Thursday, February 14, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The DNC Debate Qualification Rules Are In

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

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday filled in the remaining details about its upcoming initial round of presidential primary debates. Thus far, the party had announced the scheduling of the debates for the rest of 2019 and into 2020, but had remained largely mum on how candidates could qualify for entry other than to generally say entry would happen through polling and "grassroots fundraising".

That changed with today's announcement from the party.

For the most part, the DNC followed its rubric from 2016 with respect to the polling metric. Candidates can still qualify for a spot in the debate by registering at least one percent in at least three polls of which the party approves.

But in another innovation for the 2020 cycle, the DNC also added another marker candidates can hit to gain entry to the first debate(s). Modeled after the federal matching funds system in some ways, the DNC will also allow candidates who demonstrate a fundraising base of 65,000 donors spread across at least 20 states (with a minimum of 200 donors per state) into the debates as well.

That is a new spin on the matching funds system. The focus there has always been on the amount of money raised; at least $100,000 or $5000 in each of at least 20 states. But for debates entry, the metric is slightly different. The DNC is requiring some demonstration of grassroots support via fundraising, and is thus more focused on the breadth of the network of donors rather than the depth of that fundraising (the warchest accrued).

Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, for example, have all touted the fact that they raised money from all 50 states in the immediate wake of their announcements. Each is also above one percent in most polls that have been conducted to this point in the race. And that does raise a question  about where the bar is set for debates entry and whether there might be too many candidates to qualify.

The DNC answered that too.

Neither of the two randomly drawn debate fields for the first and second debate rounds in June and July will have any more than ten candidates on the stage at once. And if too many candidates qualify, the party will accept candidates who have met both qualification standards and use polling to differentiate further if necessary.

Left unanswered by the DNC is whether the qualifications standards will increase after July. The threshold announced will only apply to the first debates. But will the bar be raised when debates resume in September and incrementally go up thereafter? The debates will likely see the 20 slots filled in June and may serve at least some winnowing role as 2019 progresses. But if the threshold to qualify for debates progresses as well, then that winnowing role may be enhanced.

On DNC Debate Requirements and Candidate Strategy

What Will a "Grassroots Fundraising" Threshold for Entry to Democratic Primary Debates Look Like?

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Warren names a campaign manager. #StaffPrimary

2. Bill Weld is going to have something to announce at Politics and Eggs.

3. Although many have been sitting on the sidelines as the race comes a bit more into focus, big Democratic donors have been hearing from Biden. #MoneyPrimary

4. Swalwell appears to finally be on the verge of jumping in.

5. Gillibrand has made some hires, including someone recently on Sherrod Brown's reelection campaign in 2018. #StaffPrimary

6. Martha Coakley is raising money for Harris. As signals go, this is a former Massachusetts attorney general helping someone other than the Massachusetts senator in the race. #MoneyPrimary #EndorsementPrimary?

7. Klobuchar had some success raking in some money after her snowy announcement. The Minnesota senator raised $1 million in the two days after and with all 50 states represented. #MoneyPrimary

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

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Small Signal Points Toward an Earlier 2020 New York Presidential Primary

At least one local Democratic elections commissioner is forecasting a February or March presidential primary in the Empire state in 2020. Steuben county commissioner, Kelly Penziul (D) filled in some of the (mostly to be determined) details:
The exception to the single annual primary election date in the state will be for the presidential primaries every four years. The month and date of next year’s presidential primaries are still to be determined, Penziul said. New York’s 2016 presidential primaries were held in April, but the contests are likely to be moved up in 2020.

“That would be like February or March of next year,” Penziul forecast. “We don’t know that date for sure. We might know more by the end of the year.”
Technically, New York has a spring primary to which the presidential primary is tethered scheduled for the first Tuesday in February. But the protocol in the state over the last two cycles (2012 and 2016) has been to decide on a date in the late spring or early summer in the year prior to the presidential election. A presidential primaries date is settled on then, but has also only been determined for the upcoming cycle. A sunset provision has been included in both the 2011 and 2015 laws that set April dates.

That means that the New York presidential primary has snapped back to February for the 2016 and 2020 cycles. And this is the first indication that the state may shift back in the calendar a little less than it has in the recent past. A February date would not be compliant with national party rules, so New York is likely to join the logjam that has already formed in March 2020. But whether that means joining, say, California and Texas on Super Tuesday or carving another spot later in March remains to be seen.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Klobuchar, Minnesota and the Primary Calendar

Thoughts on some aspect of the invisible primary and links to the movements during the days that recently were...

Over the weekend, Amy Klobuchar announced her intentions to make a run at the White House. Some of the reaction has focused on a campaign in its infancy and its early focus on midwestern states. That is a reasonable general election strategy in light of Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin flipping to the red column and the loss of ground the party incurred in Minnesota (while still holding on there at the presidential level).

But as FHQ pointed out, this is not exactly a sound strategy in the presidential nomination process. While Iowa certainly kicks the process off, the midwest is underrepresented early in the 2020 presidential primary calendar. In some ways, this raises the stakes for Klobuchar in Iowa, but that is not anything that is unique to her. Many candidates will run Iowa-or-bust campaigns. But not all candidates will attempt to make a win in Iowa, whether outright or relative to expectations, about their strength in the midwest. Indeed, given the calendar, some candidates may point toward their performance in the Hawkeye state as appealing to a particular constituency within the broader party network that better aligns with the next contest or round of contests.

Yes, FHQ is oversimplifying things here, but with a purpose in mind.

Here is the thing: Klobuchar may get some helpful calendar clarity within a few weeks. Although the next midwest contests after Iowa are technically Michigan and Ohio on March 10, Minnesota may join Super Tuesday on March 1 of this year. Yes, the Land of 10,000 Lakes has made the transition from caucus to primary for the 2020 cycle, but part of that former caucus law carried over one important aspect of the caucus process: the scheduling portion. As under the old caucus system, the parties have the option of selecting and agreeing on an alternative date for the primary. If the two major parties either cannot settle on an alternative or refuse to select an alternative, then the date of the new presidential primary is set for the first Tuesday in March.

That would add Minnesota into the mix on Super Tuesday alongside California, Texas, North Carolina and others, and perhaps provide a midwestern -- and home turf -- contest for Klobuchar (or others) if they are able to survive the first month of contests.

As of now, there is no reporting out of Minnesota about any alternatives being considered, so March 3 is the odds on favorite for a landing spot for the new primary. One way or another, that will get locked in by March 1, 2019

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. In candidacy announcement news, both Warren and Klobuchar have officially thrown their hats in the 2020 ring. Bloomberg follows O'Rourke in setting the end of February as the deadline for a 2020 decision. Sanders, on the other hand, is likely to go the exploratory committee route in February before later launching a full-fledged campaign.

2. Several others are making moves on the periphery of the invisible primary. Moulton is mulling, De Blasio is going to take a trip up north to the Granite state (or not), Holder is set to give a speech in Iowa (and announce by the end of the month), Bennet is running early sate digital ads, Abrams is casting a wide net following her State of the Union response, and Swalwell continues to say a decision on his 2020 plans is close.

3. And then there are folks like Mitch Landrieu who are seemingly passing on a 2020 bid. Joe Kennedy fits that category as well. And both were really only mentioned as possibilities without doing many of the things associated with folks who run or consider running.

4. On the travel front, Klobuchar (see above) is seemingly making the midwest a focus with treks to Iowa and Wisconsin planned on the heels of her announcement. Gillibrand made her maiden voyage as a candidate to the Palmetto state, and Hickenlooper stopped in there as well. Buttigieg and Gabbard have hit Iowa following their announcements and Bullock is heading back that way for the first time since last August.

5. In the #MoneyPrimary, Klobuchar has joined the group of candidates swearing off corporate PAC money for the 2020 cycle. California remains a presidential nomination ATM, and that includes Hollywood. Booker has a super PAC aligned with his run, but does not want it. [The New Jersey senator also has a trip planned to fundraise in the Golden state.] And there is another story about Democratic donors playing the waiting game.

6. Harris continues to make moves in the #StaffPrimary. This time adding two more to her Iowa staff and both have experience with either Clinton's or Obama's past campaigns. The California senator has also hired someone with some fundraising chops, tacked on another veteran hand in New Hampshire, and added to her South Carolina operation. Harris is not alone. Warren, too, is assembling a team in the Hawkeye state. Even Hickenlooper has gotten in on the action in Iowa.

7. There still do not appear to be many breaks in the early #EndorsementPrimary trend. Announced candidates so far are getting support from home state elected officials. Klobuchar had a big showing of elected official support at her snowy rollout. Warren picked up the support of Joe Kennedy. Harris continues to rollout home state endorsements. Even Brown, through the Draft Sherrod movement, seemingly has some Ohio-based support. Gillibrand has thus far had no such luck. Not only is Governor Cuomo more focused on Biden's potential candidacy, but Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) appears to be following suit.

8. Meanwhile, the early states have not really heard much from Biden, but folks on Capitol Hill have. Strategists, however, have their doubts about a Biden run.

9. Money is not the only thing the candidates are after from California. Their campaigns are trying to figure how the Golden state fits into their 2020 strategies. That is an important story, but there is much to the consideration about how to tackle California.

10. Yes, the idea has been floated, but according to the South Carolina Republican Party, nothing has been settled with respect to canceling the presidential primary there in 2020. That decision will come later this year at the state convention.

11. Dave Hopkins nudges back on lanes and other schema for assessing the progress of the presidential nomination process.

12. Finally, Iowa Democrats have a draft delegate selection plan, and it looks like New Hampshire is satisfied that virtual caucuses do not equate to a "similar contest". Dave Redlawsk provides a synopsis of the changes and Jonathan Bernstein gives a big picture reaction as well.

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

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Iowa Democrats Release Draft Delegate Selection Plan for 2020

A few weeks ago FHQ mentioned in response to some early chatter about how Iowa Democrats may react to some of the changes to the 2020 DNC delegate selection rules that the devil would be in the details.

Well, the Iowa Democratic Party provided those details today when the party released its draft delegate selection plan for the 2020 cycle.

The process
Before digging in, let's go over some basics. First of all, the is a draft. All Democratic state parties are tasked with devising a draft delegate selection plan that it then releases publicly and opens to public comment for at least 30 days. On or before May 3, those state parties then submit both the draft plan and any comments collected from the public to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) for review. The RBC then approves the plan or more often requests some changes that state parties typically work on over the summer.

What Iowa Democrats released today, then, is not a finished product. It may or may not pass muster with the RBC.

The delegate toplines
The draft plan confirms that Iowa Democrats will have a total of 49 delegates apportioned to the state for 2020. That is three delegates fewer than the 52 total delegates the party had in 2016. As in 2016, there will be eight superdelegates in 2020 in the Iowa delegation, leaving 41 delegates at stake on caucus night next year. Of those 41 pledged delegates, there will be nine at-large delegates, 27 congressional district delegates and five party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates. Compared to 2016, the reduction in total delegates came from the congressional district subset (two fewer delegates) and the PLEO group (one less delegate).

Whereas there was only one congressional district with an odd number of delegates in 2016, three of the four Iowa congressional district will have an odd number this time around. This is a marginal consideration, especially in a winnowing contest (as opposed to those later contests where the game changes to counting delegates), but it can present an opportunity to the district winners in the rounding to determine the allocation of whole, rather than fractional, delegates. [There is some additional insight on this here in the table footnotes.]

The changes that will grab attention

...and affect strategy
Much of what led to the earlier post on the details of the discussions Iowa Democrats were having with respect to their draft delegate selection plan concerned how the party would manage to adapt to the DNC's new rules encouraging broader participation. Again, caucus state parties have to make a case to the RBC for how the caucus process is more open to participation in 2020.

The early signal is that Iowa Democrats are going to scale up the tele-caucusing and satellite caucuses the party conducted for the 2016 cycle. They have proposed doing that through a series of six virtual caucuses; one each day between January 29 and February 3 (the planned date of the caucuses). More importantly as part of the scaling up, the virtual caucuses will account for an additional ten percent to each congressional district's total apportioned delegates. In other words, if any given congressional district convention has 300 delegates, for example, then 30 additional delegates would be added to the district convention delegation. That would have meant an additional 140 district delegates or so in 2016.

This is not insubstantial. And it is certainly not insubstantial when compared to five total delegates that went to the state convention based on the tele-caucuses and satellite caucuses in 2016.

But there is catch to all of this. Positive step though this may be toward the goals laid out in the 2020 DNC delegate selection rules changes, it is a completely ungrounded number. And in fairness, Iowa Democratic Party chair, Troy Price intimated as much in his comments upon the public introduction of the draft plan.

On the one hand, the ten percent addition for the six virtual caucuses may be an expectation. The Iowa Democratic Party expects around ten percent or so of the total caucus-goers to participate via these new channels. But that may or may not be right.

So, on the other hand, this 10 percent may be a value judgment from the party. The door is open to increased participation, but that increase in preferences in virtual caucuses does not translate equally to delegates in the process relative to the preferences to delegates ratio in the regular caucuses.

Assume that in 2020 an equivalent 171,000 people caucus in the usual way just as they did in 2016. But now let's say that an additional 34,000 people opt to participate in the 2020 virtual caucuses. That is an additional 20 percent participating but affecting only that blanket 10 percent piece of the pie.

More ominously, perhaps, consider the same 171,000 turnout to participate in the whole 2020 caucus process -- regular and virtual -- in Iowa, but the virtual process peels off, say, 71,000 people who just do not want to deal with the hassle/like the convenience of the new outlet. Well, that 71,000 will determine the 10 percent of virtual delegates while the 100,000 determines all the rest.

The preference to delegate ratio is imbalanced in both scenarios.

And that may be a problem for the party when it takes this draft plan before the RBC. And FHQ says that because in many ways, this plan looks -- especially if one assumes some imbalance -- like the old Texas two-step. Under that system in the Lone Star state, roughly two-thirds of the pledged delegates were allocated based on the votes in a presidential primary while the remaining third were allocated in a caucus/convention system. Although more people voted in the primary and had an impact on the larger share of delegates, the smaller number of caucus-goers had a larger vote to delegate ratio.

While the Texas process was grandfathered into and preserved by the RBC for years, the practice was halted during the 2016 cycle. One has to wonder whether the RBC will look on this proposal from Iowa Democrats in a similar light.

However, in fairness to the Iowa Democratic Party, they honestly do not know what to expect out of this, and they certainly have at least some desire to keep people caucusing in the customary way while at the same time offering those who need accommodations an avenue to participate more easily.  This proposed system comes close to achieving that balance. "Take advantage of the virtual caucuses, Iowans, but not too much. It might affect how your participation filters into support for the candidates," is basically what the party is saying.

And because of that impact -- the effect on the candidates' fortunes -- the campaigns are going to have to be careful in promoting the virtual caucuses. Push too many in that direction rather than typical caucus participation, then your support may not efficiently translate into delegates to the next stage of the process. The ten percent addition will temper campaign activity on that front. In other words, campaigns still have every incentive to do much of what they have always done in Iowa.

The dial is still turned to the regular caucuses in this proposal.

The unheralded changes (a lightning round)
Another new addition to the 2016 proposal as opposed to the 2016 system is that 2020 will lock allocation based on final preferences during the precinct caucus stage. This is a change borrows language directly from the Unity Reform Commission report. That means that once the precinct round is complete, the delegate allocation is complete. No more can there be changes on the margins as realignment based on viability occurs at the county, district and state conventions. The selection of actual people to fill those delegate slots may be affected but the candidate to who delegates are pledged will not.

Ranked choice voting will also be a component of the virtual caucuses. Virtual caucus-goers will submit their ranked preferences and the realignment process will commence and continue until preferences are sorted to candidates above the 15 percent viability threshold.

Finally, there will also be a paper trail added. Not only will caucus-goers walk the room as they have traditionally done, but they will additionally express their preference on paper as well to aid in any recounts that may become necessary.

1/22/19: #InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The Devil's in the Details of Any Iowa Caucus Rules Changes

Arkansas Lawmaker Signals a Scaling Back of Presidential Primary Legislation

Last week legislation was filed in Arkansas to move the presidential primary in the Natural state from May into February on the date tentatively set aside for the New Hampshire primary.

Regardless of the pedestrian challenge to the position of the always nimble presidential primary in the Granite state, Arkansas breaching February in 2020 would carry with it certain penalties from the national parties. And losing half of the Democratic delegation and around two-thirds of the Republican delegation to the national conventions looks to be enough to deter any further push to maximize the position of the Arkansas primary in 2020.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Garner is already reconsidering the date of the primary:
In its current form, Senate Bill 276, sponsored by state Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, would set the primary election in February 2020. But Garner said Thursday that he aims to move the primary election to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, which would be March 3, 2020. Garner said he plans to fix the bill with an amendment today. 
The 2016 primary election "had a lot of energy and candidates coming here, and I think it worked out well for everybody involved," he said. Trump was among those coming to the state. 
"Let's have that same success," Garner said. 
"We are determining through the committee process whether to make [the March primary] permanent or not," Garner said. SB276 is in the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. 
"My thought process is we should [make it permanently held in March] because it was so successful. But that will be determined by the committee," Garner said. "I am very open to listening to the will of the body and the committee to determine if that's what we need to do to move forward." 
State Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said the party supports Garner's legislation. 
"The change allows us to comply with party rules in the selection of delegates to the [Republican National Convention]," Webb said in a text message to this newspaper.
[NOTE: Webb is not only the Arkansas Republican Party chairman but the general counsel to the Republican National Committee as well. In other words, a rebuke of the February primary option was inevitable from the chief interpreter of the RNC rules.]

As FHQ pointed out last week, these moves have never come easily in Arkansas because they have typically meant moving the whole consolidated primary up with the presidential primary. That appears to be problematic for at least one subset of officeholders (or prospective officeholders). Arkansas judges will also be on the ballot on the date of the presidential primary, but the runoff for those elections would not be until the November election. Adding nearly three months would greatly increase the general election campaign for judicial candidates.

2/6/19: Out of Arkansas, An Apparent Challenge to the New Hampshire Primary

2/16/19: Amendment to Arkansas Bill Eyes March for Presidential Primary Move

3/1/19: New March Presidential Primary Bill Flies Through Arkansas Senate Committee

3/9/19: Arkansas Senate Makes Quick Work of March Presidential Primary Bill

3/13/19: Arkansas House Committee Advances March Presidential Primary Bill

3/19/19: On to the Governor: Super Tuesday Bill Passes Arkansas House

3/25/19: Arkansas Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

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Saturday, February 9, 2019

Maine Committee Hearing Highlights Familiar Divisions in Caucus to Primary Shifts

Earlier this week the Maine legislative Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs heard testimony in response to the proposal to reestablish a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state. Heading into the hearing, the reporting indicated that costs would be the primary concern. Indeed, shifting from a caucus/convention system to a primary would mean the financial burden for funding a delegate selection event/presidential preference vote would switch from the state parties to the state and municipal governments.

And while the costs of any switch to a presidential primary were raised in the hearing, it was only part of a broader note of caution from some of those who testified. However, the overwhelming majority of those who weighed in supported the change, offering the benefits of increased participation as the chief reason for the state moving toward a primary election. Eleven of the 14 who offered testimony unconditionally favored the switch.

The resistance mainly came from Maine town clerks and registrars, those charged with actually administering elections in the state. One clerk, Christine Keller of Fairfield, argued that the proposed March presidential primary would add a high-profile election to an already busy time of the year for clerks whose duties extend beyond elections. Keller, though, was speaking on her behalf, not for all clerks in the state.

The Maine Town and City Clerks' Association provided a more measured and neutral official position, neither for nor against the reestablishment of a presidential primary. Yet, the group did share that over half its membership was against the move while only a bit more than a quarter of clerks in the state were expressly for switching to a presidential primary.

Those clerks for the shift echoed the sentiments of others in support: a primary would increase participation and help to ameliorate some of the logistical issues -- handicap accommodations, parking issues and long lines -- that drove discontent among caucusgoers in 2016.

However, that was contrasted with a list of potential problems the primary may create for clerks:
  1. the bad timing Keller noted during the height of activity for clerks
  2. the timing conflict with winter weather and any attendant logistical issues
  3. costs (and a suggestion to couple the presidential primary with the primaries for other offices in June)
  4. was 2016 a one-off event that voters may learn from for 2020 (and not wait to register on site)?
  5. previous low turnout presidential primaries when Maine had one.
  6. leaving the date of the primary up in the air as called for in LD 245 until late in the year prior to the presidential election
The costs remain the biggest hurdle to Maine having a presidential primary in 2020. Will the state provide money to municipalities from the general fund or will those municipalities be left holding the bill?

It does seem as if the clerks may get an alternative to the current legislation that will address if nothing else the uncertainty of the proposed primary date. Representatives from the office of the secretary of state noted in testimony to the committee that a bill was in the works that would definitively set the date for the second Tuesday in March (as it had been when Maine had a primary before).

In the meantime, LD 245 remains in the Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs pending a future work session to potentially mark up and amend the bill.

1/18/19: Maine Lost its Presidential Primary

2/1/19: Maine Decision to Re-Establish a Presidential Primary Option for 2020 Hinges on Money

3/16/19: Alternative Bill Would Reestablish a Presidential Primary in Maine but with Ranked Choice Voting

3/22/19: Maine Committee Hearing Finds Support for and Roadblocks to a Ranked Choice Presidential Primary

3/30/19: Maine Democrats Signal Caucuses in Draft Delegate Selection Plan, but...

4/23/19: New Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Maine

5/10/19: Maine Committee Working Session Offers Little Clarity on 2020 Presidential Primary

6/3/19: Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

6/4/19: On to the Governor: Maine House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

6/19/19: Fate of a Reestablished Presidential Primary in Maine Not Clear Entering Final Legislative Day

6/20/19: Governor Mills' Signature Sets Maine Presidential Primary for Super Tuesday

Thursday, February 7, 2019

DC Presidential Primary on the Move Again?

To say that primary scheduling in Washington, DC has been chaotic in the 21st century is perhaps an understatement.

It is an understatement because the District has not had a primary date carry over from one cycle to the next since it used the first Tuesday in May position in both 1996 and 2000. That's right. In every year since the year 2000, the District of Columbia has had a different primary date than the previous cycle each time.
2000: first Tuesday in May
2004: second Tuesday in January (non-compliant with national party rules)
2008: second Tuesday in February
2012: first Tuesday in April
2016: second Tuesday in June
2020 (tentative pending any future changes): third Tuesday in June
That is a lot of movement. And add to that the fact that in 2012 the council in DC passed legislation that ultimately became law to consolidate the primary election for other offices in the district with the presidential primary. If there was a regular rhythm to the nomination processes in the capital before the turn of the century, it was a steady May date for the presidential primary and a September date for all other offices.

What is the regular rhythm of the 21st century?

Either there is no rhythm, or it is that the dates change every cycle.

And now officials in Washington are again considering a change to move the primary from June to April where it may once again coincide with contests in the mid-Atlantic/northeast. Those concurrent regional primaries involving DC happened with the Potomac Primary in 2008, alongside Maryland and Virginia, and with Delaware and Maryland in 2012.

And the arguments for are the same as is typical in other states:
At a meeting Thursday, the D.C. Democratic State Committee will consider whether to recommend moving up the District’s primary from June 16 to April 28, or some other early spring date. 
“If you want to be competitive in the democratic process, you need to be early up,” said D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who represents the District on the Democratic National Committee.
Earlier is better. 

Of course in the case of the Washington, DC primary, earlier is compliant. After moving the primary back a week to the third Tuesday in June during its 2017 session to accommodate school schedules in the district, the primary fell out of compliance with both parties 2020 rules. The primary is too late and would potential open the parties in the District to penalties from the national parties. A move, then, would be necessary unless petitioning for a waiver was successful.

But first the council in DC will likely take up legislation to move the primary. Democrats in the District took up the idea at their state committee meeting, but tabled it until March. A recommendation from DC Democrats will likely prompt some action on the council.

7/19/19: Earlier June Presidential Primary Move Inches Forward in DC

5/6/19: Committee Hearing Finds Both DC Parties in Favor of a Presidential Primary Move

4/5/19: DC Council Eyes Earlier Primary with New Bill

5/15/18:  Washington, DC Eases Back a Week on the Calendar

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Out of Arkansas, An Apparent Challenge to the New Hampshire Primary

This morning new legislation was introduced in the Arkansas state legislature to move the May consolidated primary -- including the presidential primary -- into February.

SB 276, filed by state Senator Trent Garner (R-27th, El Dorado), would push the general primary from the third Tuesday in June to the first Tuesday in March. But here is the catch: the language of the nomination process in the Natural state is unconventional. The general primary refers to a runoff election, but that is the election described/scheduled in the current elections statute. The scheduling of the preferential primary -- the first round of the nomination process -- follows from that general primary date. Currently, that occurs four weeks prior to the general primary on the third Tuesday in May.

But while Garner's bill would move the general primary to a date compliant with the national party rules, again, it is a runoff. Under the legislation, the preferential primary -- the one that matters here -- would occur three weeks prior to the first Tuesday in March.

That falls on the second Tuesday in February.

...the same day as the date on which the New Hampshire presidential primary currently and tentatively scheduled.

Is this a true challenge to the New Hampshire primary?

Not really. First, Arkansas had a difficult enough time moving into March for the 2016 cycle to join the SEC primary. That entailed a last minute deal being cut in the state Senate during a 2015 special session to get a temporary primary date change approved. And that was after a similar measure failed during the regular session that same year. Then, efforts two years ago to move the primary back to March for 2020 again fell flat.

These bills have always found resistance in the state Senate and over moving the primary into winter which elongates the general election campaign. It is not a financial cost, then, that state senators have balked at in the past, but rather a change in the regular rhythms of Arkansas elections for offices up and down the ballot. And it has not helped that the past moves -- 1988, 2008 and 2016 -- have not delivered the sort of attention decision makers in the state have promised and/or desired.

Now, add to that an additional layer: encroaching on New Hampshire's turf if this bill becomes law and violating the national party rules on scheduling in the process. The penalties -- losing half of the Democratic delegation and around two-thirds of the Republican delegation -- do not make the move attractive.

To add insult to injury, Garner's bill is not aggressive enough. It would shift the Arkansas primary into the tentative position reserved for the presidential primary in Granite state, but it certainly would not keep the New Hampshire secretary of state moving the primary there to an earlier date after the Arkansas legislature has adjourned and is powerless to respond. It is that ability that has helped keep New Hampshire at the front of the presidential primary queue.

This may be another "flamethrower" but it is likely to meet the same fate as those in the past.

2/11/19: Arkansas Lawmaker Signals a Scaling Back of Presidential Primary Legislation

2/16/19: Amendment to Arkansas Bill Eyes March for Presidential Primary Move

3/1/19: New March Presidential Primary Bill Flies Through Arkansas Senate Committee

3/9/19: Arkansas Senate Makes Quick Work of March Presidential Primary Bill

3/13/19: Arkansas House Committee Advances March Presidential Primary Bill

3/19/19: On to the Governor: Super Tuesday Bill Passes Arkansas House

3/25/19: Arkansas Presidential Primary to Super Tuesday

The Arkansas bill has been added to the FHQ 2020 presidential primary calendar.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Ranked Choice Voting in the New Hampshire Primary?

Thoughts on some aspect of the invisible primary and links to the movements during the days that recently were...

Last week's AP story on the bill that would bring ranked choice voting to the presidential primary in New Hampshire had made its way around enough that by the weekend several folks reached out to ask FHQ how well the plan, if adopted, would jibe with the longstanding proportionality mandate layered into the DNC delegate selection rules.

And my answer at the time was that it depends.

It depends on how the system is set up in the legislation. The classic conception of ranked choice voting is of the system determining one winner. It does this by reallocating votes from the least preferred candidates until one most preferred candidate emerges. This is how the system under its maiden voyage in Maine worked during the 2018 midterm elections.

But the goal is different under the Democratic presidential nomination rules. Reallocating votes until one winner is determined would be a system set up to allocate all of the delegates to the winner in a hypothetical New Hampshire primary run like Maine's elections were last fall. Clearly that would not fly under the provisions of the Democratic proportionality mandate.

And the New Hampshire bill is crafted with this in mind. Instead of reallocating votes until one winner is determined, the proposed New Hampshire system would cut the reallocation off at 15 percent. The votes of candidates with less than 15 percent of the vote -- statewide and in the congressional districts -- would be shifted to candidates above that threshold based on the ranked preferences of voters.

That would not only seemingly be consistent with the DNC rules requiring a proportional allocation of delegates but would allow all voters to weigh in on the ultimate delegate allocation. Under the current system of delegate allocation at the state level, only votes for the candidates above the 15 percent qualifying threshold count toward the allocation of delegates.

It is not clear that this bill will either gain traction in New Hampshire or pass muster with the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. The idea of ranked choice voting never really came up in any meaningful way during the Unity Reform Commission deliberations on the 2020 rules during 2017 or when the baton was passed to the Rules and Bylaws Committee in 2018. It was, however, raised at the DNC meeting in Chicago in August 2018 that ultimately adopted the 2020 delegate selection rules. The motion to include ranked choice voting at the primary stage and at convention voting was dismissed, but not necessarily because there was no appetite for it. Rather, it late in the game to add something to the rules without the sort of consideration the rules that were changed received over a two year process.

This bill passing and being signed into law would force the RBC to weigh in on the matter, but that remains a ways and many steps in the legislative process in the Granite state away.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Big donors may still largely be on the sidelines, but Harris is finding some fundraising success in her own backyard. Brown is going to have to play catch up in the #MoneyPrimary. And Hickenlooper is going to have to expand his fundraising base beyond Colorado.

2. The #StaffPrimary has picked up steam over the last week. Gillibrand has made some Iowa hires. Harris tapped a couple of big names in Iowa to be a part of her campaign in the Hawkeye state. Inslee's PAC is advertising positions that sound like they may ultimately be a part of a presidential campaign. Brown has a campaign manager-in-waiting. Delaney has added staff in New Hampshire. And Booker has lined up an experienced crew across Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

3. Booker is officially in.

4. Harris' rollout has coincided with a couple of Californians bowing out of the 2020 race. LA mayor, Eric Garcetti, has done more of the typical things that prospective presidential candidates do. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has not other than going to New Hampshire and not quelling the discussions of him running. Both have now ended the discussion, and Harris is the only Golden state candidate still officially running. Swalwell may change that in the near future. #CaliforniaWinnowing

5. The #StaffPrimary is not the only component of the #InvisiblePrimary that is heating up. The first trickle of endorsements in the #EndorsementPrimary are starting to emerge. Harris has claimed a trio of House endorsements from members of the California delegation, most recently from Rep. Katie Hill and Rep. Nanette Barragan. Fresh off of his announcement, Cory Booker picked up a couple of Garden state endorsements from Senator Menendez and Governor Murphy. Meanwhile in Iowa, John Delaney has the support of a handful of rural county party chairs in the Hawkeye state. The early trend is inaction on the part of superdelegates, but the ones who are endorsing early are from the home states of the candidates who have announced. One exception is Harry Reid. His support of Warren is an endorsement without an endorsement. The only way to really test that is if Reid ends up helping some other candidate or candidates. Otherwise, he has endorsed Warren.

6. Is it Iowa or bust for Sherrod Brown?

7. Schultz passed on the Democratic nomination, but is heading to where the 2020 attention is.

8. Moulton remains mum on 2020 in New Hampshire.

9. Draft Beto hits New Hampshire as it awaits an announcement by the end of the month.

10. If the 2020 Democrats are strategically looking beyond the first few states on the primary calendar, it is not showing it in their travel itineraries. Warren is trekking to a series of states that have March 3 or earlier primary dates after her planned February 9 announcement. Gillibrand spent the last weekend in New Hampshire, and Brown was in Iowa. Harris, too, is hitting all four February states. And Booker is initially going to get to three of those four. And overall, candidates, announced or not, are visiting the Hawkeye state, and there is more to come in February.

11. Is Bill Weld going to challenge President Trump in the Republican primaries?

12. Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is looking to clamp down on the Republican nomination process in 2020 to ward off challengers.

13. Amy Klobuchar is going to Iowa and is maybe up to something else this coming weekend.

14. Finally, Biden is seemingly in campaign-in-waiting mode.

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

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Friday, February 1, 2019

Maine Decision to Re-Establish a Presidential Primary Option for 2020 Hinges on Money

The on again, off again Maine presidential primary may be on again if legislation to revive it can make it through the state legislature.

But the progress of the bill will depend on the willingness of legislators to appropriate the funding necessary to conduct the election. That estimated $979,000 price tag -- more than 85 percent of which would fall to cities and towns -- has emerged according to the bill sponsor, as the "main sticking point" in the early discussions.

The Bangor Daily News reports:
"Spokespeople for Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, support the primary. But a Gideon spokeswoman said she would monitor the bill to ensure it has no “adverse fiscal or participatory impact.” Spokespeople for Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, didn’t respond to a request for comment."
And although Republicans are outnumbered three to two in both chambers of the Maine state legislature, legislative Republicans have raised the cost issue as well.
"Rep. Scott Strom, R-Pittsfield, a lead Republican on the election committee, said while he likes the idea of a primary, he’d back the caucuses if the new primary can’t be run concurrently with Maine’s regular June primaries because of cost."
Republicans do not have the numbers to force a consolidated June primary as a cost saving alternative, but that proposal may be enough to peel some Democrats away and sink the primary option for another cycle in the Pine Tree state.

Historically, primary election funding has not been an uncommon point of contention in these types of deliberations. Those states that during the early part of the post-reform era responded to the Democratic Party rules changes by creating a separate presidential primary incurred the start up costs earlier and tended to normalize the expenditure. That had the side effect of making those contests in those state more mobile than other states.

Later adopters in the post-reform era were typically states that already had consolidated presidential and state primaries. Those states faced a different calculus. They faced either moving everything up -- presidential and state primaries (which affects in many cases the primaries for state legislators) -- or creating and funding a separate presidential primary election.

The transition from caucus to primary can follow that latter route because it raises many of the same state government funding tensions in the transition from a party-run caucus to a state-run primary. The allure is there to couple a presidential primary option to a preexisting primary for other offices. But timing matters. If it is too late in the presidential primary calendar, the draw (and the appropriation) is much less appetizing to legislators.

But this is what faces decision makers in the Maine legislature. To fund or not to fund. That may be the question, but majority Democrats in Maine may here from national actors pushing a primary option as well.

1/18/19: Maine Lost its Presidential Primary

2/9/19: Maine Committee Hearing Highlights Familiar Divisions in Caucus to Primary Shifts

3/16/19: Alternative Bill Would Reestablish a Presidential Primary in Maine but with Ranked Choice Voting

3/22/19: Maine Committee Hearing Finds Support for and Roadblocks to a Ranked Choice Presidential Primary

3/30/19: Maine Democrats Signal Caucuses in Draft Delegate Selection Plan, but...

4/23/19: New Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill Introduced in Maine

5/10/19: Maine Committee Working Session Offers Little Clarity on 2020 Presidential Primary

6/3/19: Maine Senate Advances Super Tuesday Primary Bill

6/4/19: On to the Governor: Maine House Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

6/19/19: Fate of a Reestablished Presidential Primary in Maine Not Clear Entering Final Legislative Day

6/20/19: Governor Mills' Signature Sets Maine Presidential Primary for Super Tuesday