucuses and will continue to matter. The expectation in November 2010 is that Romney is going to win in New Hampshire in 2012. There's a long way to go and Romney may win in the Granite state, but how much he wins by in a competitive race (for the nomination) will have a say in who the eventual nominee is.

Are you following FHQ on Twitter and/or Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Redistricting, State Legislative Elections and 2012

Justin Levitt, writing over at Election Law Blog, has the scoop this morning on the impact yesterday's state legislative races will impact the redistricting process over the course of the next year. The bottom line: Republicans are now in control of the redistricting apparatus states with 189 congressional districts to be drawn. And there are still 68 seats yet to be categorized because the results are not clear yet.

The focus was on the House, the Senate and the gubernatorial races last night with an occasional nod to redistricting, but that last item really is the big thing coming out of yesterday.

Are you following FHQ on Twitter and/or Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Night 2010

FHQ will be out and about tonight following the action and commenting on Twitter. Yeah, there's always the sidebar widget on the right, but I'll go ahead and embed it in its own post. Buckle up, folks. It will be a fun ride tonight.

    Are you following FHQ on Twitter and/or Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    On Republican "Sticks" and Democratic "Carrots"

    I'm going to run the risk of heaping it on George Will, but something he said in his Sunday column begged for a response.

    Any Republican delegate-selection event held before the first day of April shall be penalized: The result cannot be, as many Republicans prefer, a winner-take-all allocation of delegates. March events "shall provide for the allocation of delegates on a proportional basis." This means only that someof the delegates must be allocated proportional to the total vote.

    Because Democrats are severe democrats, they have no winner-take-all events, so they do not have this stick with which to discipline disobedient states. Instead, they brandish -- they are, after all, liberals -- a carrot: States will be offered bonus delegates for moving their nominating events deeper into the nominating season, and for clustering their contests with those of neighboring states.

    First, I question the level of punishment the Republican shift to proportional delegate allocation rules -- no matter how formulated -- will affect states opting to hold presidential delegate selection events before April. By FHQ's count, there are 32 states whose governments -- or state parties in the case of caucus states -- will have to move from their current positions to avoid "punishment". Our guess is that a sizable portion of those 32 states will take their "punishment" and attempt to influence the process. After all, that is the commodity states trade in during the presidential nomination process: influence. Will mentions that the national parties desire "lengthening the nomination process to reduce the likelihood that a cascade of early victories will settle the nomination contests before they have performed their proper testing-and-winnowing function". Well, national parties want that insofar as the process ends like the 2008 process did for the Democratic Party. But that will not always be the case. There has been a fair amount of talk about the Tea Party/Establishment GOP split within the Republican Party. Will proportional allocation only accentuate that division?* Some states may take their punishment in an effort help a non-establishment candidate, if one has emerged to take the mantle, stay in the delegate race for the nomination. [FHQ will have more on this issue of non-establishment goals in a post tomorrow.]

    States, in the end, are self interested. They want influence over the identity of the presidential nominee. And that is a goal that is, depending on the angle, at odds with what the national parties want. In other words, the national parties end up with what they don't want: a nominee who is initially unelectable or becomes unelectable because of a divisive nomination decision. I just don't see how the states are penalized by the change to proportional delegate allocation.

    One other point on the above excerpt: Will deftly employs some revisionist history in discussing the Democrats' "carrots". He fails to mention that the bonus delegate regime began across the aisle with the Republicans at their 1996 national convention in San Diego. It was there that the GOP put in place a bonus delegate system for the 2000 Republican nomination.

    Will also fails to recognize the "sticks" the Democratic Party utilized in 2008 and has carried over to the 2012 cycle. Sure, states under the Democratic rules, as is the case under the Republican rules, lose half their allotment of delegates, but they also call for candidates who campaign in violating states -- those that go too early -- to lose their delegates from that state at the national convention (Rule 20.C.1.b from the 2008 and 2012 Democratic Delegate Selection Rules). In theory at least, that rule would have had more bite in 2012 if the Democrats had not flip-flopped and then flipped again twice on how to deal with Florida and Michigan. That muddled implementation of the rules may end up hurting both parties in 2012, but the Republicans more since theirs will be the only contested nomination. What I mean is that states will be more likely to test the Republican rules because of the Democrats' actions in 2008. The Republican Party still has the half delegation penalty plus the new proportionality requirement as penalties to rule-breaking states. FHQ is still skeptical as to whether that will be an effective rule in curbing state frontloading.

    If a short history of presidential primaries is going to be constructed, it would at least be helpful to include a full and accurate account of the most recent events that will more greatly affect the next nomination cycle.

    *Of course, that assumes that the Tea Party faction is a lasting one that faces no backlash following the 2010 midterms or before the 2012 nomination race kicks off in earnest.

    Are you following FHQ on Twitter and/or Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    A short history of presidential primaries meets reality.

    There must have been a lull of sorts reached in this midterm election cycle yesterday because it had Washington Post opinion columnist, George Will, gazing off into the future, but not without a tip of the cap to the past ["A short history of presidential primaries."]. The truth is that FHQ just didn't care too much for Will's history lesson. Well, actually the history part wasn't all that bad. The story of the intent of the Founders in creating the Electoral College is one I always like telling my Intro to American Government classes. However, the esteemed conservative columnist is guilty of not only omitting some important information from the recent past of presidential primaries but also of making a fairly large assumption in regard to the 2012 nomination process.

    Let me address the latter first. I will be among the first in line (and was) to commend the parties for their ad hoc coordination of the two sets of rules governing presidential nominations for the 2012 cycle. [The intra-party groups -- the GOP Temporary Delegate Selection Committee and the Democratic Change Commission -- were not ad hoc, but the inter-party efforts were.] FHQ said soon after the 2008 cycle was complete that the parties working together was a necessary, if not sufficient, way of reigning in the frontloading that has "plagued" the process essentially since it was reformed during the 1968 nomination process. But the national parties merely changing their rules for presidential selection is but one piece to this puzzle. There is a whole process that will begin playing out as soon as the midterm elections are over in November. Once the newly elected state legislatures begin sessions in early 2011 by filing -- or not filing -- bills to change the election laws of states across the country, we'll begin to understand whether this will be a harmonious process or not. While the GOP may have their "sticks" and the Democrats their "carrots", eighteen states must still alter their election laws to shift their primaries to later dates and thus back into compliance with the national parties' presidential selection rules.

    FHQ will not say that this is impossible.* We will, however, point out that those eighteen states represent eighteen opportunities for shirking. That shirking, in turn, poses a threat to an unraveling of the whole process. And yes, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will sit on the sidelines and wait as other states act -- or don't act. Those "Entitled Four" will bide their time and shift the dates on which their contests occur accordingly; earlier than everyone else.

    Will really need look no further than Florida and Michigan in 2008 for examples of this. Actually, it is fundamentally irresponsible for him to have omitted the two violators from the last cycle from his column. The Florida and Michigan examples hold the key to the 2012 process. States will either follow the rules as most have throughout the post-McGovern-Fraser reform era or they will treat Florida and Michigan in 2008 as a sea change; a states' rights sea change. States' rights is a loaded term in American political history, but in this case, it is appropriate if only because the states will have the option to flex their muscles, if they so choose, against the national parties' sanctions. As I have argued, the states have the incentive to balk at the rules simply because the penalties are not strong enough.

    I guess we'll start finding out in January when the newly elected state legislatures convene in state capitals across the nation.

    *It should be noted that Arkansas as well as Illinois and Montana Republicans have moved their contests for 2012 back already.

    Are you following FHQ on Twitter and/or Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Has something been missed here?

    This simultaneous rally idea that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have hatched seems at best oddly timed and at worst counterproductive. In the case of the former, the "Rally to Restore Sanity" and "March to Keep Fear Alive" are scheduled for the weekend before the November 2 midterm elections. Yeah, that's almost as coincidental as Glenn Beck holding a Rally to Restore Honor on the same day and at the same location as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. Coincident or not, Stewart and Colbert are appealing to moderates, but are more likely to energize liberals and Democrats on a weekend that those people would probably be better served volunteering their time going door to door to turn out "on the fence" Democratic voters who might help cushion what looks to be a fairly significant blow to the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

    Again, the timing seems odd whether you hold the view that the two Comedy Central late night personalities are Democrats at heart, or like I tell my classes I try to be, equal opportunity offenders.

    Are you following FHQ on Twitter and/or Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Pence for President Gets and Assist from the Value Voters Straw Poll

    Indiana congressmen, Mike Pence, just topped the fifth Value Voters Summit straw poll (723 voters) for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. [No, the group isn't expressly aligned with the Republican Party, so it was for the whole thing and not just the GOP nomination. However, there weren't a whole lot of Democrats in attendance.] Here's how the ledger looked when members of the group had cast their votes:
    • Mike Pence (24%)
    • Mike Huckabee (22%)
    • Mitt Romney (13%)
    • Newt Gingrich (10%)
    • Sarah Palin (7%)
    • Rick Santorum (5%)
    • Jim DeMint (5%)
    • Bobby Jindal (2%)
    • Mitch Daniels (2%)
    • Chris Christie (2%)
    • John Thune (2%)
    • Bob McDonnell (1%)
    • Marco Rubio (1%)
    • Paul Ryan (1%)
    • Haley Barbour (1%)
    • Ron Paul (1%)
    • Jan Brewer (less than 1%)
    Pence is the real surprise here. If you were going to pick a Hoosier to have a good shot at the Republican nomination, you might have opted for Mitch Daniels instead of Pence. Yet, there Pence is, having doubled his share of the vote from last year's straw poll, on top. Sure Sarah Palin is on the low end in terms of share of the vote, but she was not in attendance. Neither was Tim Pawlenty, who pulled his name off the ballot because he wasn't going to be there. The Minnesota governor was in a similar position to Pence a year ago and there is no telling how he would have fared this year. Finally, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney essentially maintained similar shares of the straw poll vote as they did in 2009.

    Does this result prompt Pence to jump in? Well, it is a little early still, but it might give him something to think about. Once the calendar turns to 2011, we will start seeing Republicans line up to throw their hat in the ring for the nomination. That's the next step.

    Are you following FHQ on Twitter and/or Facebook? Click on the links to join in.