Thursday, February 11, 2021

Arizona Bill Would End Presidential Primary

Earlier this month, legislation was introduced in the Arizona Senate to eliminate the presidential preference election -- the presidential primary in the Grand Canyon state -- and replace it with caucuses run by the state parties. 

SB 1668, introduced by state Sen. Martin Quezada (D-29th, Phoenix), would not only shift the state's delegate allocation method from a primary to caucuses, but it would also cede some state authority over that process with one exception. The resulting caucuses would under the new law also have to be opened to independent and unaffiliated voters. 

Now, this legislation is interesting for a few reasons. First, Quezada is not only a Democrat but among the Democratic leadership in the state Senate. That is not unusual in and of itself, but as has been noted in this space over the last four or five years, the wind is not necessarily at Quezada's back on this issue within the broader Democratic Party coalition. Sure, allowing independents and unaffiliateds into the caucus process conforms to some of what the national party has advocated for (increased participation), but shifting away from a state-run presidential primary election does not. That that message has not made it into the thinking of the legislative leadership in Arizona is noteworthy, but not surprising in view of past legislative actions regarding presidential primaries. 

Moreover, the primary to caucus shift is atypical among Democrats. It does happen. And it tends to in Democratic-controlled states with presidential primaries in cycles in which a Democratic incumbent president is seeking renomination. The upcoming 2024 cycle may meet those conditions to some degree. But that does not change the fact that this has been a maneuver seen and/or attempted more on the Republican side for a variety of reasons. Yes, there were the cancelled primaries and caucuses for the 2020 cycle when it was Trump up for renomination, but it goes beyond that. Efforts like those in Oklahoma in 2009 or Missouri's currently have been Republican driven over the last decade or more.

And at least part of the reason why is budgetary in nature. A state can pass the expenditure for a delegate selection event on to the state parties by eliminating a presidential primary. In fact, that is the main explanation for why states nix primaries in years in which an incumbent presidential is running unopposed for renomination. Why unnecessarily shell out millions of dollars for a presidential primary when the money is going to a contest with no competition? That is what Washington Democrats did in 2012, for example.

Yet, there is a new spin on this financial bottom line angle. In response to the Missouri bill attempting to eliminate the presidential primary in the Show-Me state, FHQ received an email from a reader there. At least part of the impetus behind the Missouri legislation was the fact that Republicans in the state still had caucuses in 2020 to select delegates to the national convention. If that process is going to exist, then why not allocate delegates through that process and remove that presidential primary line from the state budget? It has the effect of shrinking the pool of participants in the process. 

Now, FHQ will not go so far as to say that cost savings are the motivating factor behind this Arizona bill, but it would be a byproduct of the move if that legislation becomes law. But as we said with the Missouri bill, primary bills are not often successful in years immediately after presidential election years. Moves to cancel primaries in that window are even more rare. 


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A link to this legislation has been added to the 2024 FHQ presidential primary calendar.



Wednesday, February 10, 2021

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The Republican "Lanes" in 2024

David Siders had a nice piece up at Politico yesterday describing the difficulty prospective 2024 Republican aspirants in the US Senate might have in distinguishing themselves during and after the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. 

But peppered throughout the article laying out the minefield that Republicans like Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton or Marco Rubio or Ben Sasse may face was an old saw of recent nomination cycles: the "lanes" candidates presumably occupy in crowded and wide open presidential primary fields. 

Look, when prospective fields of presidential candidates are large, we all -- from casual onlookers to pundits/media to academics -- look for ways to group various candidates. It is a way of building a narrative around a simpler if not parsimonious concept. Bernie Sanders is the socialist candidate or Rand Paul appeals to the libertarian wing, to name a couple of examples. And while those are useful descriptions their usage is often too clever by half in the context of a process that most often requires some coalition building beyond the boundaries of the particular "lane" and/or sees some consolidation once candidates actually begin to win and lose primaries and caucuses during an election year. 

As Dave Hopkins wrote around this time two years ago on the same subject in the context of the budding 2020 Democratic field of candidates:
"...any conceptual model of nomination politics needs to incorporate a large random error term, representing the varying effects of personal charisma, persuasive advertising, memorable debate performances, catchy slogans, journalistic takedowns, verbal gaffes, and other factors that have proved difficult to anticipate yet can be just as influential as substantive positions or group membership in shaping voters' evaluations of the candidates."
And that holds even more now, two years out from any of these Republicans likely entering the 2024 race. "Lanes," to the extent they exist, bear some value but not a ton. And they are of little value this far away from any campaigning that may happen in 2023 much less any voting in the 2024 primaries. 

It is mostly too early for "lanes" chatter and 2024. And that is largely a function of the lodestar still exerting a tremendous amount of gravity within the Republican Party right now: Donald Trump. Siders lays out the anti-Trump lane and much more crowded pro-Trump lane where all the prospective candidates are attempting to separate themselves from each other. And while those "lanes" may exist now, they will continue to evolve as we all gain more information about the 2024 process. Trump will play some role, but it remains to be seen just how big that will be. 

Will he run? 

If he does not, then how will the field develop and respond to that? 

Appealing to Trump supporters will still be high on a number of candidates' lists of priorities, but it may not be the top one after the midterm elections as candidates begin in earnest to position themselves for a 2024 run. And that is really the value of Siders's article. It shows just how far there is to go in how prospective 2024 Republican primary voters view and gravitate toward particular candidates. A pro- and anti-Trump frame may be appropriate now, but that may not be the case later in the invisible primary as things become more visible. 




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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Nebraska Once Again Considers Returning to a Winner-Take-All Electoral Vote Allocation

A committee hearing scheduled for next week will once again have the Nebraska legislature considering a return to a winner-take-all allocation of electoral votes in future Electoral College meetings. 

LB 76 would revert Nebraska to the same winner-take-all system that it utilized in the Electoral College prior to the 1992 cycle and which all states other than Maine also use. 

But these attempts are nothing new in the Cornhusker state. Ever since that 1991 legislative session ushered in the era of electoral vote allocation by congressional district in Nebraska, some legislator or legislators have introduced legislation to rejoin the majority of states in how they handle the process. Each time, however, those efforts have failed. In 1993. In 1995. And in 1997. Chatter ramped up again in the aftermath of the state's first split of electoral votes in 2008, but nothing came of it. The same was true in 2015-16 before the 2016 presidential election and then again after it during the 2017 session. 

Now though, on the heels of yet another split of the five electoral votes at stake in Nebraska -- with John Biden replicating Barack Obama's 2008 win in the state's second congressional district on the way to the White House -- talk has again escalated around the idea of abandoning the more proportional system. And that talk with continue at the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee hearing next Wednesday. 

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The allocation method Nebraska utilizes is unique compared to most other states, but given its partisan bent, any split that occurs breaks with the overwhelming partisan sentiment in the state. And those are the ends of the spectrum: maintaining a unique system or preserving electoral votes for the Republican nominee. The former has won out to this point since 1992.

Nebraska may have had difficulty in breaking with that tradition, but other states have had their own issues in trying to move to a more proportional, Nebraska-style allocation method. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all considered that in the time after the 2012 election. All states were Republican-controlled, but all had gone for Obama in 2012. Efforts failed in all three and 2016 quickly proved the folly such a move would have presented. Trump narrowly won all three states and would have had to have split the electoral votes had those post-2012 plans been instituted. Unintended consequences are everywhere. 


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As a footnote, in recent years (during the 2010s) there have been more, although not more successful, bids to transition Nebraska into the national popular vote pact. There have been at least five (unsuccessful) bills on that front in that time.





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Monday, February 8, 2021

Are the Parties Taking Different Paths on the 2024 Primary Calendar?

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..."
    -- Robert Frost (opening line from "The Road Not Taken")

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Since the inauguration the other week FHQ has devoted considerable (virtual) ink to the 2024 presidential primary that is coming into shape, even two years before the first serious/viable candidates are likely to throw their respective hats in the ring. 

Look, it is early. But already there are some important stories about the 2024 nomination processes and particular focus has been placed on the order of the earliest states on the primary calendar. Iowa had problems with its caucuses in 2020. Nevada is considering a switch to a primary, and further may opt to challenge Iowa and New Hampshire in so doing. And New Hampshire is New Hampshire: free to allow an empowered secretary of state to simply wait things out (and hope the national parties do not turn their penalties on the Granite state to enforce a new order).

All of this -- even among a small group of states -- highlights the overlapping interests and incentives involved in both maintaining and reforming (or often merely tweaking) the rules that govern how both national parties select and allocate the delegates that ultimately nominate their presidential candidates. 

The national parties on some level enjoy the stability/certainty of an early calendar order that persists across cycles. No, it may not be perfect for one or both parties, but the devil one knows is often preferable to the unknown one that may bring with it unintended consequences that leave a system worse off than the status quo ante. And that is often true even in the face of (legitimate) pressure to make changes from groups within the broader party coalition. 

The states and state parties offer at least two other sets of interests and incentives and they two do not always work in concert with one another (and sometimes that goes beyond just simple partisan differences between the governing party in a state legislature -- if there is a unified one -- and an opposition state party). 

Take the delicate dance now starting in Nevada. Democrats control not only the state legislature, but the state government. Between the legislative and executive branches, there is unified Democratic control. Both seeing an opening in the wake of Iowa's 2020 issues and responding to pressure within the Democratic party coalition, the state government seems poised to move away from caucuses as the means of allocating national convention delegates to a state-run presidential primary. And Republicans in the state -- both in the legislature and within the formal state party apparatus -- are not opposed to that change.  And that is a reflection of the different incentives on the Republican side within the party coalition and ahead of a likely open and competitive presidential nomination race in 2024. 

Those realities make it less likely that Nevada Republicans will have any desire to rock the boat. And that shows, particularly when it comes to any effort to move any hypothetical Nevada presidential primary to the first position on the primary calendar. Silver state Republicans very simply do not want to jeopardize their current position in the order. 

And that is a concern of sorts on the Democratic side as well. The forthcoming primary bill's sponsor, Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D), told the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
“We will have to work through (the bill’s) language and work with the national parties — both Democrats and Republicans — and convince them of Nevada’s importance in the West.”
DNC member from Nevada, Allison Stephens, in the same story added:
“We don’t want to compromise our position as No. 3 in the nation. We can not fall below third. If changing to a primary would jeopardize our early state status, I would be concerned. We do have to work within the parameters of the party.”
But although the interests and incentives may be similar, the actions to this point in the cycle across the two parties are noteworthy. This primary effort may go forward with bipartisan support in the Nevada legislature, but both sides on the state level are cognizant of the stakes there and on the national party level. And so far the two parties have diverged in important ways. 

On the Republican side, there has been a concerted effort among carve-out state members of the Republican National Committee to band together in order to protect the status quo. That is why Nevada Republican Party chair, Michael McDonald acknowledged a desire in the state to be first but also noted that:
"We're united with the RNC to make that happen. We have a great working relationship with the four carve-out states and a great working relationship with the RNC. We respect each other and we don't intend to move anything. We respect each other's position."
Democrats in Nevada and nationally are performing a similar dance, but the one big thing to this point in how the calendar in particular is coming together for 2024 is that the same carve-out state coalition to protect the status quo start to the primary calendar has not yet materialized among the national party membership from those states. That is not to suggest that that will not happen. But it has not to this point, in stark contrast to how carve-out state Republicans are approaching the cycle. 

This may in retrospect months from now be much ado about nothing. But it could also be that once again there is a different approach to this across parties. And importantly that says something about the stability of the system long term. Changes tend to last when both parties agree to them, whether formally or informally. And there is a divergence between the two parties at this early juncture. 



Friday, February 5, 2021

Where Does New Hampshire Fit into All the Early 2024 Calendar Jockeying?

Since FHQ ended its post-election hiatus after the inauguration the other week, we have spent considerable time discussing the (VERY) early maneuverings on the 2024 presidential primary calendar. Much of that has been in response to news accounts that have filtered out about a couple of states in particular: Iowa and Nevada.

Iowa, the lead off state on the primary calendar for the entirety of the post-reform era, has its issues after a 2020 process that did not exactly go as planned. That has the state's future as first-in-the-nation contest clearly in the crosshairs of, if not the Democratic National Committee, then certainly of activists and other vocal early state dissenters. Whether that criticism is enough to disrupt the calendar order that came to dominate the second decade of the 21st century remains to be seen. There are some institutional roadblocks. But Republicans in the Hawkeye state also seem intent on trying once again to band together with Iowa Democrats and their early state counterparts on the RNC to protect the caucuses. 

But should Iowa falter and the DNC opt for some change at the front of the queue, Nevada stands ready and willing to fill the void. That is true in the case of a caucus to primary shift for 2024, but also to jump into Iowa's position as well. 

And though FHQ has mentioned it in passing in these discussions, short shrift has likely been paid to another likely player in how this will all ultimately shake out: New Hampshire.  

Unsurprisingly, John DiStaso of WMUR, one of the stalwarts of the #FITN beat in the Granite state had a fairly typical response to the Nevada speculation, yet another of the quadrennial rites of passage challenges to New Hampshire's traditional standing on presidential primary calendar.
"And by the way, in case you need reminding (and we’re sure you don’t): New Hampshire has a little thing called a state law ensuring that the primary will be first – with or without the blessing of the political parties and the awarding of delegates.  
"Also, we expect that soon to emerge will be a public show of unity between New Hampshire Democrats and Republicans – yes, even in this sharply divided partisan atmosphere -- to push back against the building opposition to the primary’s status."
DiStaso is absolutely correct that there is a state law in New Hampshire that protects the states position on the calendar. That is not up for dispute. Not only does the law require that the New Hampshire primary be at least seven days before any similar contest (read: primary), but Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D) has adeptly used the law (and the latitude it provides him in setting the date of the primary) since 1976 to keep New Hampshire exactly where it has been. 

But 2024 might be different for New Hampshire (if not Iowa). 

Said state law has been successful in preserving New Hampshire's position, but that law has come to be buttressed in recent cycles by national party delegate selection rules and more importantly penalties in both parties. Not only has New Hampshire's place been codified in both sets of national party rules, but the penalties have (for the most part) further protected the Granite state and the other three carve-outs from the encroachment of would-be rogue states. 

In other words, there has been a price to pay for ambitious states that have not been Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina in the recent past. On the Democratic side, such a state would lose half of its delegates and candidates would lose any delegates won in any rogue state if they campaigned there. In the Republican rules, such a violation would knock a state's delegation (depending on its size) down to just six or nine delegates. Those are substantial penalties that have been largely effective at protecting all four carve-out states, potentially surpassing the continued efficacy of the state law in New Hampshire. 

What FHQ means is that with or without that state law, the nation party rules have been engineered to protect the early states. But what if those same penalties are turned around and pointed at New Hampshire?

Let us assume for a moment that the DNC and the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee over the next year and a half or so come to the conclusion that enough is enough and it is time at last to reconfigure the beginning of the primary calendar. The hypothetical rules would no longer reserve the second position -- or the first primary position -- for New Hampshire. Should Secretary Gardner opt to flaunt the rules and bump the presidential primary in the Granite state back up to that first position, then that would actually open up New Hampshire to penalties being assessed against the state party rather than to protect them and their delegation.

That is a different environment than New Hampshire has faced in the recent past and takes us back to past cycles when the state was on its own for the most part to protect its position. After all, in 2008, the first cycle in which all four carve-out states' position were codified, Florida and Michigan blew up the early calendar and forced the early states to break with the exact rule on timing. All moved to protect their positions, but none followed exactly the guidance provided each state for scheduling in the rules. Six states, then, broke the rules. But Florida and Michigan were targeted because they forced the others to move to keep up with the order -- or something close to it -- laid out in the rules. 

Florida and Michigan bore the brunt of the penalties that cycle while Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina were free to pursue positions somewhat consistent with the DNC rules without sanction (even if a stricter reading of the rules could have opened the door to them).

Before 2008, New Hampshire often threatened to torpedo candidates in the state if they opted to campaign in rogue states. Lamar Alexander, Pat Buchanan and Bob Dole all steered clear of campaigning in Delaware in 1996 when the First state primary fell just four days after the New Hampshire contest. Steve Forbes ignored the insistence from New Hampshire officials and went to Delaware and won, but he paid a price in New Hampshire, finishing a distant fourth. 

However, the Democratic delegate selection rules already deal with that eventuality. Candidates who campaign in rogue states lose any delegates won in those states. Again, that has protected New Hampshire in the past, but what if that same penalty is turned on the Granite state should Gardner ignore any hypothetical rules from the DNC with respect to the timing of delegate selection events?

That is a huge unanswered question on which the past does not adequately guide us. 

If the DNC sets a Nevada primary as the first contest, and then Gardner schedules the Granite state primary earlier than that, then New Hampshire would presumably lose half of its already paltry sum of delegates. But additionally, any candidate who campaigns in New Hampshire under those supposed rules would lose any delegates won as well. [No, delegates are not necessarily the name of the game that early in the calendar.]

Look, all of this is extremely speculative given how far the process is out from a finalized primary calendar, much less a set of delegate selection rules. But the notion of what happens to New Hampshire if the rules turn on the state in 2024 are being undercovered already in the face of the usual clapback of "but our state law" from New Hampshire. 

The one thing that FHQ would say at this juncture in closing is that one should notice that it is the Democratic Party and its rules that are discussed in the scenario analyses above. If Biden seeks renomination, then all of this may be moot. The real action will be on the Republican side. And there does not appear to be any movement as of yet among national Republicans to strip the Granite state of its position in the GOP nomination process. 

But, as usual, time will tell that tale.



Thursday, February 4, 2021

Montana Bill Would Shift Presidential Primary to March

With rare exception, Montana has conducted a consolidated primary -- including the presidential primary -- on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June throughout the post-reform era. 

The only times when that was not the case was in 1984, when state Democrats opted to hold March caucuses instead, and in 2008 when Treasure state Republicans had a February state convention. Other than those two instances, Montana delegate allocation in both parties has tended to stem from the June presidential primary.1

And it is additionally true that the Montana legislature has done little to alter the scheduling. It has not been common for legislators to introduce legislation shifting the primary date -- presidential or otherwise -- because 1) that entails a budgetary decision on creating a separate and earlier presidential primary or 2) moving the consolidated primary would mean moving the legislators own primaries (and increase the length of their campaigns if the date is earlier than June). [Unlike many other states, Montana's legislature only meets in odd numbered years, so a change in the primary date would not mean that legislator would be campaigning for the hypothetically earlier primary during the legislative session; something that has been a roadblock in other states.]

While other states surrounding the Treasure state have shifted their presidential primaries over the years, Montana just has not seen much activity to affect the same change there. Within the last decade there have been just two bills that would have made any change to the scheduling of the Montana presidential primary: 
1) a 2015 effort to move the primary to August (which would have made the presidential primary non-compliant), and...
2) 2013 legislation to consolidated the presidential (and other) primaries with school elections in May.

In the face of a bevy of post-reform efforts across the nation to frontload presidential primaries, then, Montana has resisted the urge to follow suit.

But as the process eases into the 2024 cycle, that may be changing. New legislation -- HB 248 -- introduced by Rep. Kelly Kortum (D-65th, Bozeman) would move the consolidated primary in the Treasure state up three months from June to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. That likely Super Tuesday date would align the Montana presidential primary with primaries from a host of states across the country with Utah as its likely closest neighbor. That would not be the earliest presidential nominating contest in Montana (That's the 2008 Republican convention.), but it would be the earliest primary election the Treasure has conducted. 

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In the initial committee hearing for HB 248 on Tuesday, February 2, the State Administration heard arguments for and against the shift. Bill sponsor, Kelly Kortum made the case for the added economic benefit of an earlier primary, but failed when pressed to come up with anything more than abstract notions of candidate visits and spending in the state. Montana would be among the least delegate-rich states on Super Tuesday and would be hard-pressed to draw anything more than campaign spending on advertisements. Keaton Sunchild, director of Montana Native Vote, backed the bill citing the increased emphasis on rural, native and western voices in the process. But he was the only proponent of the legislation. 

Everything else during the hearing was a push back against the change from election administrators at all levels across the state. Dana Corson, the director of elections and voting services in the Montana secretary of state's office, balked at the date change and when it would be implemented. To do so for the 2022 cycle would put stress on a new voting system being put in place, but even had issues with the filing deadlines changes if implementation was pushed back to 2024. The latter was a refrain that was repeated by both Regina Plettenberg (county clerks of Montana) and Shantil Siaperas (Montana Association of Counties). Neither thought that moving filing deadlines and elections training into the holiday season to accommodate a March primary would be workable. But this is a common point of dissension among clerks and counties when similar primary bills are raised in other areas across the country. 

The committee will later consider a recommendation to pass (or not) to the House floor. Early indications are that there was neither a solid and persuasive argument for the change, nor enthusiasm on the committee for the change. But that is not atypical this early in a presidential election cycle. That urgency may be there in two years time. 


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A link to this legislation has been added to the 2024 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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1 For a number of post-reform cycles, the Republican presidential primary in Montana was a beauty contest and treated as merely advisory to the delegate selection/allocation that would take place at a subsequent state convention.


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Nevada's Willing, but Will the Stars Align for a Push to an Earlier Point on the 2024 Calendar?

Nevada pushed back into the news again yesterday. Michelle L. Price at the Associated Press reported that movers and shakers in the Silver state are attempting to position a potential new presidential primary there as the first-in-the-nation contest for the 2024 cycle. That is nothing new. In fact, FHQ just last week discussed the contours of such a shift in the context of a January Washington Post article on the matter. 

But there were some other interesting nuggets in that story worth reflecting on that are new. Last week, FHQ was more abstract and speculative when talking about the possibility of a Nevada presidential primary. Then, the idea of a state legislative push to establish a presidential primary election was definitely that: speculative. However, Price reported that legislation (with supposed bipartisan support) is likely for a legislature that just gaveled in for the session on February 1. There is no bill yet.

And that seemingly settles (or at least starts to settle) a question FHQ posed in the previous post: which route will Nevada decision-makers take? The state parties could seize this one by the reins and hold a party-run primary, but appears that there is support across party lines in the state legislature to create a state-run/state-funded presidential primary option. 

Of course, that leaves some of the previous questions from last week unanswered. Establishing a primary election is one thing, but scheduling it is another. How will any forthcoming legislation deal with that question (especially in light of the fact that neither national party has finalized much less really started finalizing their respective 2024 delegate selection rules)? Will legislators punt on that decision and pass a later bill scheduling the 2024 contest? Will they follow the lead of both New Hampshire and Georgia and leave the date unset, ceding the date-setting authority to, say, the secretary of state? The latter would potentially maximize the Nevada's ability to move on the fly and respond to any potential move by New Hampshire's secretary of state to stay first. [For the record, Bill Gardner, the secretary of state in the Granite state nonchalantly responded to the Nevada speculation in the AP story by suggesting that it would all settle out in good time.]

Furthermore, it should be noted that Nevada is no stranger to these sorts of attempted maneuvers. A 2013 bill, one that ended up going nowhere, sought not only establish a primary in late January, but allowed the secretary of state to change that date to an even earlier position should one or more of a list of western states tried to move in on Nevada's first-in-the-west position carved out by the national parties. This bill was resurrected (but mostly as a placeholder) in 2015. That bill was ultimately significantly amended and became the legislation that died at the end of the legislative session (in part because Harry Reid intervened).

That intervention is an important sidebar. Nevada's position as a carve-out state on the Democratic side has it codified in national party rules as a caucus state. Switching to a primary could have in 2015 jeopardized the Silver state's early position in future cycles. However, in the time since, the terrain has shifted away from caucuses on the Democratic side. The combination of Nevada's willingness to adopt a presidential primary as the means of allocating national convention delegates and Iowa Democrats' problematic implementation of their 2020 caucuses may play to Nevada's advantage during the 2024 cycle. But part of that willingness -- at least this early -- is about making the change to a primary and likely not yet selecting the date on which it will occur. That remains to be seen as one awaits any legislation to be introduced on the subject in the coming days and weeks. 

Keeping the date as an unknown not only likely helps grease the wheels with the national party, but would also aid the state in any prospective calendar battle with New Hampshire (and maybe Iowa) in 2023.

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Speaking of Iowa, the other tidbit worth flagging in Price's reporting for this story comes from the Hawkeye state. Earlier this week, FHQ wrote some about the standard operating procedure in Iowa with respect to protecting the caucuses' position. Typically, that means both state parties acting in concert with one another, banding together in defense of the caucuses. In the past that has worked. But there are signs of vulnerability on that front for the 2024 cycle. Republicans are there and so, too, is the newly elected Iowa Democratic Party chair. 

But there is dissension in the ranks of the Iowa Democratic state central committee about the prudence of protecting the caucuses this time around. After 2020, some on the committee view keeping the caucuses as an "uphill battle." And some in that camp see moving to a primary and focusing on "winning elections" in a state that became a deeper shade of red in the Trump era as a better path to take than clinging to the caucuses. 

That there is any division on the Democratic state committee on the matter of the caucuses is noteworthy. That division ultimately poses some trouble not only for Iowa Democrats in search of another cycle at the front of the primary calendar queue but potentially for Republicans as well. The interesting thing may be how carve-out state members of both the DNC and DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee work together (or if they do). Republicans from those states on the RNC are unified. Democrats may not be. And that speaks to the different priorities and incentives in both parties when it comes to the early 2024 calendar line up.



Tuesday, February 2, 2021

New York Bill Would Shift Presidential Primary to June, but...

For the last several cycles, the scheduling of the New York presidential primary has fallen into a regular rhythm. Following the end of any presidential election year, the date of the primary -- wherever it has been scheduled in the previous cycle -- reverts to an early February date that is non-compliant with national party rules. 

That routine is no different as the 2020 cycle transitions to 2024

What initially was set before the Covid-19 outbreak as a late April primary date has once again been automatically pushed back to the first Tuesday in February, the day after the (would-be) Iowa caucuses (if the scheduling of the past few cycles carries over to 2024). But that has been the placeholder for the presidential primary -- the spring primary -- in the Empire state since the 2008 cycle. One could argue, and FHQ has, that this forces state legislators to revisit the date of the primary every cycle and to consider alternatives that might be advantageous to the state. The clearer argument just jumps to the latter explanation. Legislators in New York do not need to be forced, but rather they collectively and voluntarily reexamine the date of the presidential primary in the light of the national party rules that have been released during the midterm election year. 

But now, newly introduced legislation would disrupt this regular rhythm of the last decade and consolidate the presidential primary with the primaries for state offices. S 1819 would eliminate the spring primary language and move the date of the presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the fourth Tuesday in June.

Astute readers and calendar watchers will no doubt spot the problem with the legislation introduced and sponsored by two Democratic legislators, Sen. James Skoufis (D-39th) and Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-27th). Yes, the plan would move the New York presidential primary out of the early calendar problem area  near or before the four carve-out states. But it would create the same problem on the back end of the calendar. The late June primary was fine in 2020, however, only because of latitude provided to the states/state parties due to the pandemic. Assuming there is no global outbreak in 2024 and that the national party rules on timing carry over to the coming presidential primary season, then a fourth Tuesday in June primary in the Empire state would also be non-compliant. 

Now, obviously this has not stopped New York legislators in the past. Again, see the description of that "regular rhythm" above. They could as they have over the last several cycles schedule the primary for an alternative (and compliant) time, but if this legislation passes and is signed into law, there would also be the matter of the state primaries tethered to the presidential primary. Would legislators move the entire consolidated primary to an earlier date or would they merely split them again, shifting the presidential primary alone to different point on the calendar? 

That remains to be seen should this legislation actually make it through the legislative branch and end up signed into law. But the one thing that is for certain is that it would be tempting from a cost savings perspective to keep the two sets of contests together. And that is likely the main thrust of this legislation.


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A link to this legislation has been added to the 2024 FHQ presidential primary calendar.



Monday, February 1, 2021

Iowa Will Not Go Gentle into That Good Night for 2024

Another Monday and another Iowa and 2024 story that lingered over the weekend. This time, John McCormick at the Wall Street Journal has more from on the ground in the Hawkeye state about the efforts to save the caucuses one more time.

One thing that FHQ touched on last week was that if a change was to be made to the early part of the presidential primary calendar in 2024, then it would be in the national parties' interests to come to some formal or informal agreement about what that might look like. Things are much more likely to stick long term that way. And that stability -- certainty, as FHQ tends to call it -- is something that not only both major parties typically like in these nominations processes, but those playing the game -- the candidates and their campaigns -- do too. 

Lack of agreement at the national party level is something that could be potentially exploited by state political parties, especially those attempting to protect the status quo. If national Democrats opt to drop the Iowa caucuses and the Republican National Committee decides to stick it out one more cycle (or even indefinitely), then the two state parties in the Hawkeye state can use that "disagreement" to their advantage by sticking together. 

And that is exactly what the two Iowa parties are going to do. It is what McCormick describes in his reporting and what Iowa state parties have done with consistency in the efforts to save their position when threatened throughout the post-reform era. 

What is more, that sort of cohesion exists not only in Iowa but across the four carve-out states. As Republican Party of Iowa chair, Jeff Kaufmann said to McCormick:

"...the four early states -- sometimes referred to as carve-out states because of their special status on the party calendars -- are unified in their commitment to maintaining the status quo, at least on the Republican side."

Whether that extends to the Democratic deliberations for 2024 remains to be seen. But newly elected DNC  chair, Jaime Harrison does hail from South Carolina. That could mean an effort to strip out contests that were not representative to the broader party (like the three states that preceded South Carolina on the 2020 Democratic primary calendar). But it could also translate to a maintenance of the status quo if the delegations from each carve-out state's party to the DNC sees benefit in coalescing. 

That the state parties are on the same page in Iowa is typical. That the four carve-out states have begun to seek some strength in numbers is a more recent development. But both are meaningful to the discussions that will decide what the 2024 presidential primary calendar ultimately looks like. 




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Friday, January 29, 2021

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Actions versus Words

Talk can be cheap in politics. 

Recently, FHQ wrote a bit about Sen. Josh Hawley's most recent denial that he is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. And that is a good case in point. Sure, it is early enough in the 2024 invisible primary; early enough that those sorts of nays now turn into ayes or maybes later. But the bottom line is that those words are not really worth following at this point. Well, perhaps they are worth following but with the usual grains of salt. 

Instead, the better metrics to assess whether some particular candidate is running for -- albeit not necessarily in -- any given presidential is what a candidate and those potential surrogates around them are doing. Are they hiring staff? Are they running ads? Are they releasing a book? Are they fundraising (or trying to)? 

Sure, it is much much too early for any candidate to be running ads or hiring staff with 2024 specifically in mind, but that does not mean there are no maneuverings quietly occurring behind the scenes. Left for (politically) dead after the events at the Capitol on January 6, there has been some circling of the wagons behind Hawley in the time since as the Republican Party has generally settled on an overall less reactionary strategy. This and the fact that actions are more important than mere words in the invisible primary was epitomized earlier this week when news broke that the Senate Conservatives Fund was coming to the defense of Missouri's junior senator. Now, that may mean propping Hawley up for reelection or for a potential 2024 presidential bid. Regardless, it is indicative of some part of the broader Republican Party coalition acting on his behalf; something Sen. Hawley would certainly not turn down if any 2024 run were to happen. 

Often it is said to follow the money in politics. Well, that is part of the invisible primary equation, but not all of it. And those things matter more in candidate emergence than words alone.