Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Georgia Continues to Eye Florida For Cue on Presidential Primary Scheduling

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is sticking his line on setting the date of the Peach state presidential primary (via Sarah Fay Campbell at the Newnan Times-Register):
"We're still waiting to see what Florida is going to do," Kemp said Friday [August 5] during a visit to Newnan.
"[W]e're waiting to see what everybody else does so we can best align Georgia to be relevant" in the presidential nomination race, Kemp said.
The unanswered question at this point is whether Kemp is willing to follow Florida -- if the secretary and Georgia Republicans are intent on holding a primary concurrent with the one in the Sunshine state -- into, say, January or if it means following Florida in an early but not too early primary date in late February or very early March.1 Kemp has remained tight-lipped on that issue and can afford to be. He has until December 1 to officially schedule the primary election.

1 Talk of a non-Tuesday primary was actually ongoing in Georgia prior to the discussions of such an idea in Florida.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why It Was Shrewd for the RNC to Punt on Tougher Penalties

FHQ, never one to draw attention away from an actual, seemingly meaningful Ames Straw Poll looming at week's end, wants to backtrack and offer a few thoughts on the RNC Rules Committee decision late last week to defer on harsher sanctions against states scheduling primaries and caucuses before March 6. The move was panned by some as a capitulation on the part of the national party; a realization that potentially rogue states -- Arizona, Florida and Michigan -- had called their bluff. FHQ sees it as a realization also, but more a realization of an extended negotiation to nudge these states in the RNC's preferred direction. Yes, the members of the Rules Committee recognize that they are very unlikely to get the handful of rogue states to back off; allowing the calendar to procede as planned in the rules laid out a year ago.1 That said, the national party seems to have come to the conclusion that while that plan is likely dead, maintaining some semblance of order in the calendar is not.

The states, then, have won the battle but not the war. Those states may yet win the war, but for the moment the RNC seems willing to fight on. That may appear counterintuitive on its face given the decision to punt on tougher sanctions, but it isn't. If the Rules Committee had voted to throw down the gauntlet on states in violation of the timing rules, states -- or the decision makers in them -- would have had a clear vision of what was ahead of them. Those actors could weigh the consequences and say either "That's too high a price to pay for going early" or "Sanctions -- whatever the sanctions -- be damned".2 In other words, the decision-making calculus is "easier". By deferring the RNC has at the very least somewhat clouded that decision-making calculus by adding in some measure of uncertainty.

No, that may not prove to be an effective deterrent to early primaries or caucuses, but it at least sows the seeds of doubt, and that may be the only weapon the RNC has. Arizona, Florida and Michigan may go too early for the RNC's liking, but the RNC may be able to push them back into late February and early March. And Rule 16.e.3 is just ambiguous enough to do that. The rule that allows the Rules Committee to raise the penalties against any rogue state or states at their discretion can be interpreted in many different ways. FHQ looked at that rule after the "Arizona situation" arose and thought along the lines of the DNC's decision to strip Florida and Michigan of all their delegates in 2007. The RNC Rules Committee discussed an alternate sanction; stripping rogue states of their premium convention seating and hotel assignments and VIP passes. Any and all combinations of those two possibilities and others are all on the table and are, I'm sure, being discussed by members of the RNC and representatives from the handful of rogue states yet to finalize the scheduling of their contests.

Will the states cooperate? Much will depend on what Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, decides between now and September 2. What we now know, however, is that the RNC is, by putting off a final decision on tougher penalties, attempting to exert the last bit of leverage it has in this battle over primary dates.

1 It should be noted that nowhere in the Republican Party rules for 2012 delegate selection are specific dates for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina codified. The basic framework constructed allows those states to hold contests in February before the March 6 start date for other states. That said, the ordering of the states has, more or less, been understood and the dates specified in the Democratic Party's delegate selection rules have been roughly observed: Iowa on February 6, New Hampshire on February 14, Nevada on February 18 and South Carolina on February 28. And by roughly, I mean that Iowa and Nevada have tentatively scheduled their caucuses for those dates while New Hampshire secretary of state, William Gardner, and the South Carolina Republican Party have been mum on the matter other than to say, "We'll be before everyone else."

2 The latter is predicated on the notion that the eventually nominee will seat a state's full delegation no matter what in the interest of a unified and harmonious party heading into a general election campaign.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

With RNC Considering Tougher Penalties, Will Rogue States Call Their Bluff?

We have seen this all before. And now just four years after the Democratic National Committee failed in its attempt to coax Florida -- and later Michigan -- into alignment with the national party rules governing the timing of delegate selection events, the RNC seems poised to potentially go down the same road. Via Peter Hamby at CNN:
According to RNC rules ratified in 2010, if any of those states jump the line and hold an electoral contest before March 6, their delegations to the Republican National Convention would be sliced in half.

But with those states showing little sign of backing down - and with the four early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina vowing to protect their cherished status by moving their caucuses and primaries into January of 2012 - members of the RNC Rules Committee are planning to offer a resolution Thursday to strengthen the penalties.

Rules Committee members now want to take advantage of a clause in RNC bylaws that would strip offending state delegations of their VIP guest passes and guest privileges at the 2012 convention in downtown Tampa, along with banishing the delegations to inferior seating locations in the convention hall and the worst hotels in the Tampa Bay area.

The rule referred to is the same Rule 16.e.3 that FHQ has brought up several times (including this morning) in the post-Arizona-on-January-31 world in which the 2012 primary calendar's development has been thrown. That rule gives the Standing Rules Committee within the RNC the latitude to increase the penalties on states in defiance of the national party rules. And the Rules Committee is on the cusp of considering and passing a resolution on Thursday to tighten the screws on states like Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and Michigan which have publicly considered going earlier than the March 6 set aside by both parties as the earliest date on which non-exempt states can hold primaries or caucuses.

But here's the thing: This is so uncannily like the Democratic struggle four years ago that the thought is difficult to shake. It was in late August 2007 that the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee increased the penalty from 50% to 100% of the delegation for states challenging the party rules on primary timing. Neither those rules nor the Republican rules did much to push Florida off its path and later Michigan from theirs. Now, of course, Florida was controlled by the Republican Party in 2007 -- as it is today -- and as such, the DNC rules change did little to affect the plans put in place by the Republican Party of Florida. Similarly, Michigan's legislature, with bipartisan support passed the bill to move the Wolverine state primary to January 15.

As Hamby in his CNN piece mentions, the first reaction is that the types of additional penalties being considered appear trivial; trivial to the average layperson. The resolution that seems at the ready for consideration does have some real bite to it and is consistent with a comment FHQ got off the record in a conversation with someone within one of the early state Republican Parties. The quote came in the context of Florida moving early enough to push the early four states into December -- a notion that pre-Arizona seemed a bit more outlandish. "They [Florida] would be sitting with Guam [at the convention]."

And while the RNC is serious about that, FHQ is left to wonder if that will be enough. Earlier in the year when the talk in Florida was about moving away from January 31 or not -- before the bill creating the Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee was introduced -- Republicans in the Sunshine state appeared ready to call any and all bluffs from the national party. Florida House Speaker Cannon and Senate President Haridopolos as various points in sticking up for the January 31 Florida primary essentially dared the RNC to come down hard on a state and state party that was set to not only host the Republican convention, but to be vital t the party's chances of winning back the White House in the general election.

We may be back to square one then. Florida (and Arizona and Michigan) daring the RNC to threaten the very activists that will be the foot soldiers in the fall 2012 campaign against President Obama. Will the states blink at the RNC threatening to give them horrible convention seating and hotels? Perhaps, but they may also thumb their noses at the party knowing full well that they [Arizona, Florida and Michigan] are on the big electoral college boards at both national parties and at Obama headquarters in Chicago. The states do have that bit of leverage.

So, the RNC Rule Committee will have to ask itself before sitting down to consider and vote on this resolution tomorrow: Do we really want to get into that sort of protracted national party/state party fight throughout the rest of this year and into primary season next year? Do we really want that weight on our shoulders in a year where the president -- of the opposite party -- is looking more and more vulnerable due to the economic situation confronting the nation? That is a tough one to ponder and there are no easy answers; not even the one the RNC Rules Committee thinks it has stumbled on.

The 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar (8/3/11)

Delaware's presidential primary move to April 24 means another calendar update:

[Click to Enlarge]

Reading the Map:

As was the case with the maps from past cycles, the earlier a contest is scheduled in 2012, the darker the color in which the state is shaded. Iowa, for instance, is a much deeper shade of blue in January than South Dakota is in June. There are, however, some differences between the earlier maps and the one that appears above.

  1. Several caucus states have yet to select a date for the first step of their delegate selection processes in 2012. Until a decision is made by state parties in those states, they will appear in gray on the map.
  2. The states where legislation to move the presidential primary is active are two-toned. One color indicates the timing of the primary according to the current law whereas the second color is meant to highlight the most likely month to which the primary could be moved. [With the exception of North Carolina, the proposed movement is backward.]
  3. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are shaded on the map according to the latest possible date these states would have if Florida opts not to move their primary into compliance with the national party rules. Iowa Republicans and Nevada Republicans and Democrats have decided to accept the party-designated dates, but FHQ operates under the assumption that both will move to a point ahead of the earliest exempt state should one or more move or maintain a February or earlier date.
  4. States that are bisected vertically are states where the state parties have different dates for their caucuses and/or primaries. The left hand section is shaded to reflect the state Democratic Party's scheduling while the right is for the state Republican Party's decision on the timing of its delegate selection event.

Reading the Calendar:

  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.
  3. The date of any primary or caucus moves that have taken place -- whether through gubernatorial signature or state party move -- also appear in parentheses following the state's/party's new entry on the calendar.
  4. States with active legislation have links to those bills included with their entries on the calendar. If there are multiple bills they are divided by chamber and/or numbered accordingly.
  5. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina appear twice. The earlier entry corresponds with the latest possible date these states would have if Florida opts not to move their primary into compliance with the national party rules. The second, later entry for each of the non-exempt states reflects the position the national parties would prefer the earliest states to hold their delegate selection events.

2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

December 2011

Monday, December 5:

Iowa caucuses1

Tuesday, December 13

New Hampshire1

Saturday, December 17:

Nevada caucuses1

South Carolina1

Florida (bills: House 1, 2/Senate) (moved to no date: 5/19/11)

February 2012

Monday, February 6:

Iowa caucuses (moved: 2/8/11) (based on national party rules)

Tuesday, February 7:






Georgia (bills: House) (moved to no date: 5/13/11)


Minnesota Republican caucuses (bills: House/Senate) (moved: 3/1/11)

Missouri (bills: House 1, 2, 3/Senate)

Montana Republican caucuses

New Jersey (bills: Assembly 1, 2/Senate 1, 2)

New York




Saturday, February 11:


Tuesday, February 14:


New Hampshire (based on national party rules)


Washington, DC

Saturday, February 18:

Nevada Republican caucuses (-28) (moved: 12/16/10) (based on national party rules)

Nevada Democratic caucuses2 (-28) (moved: 2/24/11) (based on national party rules)

Tuesday, February 21:

Hawaii Republican caucuses (+88) (moved: 5/16/09)

Wisconsin (bills: Assembly, Senate)

Tuesday, February 28:


Michigan4 (bills: House)

South Carolina (based on national party rules)

March 2012

Tuesday, March 6 (Super Tuesday):

Colorado caucuses (+14) (bills: House) (moved: 5/27/11)

Idaho Republican caucuses (+70) (moved: 7/16/11)

Massachusetts4 (bills: House)

Minnesota Democratic caucuses (-28) (moved: 3/17/11)


Oklahoma (-28) (bills: House 1, 2, 3/Senate 1, 2) (moved: 5/3/11)

Rhode Island

Tennessee (-28) (bills: House 1, 2, 3/Senate 1, 2, 3) (moved: 5/9/11)

Texas (bills: House/Senate)


Virginia (-21) (bills: House 1, 2/Senate) (moved: 3/25/11)

Sunday, March 11:

Maine Democratic caucuses (-28) (moved: 3/27/11)

Tuesday, March 13:

Alabama (-35) (bills: House 1, 2) (moved: 6/9/11)

Hawaii Republican caucuses (+67 and -21) (moved: 5/14/11)


Utah Democratic caucuses (-35) (moved: 3/25/11)

Tuesday, March 20:

Colorado caucuses

Illinois (-42) (bills: Senate) (moved: 3/17/10)

Saturday, March 24:

Louisiana (-42) (bills: House) (moved: 6/29/11)

April 2012

Tuesday, April 3:

Kansas (bills: House 1, 2/Senate -- cancel primary) (canceled: 5/25/11)

Maryland (-49) (bills: House/Senate 1, 2) (moved: 5/10/11)

Washington, DC (-49) (bills: Council) (moved: 4/27/11)

Saturday, April 7:

Hawaii Democratic caucuses (-46) (moved: 3/18/11)

Wyoming Democratic caucuses (-28) (moved: 3/16/11)

Saturday, April 14:

Idaho Democratic caucuses (-67) (moved: 5/1/11)

Kansas Democratic caucuses (-67) (moved: 5/24/11)

Nebraska Democratic caucuses (-63) (moved: 3/5/11)

Sunday, April 15:

Alaska Democratic caucuses (-68) (moved: 4/4/11)

Washington Democratic caucuses (-64) (moved: 4/30/11)

Tuesday, April 24:

Connecticut (-77) (bills: House) (moved: 7/8/11)

Delaware (-77) (bills: Senate) (moved: 7/27/11)

New York (-77) (bills: Assembly/Senate) (moved: 7/13/11)


Rhode Island (-49) (bills: House/Senate) (moved: 7/1/11)

May 2012

Saturday, May 5:

Michigan Democratic caucuses (-67) (moved: 4/13/11)

Tuesday, May 8:


North Carolina (bills: Senate)

Ohio (-63) (bills: House) (moved: 7/5/11)

West Virginia

Tuesday, May 15:

Idaho (+7) (bills: House) (moved: 2/23/11)


Oregon (bills: House)

Tuesday, May 22:

Arkansas (-105) (bills: House) (moved: 2/4/09)


Kentucky (bills: House) (died: legislature adjourned)

Washington (bills: House 1, 2/Senate -- cancel primary) (canceled: 5/12/11)

June 2012

Tuesday, June 5:

California (-119) (bills: Assembly) (moved: 7/29/11)

Montana (GOP -119) (moved: 6/18/10)

New Mexico5 (bills: Senate) (died: legislature adjourned)

North Dakota Democratic caucuses (-119) (moved: 4/21/11)

South Dakota

Tuesday, June 26:

Utah (Republicans only) (-140) (moved: 6/5/11)

1 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 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.

2 The Nevada Democratic caucuses date is based on both DNC rules and the state party's draft delegate selection plan as of February 24, 2011.

3 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.
4 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.
5 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.


Wisconsin Assembly Committee Unanimously Passes April Presidential Primary Bill

On Tuesday, August 2, the Wisconsin Assembly Election and Campaign Reform Committee unanimously passed AB 162 by an 8-0 vote. This move temporarily assuages any fears that Wisconsin may reconsider maintaining its current third Tuesday in February presidential primary date. There has never been any direct threat from anyone in Wisconsin in terms of keeping the February date. However, as more states have vocalized potential plans to hold non-compliant primaries, that earlier date, from a purely speculative perspective, has to be potentially more appealing to legislators in Wisconsin.

For the time being, actions speak louder and the Republican-controlled legislature has taken one more step closer to moving the presidential primary back to the first Tuesday in April. Curiously, the Assembly committee did not simultaneously act on the Senate-passed version of the primary bill (SB 115). It remains in the Assembly Election and Campaign Reform Committee for now.

The bill now moves to the Assembly Rules Committee for consideration. At this time there isno Rules Committee meeting planned during August. That said, the primary scheduling should be set in Wisconsin no later than the September 13-22 floor period in which the full legislature will be back in session.

Hat tip to Jason Rae for passing along this news.

RNC Chair Makes Clear Rules Will Be Enforced on Early, Non-Compliant Primary/Caucus States

Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, made quite plain in a Tampa press conference this morning that the RNC plans to stick to the enforcement of its 2012 delegate selection rules. More specifically this applied to the group of rogue states considering early and non-compliant primaries and caucuses.

“There is a pretty big desire by the committee to make sure rules are enforced,” he [Reince Priebus] said at a Tampa press conference this morning.
FHQ, as we have mentioned recently, has a different way of thinking about the environment in which the 2012 presidential primary is in at the current moment. The above statement from Priebus is nothing observers watching this process should not expect anyway. Of course the chair of the Republican Party is going to maintain a line in which he touts the rules the party has set for delegate selection in next year's presidential nomination race. That 50% delegate deduction is the only real weapon the national party has against potentially rogue states.

Priebus is going to flex whatever muscle he has on this issue, then. But it is still an open question if leaning on that penalty in public -- and in private possibly the fact that the party can stiffen the penalties on states in violation (Rule 16.e.3) -- will be enough to get states in line with the rules. In FHQ's estimation, that is not a possibility at this point with Florida, Arizona, Michigan and maybe Georgia and Colorado. The objective of the national party now is to prevent those rogue states from becoming "too rogue".

As we have maintained here at FHQ since the Arizona-to-January-31 possibility came to light, the 2012 calendar is in murky territory now. Most states have moved already or are on a path to moving into compliance with the national parties' rules. However, there are a handful of free agents where the aim is not clear; not publicly anyway. But that free agent status allows these states a freedom and flexibility unlike most other states. The Floridas, Michigans, Arizonas and Georgias of the world can wait later to decide on dates and that puts them in a position to negotiate with the national parties -- in this case the Republican Party -- for a prime spot on the calendar. And they can hold the possibility of calendar chaos over the national party's head as a bargaining chip.

That is what we are seeing now. Arizona, Florida, Michigan and others are threatening the calendar and the national party is responding. The response isn't any different from the Republican perspective than it was in 2008 and that did not and does not apparently wield enough power to outweigh these rogue states' willingness to defy the rules in order to have an impact over the nomination contest. Comments from Arizona governor, Jan Brewer's (R), spokesman, Matthew Benson, highlight the balance at the heart of a rogue state's decision making (via Mary Quinn O'Connor at Fox News):
"She is leaning towards January 31, a date that would put Arizona toward the front of the primary schedule," Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson told foxnews.com. "She thinks it would be appropriate for voters in this state to really have an opportunity to weigh in on the selection of nominees for president."

"More than anything, she wants to make certain Arizona plays a central role in the nomination process... that they have the ability to see presidential candidates and sell their platforms," said Benson.

"There are consequences to moving in advance of March 6, but it is important to keep in mind that our state law gives the governor unilateral authority to move up the primary date," said Benson.

"Moving the primary date backward would require changing state law," said Benson. "It is a possibility. She is weighing the consequences of violating these rules but she is leaning towards moving it up." [emphasis is FHQ's]
Again, gentle public reminders are just that. It is what is happening behind closed doors between representatives of the states and the national party that is consequential -- not to mention difficult to follow -- now. What we do know is that these states want a place at the table with other early states. However, we don't know how compressed with other states they are willing to be nor how much influence they are after. The former very definitely affects the latter. And actors at the state level are wising up to that reality. There is a reason that some states opted to move back and hold delegate selection events in some cases concurrently with neighboring states: It potentially maximizes the attention a state receives from the candidates/media and the impact that state has. Compared to inching up to the very front of the calendar with a host of other states on Super Tuesday, it does anyway.

Regardless, we are in a behind closed doors period of negotiations that will play out throughout August and September before a final calendar is likely settled during October some time.

NOTE: One additional note of correction to that FOX News item linked to above. It is a good rundown of things with some helpful comments from the states and the RNC. However, the last paragraph is factually incorrect. Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, has to make a decision on a primary date at least 150 days in advance of the primary for the benefit of elections officials in the state, not the RNC. The RNC rules require states to inform the party of when they will hold primaries or caucuses on or before October 1. There is no 150 day buffer required by the RNC.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Delaware Governor Quietly Signs Presidential Primary Bill, Moving Election to April 24

[Click to Enlarge]

With little fanfare,1 Delaware governor, Jack Markell (D), quietly signed SB 89 into law on Wednesday, July 27. The legislation, nearly unanimously supported in both chambers of the state legislature, calls for moving the presidential primary in the First state from the first Tuesday in February to the fourth Tuesday in April. In that slot Delaware will have a presidential primary that coincides with presidential primaries in neighboring New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Connecticut. That regional primary should comprise the largest cache of delegates between the diminished Super Tuesday on March 6 and the first Tuesday in June when California (and likely New Jersey) hold presidential primaries concurrently with delegate selection events in Montana, New Mexico and North and South Dakota.

The move now leaves only New Jersey -- a Chris Christie signature away from moving itself -- and Missouri as the only states remaining from the 2008 Super Tuesday date. [Minnesota is an exception to that even though the Republican caucuses there are scheduled for the same date as last time. The Minnesota caucuses were scheduled for the first Tuesday in March before the state law that was changed 2008. Following passage of that law, the parties had the option of collectively deciding on a common date. Having not exercised that option by March 1 of this year, the caucuses were automatically scheduled for the first Tuesday in February. Minnesota Democrats have since opted for a March 6 date for their caucus meetings.]

You can find an update of the 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar here.