Saturday, March 11, 2023

Indications Rhode Island Will Re-explore Presidential Primary Date

The Providence Journal reports that Rhode Island, too, may shift the date on which the Ocean state's presidential primary falls in 2024 because of a conflict with the Passover holiday.
Rep. Rebecca Kislak, D-Providence, has quietly raised the issue behind the scenes with the secretary of state's office and Democratic Party Leadership. She said Thursday she is "confident that over the next days or weeks" she will be able to introduce legislation to move the date.  
"We are exploring the possibility of moving the primary," echoed state Rep. Joseph McNamara, the state Democratic chairman. House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said Kislak had briefed him on the problem, and he was open to a legislative fix. 

Secretary of State Gregg Amore also told The Journal: "Yes. It needs legislative action."
Legislators in Maryland are already moving legislation to push the primary in the Old Line state back into May, and in a change prompted not by the Passover conflict, two bills in Pennsylvania (also in conflict with Passover) would shift the primary in the Keystone state up to mid-March. If all of those changes occur, that would leave Delaware alone on the fourth Tuesday in April in 2024, the lone remnant of a subregional mid-Atlantic/northeastern primary that has existed in one form or another since the 2012 cycle

Connecticut has also been a part of that group but because there are five Tuesdays in April in 2024, the differing language of the laws in these states matters. The states with primaries conflicting with Passover specify the fourth Tuesday in April whereas the Connecticut law sets the date of the presidential primary in the Nutmeg state for the last Tuesday of April, the 30th in 2024. That difference has not mattered until now.

In a mark of just how quiet things have been on the calendar front in 2023 (relative to previous cycles), it may be that the Passover conflict could be the impetus for most of the calendar changes in the 2024 cycle. 

Friday, March 10, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Presidential Primary Runoffs?

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

My former UGA colleagues, Charles Bullock and Loch Johnson, have an interesting take on the presidential nomination process up over at The Bulwark. Runoffs in Georgia are out of vogue these days after two consecutive electoral cycles with high profile Senate overtime elections, but that has not stopped Bullock and Johnson from suggesting that adding runoff elections to the presidential nomination process might help to provide some guardrails against novice and/or extremist candidates. Maybe. 

But the whole concept is premised on the idea that the Republican presidential nomination process is winner-take-all; that a candidate can win a mere plurality by just one vote and still win all of the delegates from a state. It is not. There were 19 truly winner-take-all contests in the 2020 Republican presidential nomination process, meaning that 37 other primaries, caucuses and conventions had some other form of delegate allocation rules. And sure, Bullock and Johnson discussed all of this in the context of Trump's 2016 victory, not 2020. But there were ten fewer truly winner-take-all contests then

Look, there may be something to requiring a candidate to win a majority in a primary or caucus in order to win delegates (not to mention broaden a candidate's appeal). But a separate runoff is not necessary in order to accomplish that. In fact, there are already rules on the Republican National Committee (RNC) books that do that and have been in place since the 2012 cycle. Under the rules, states can circumvent the ban on truly winner-take-all rules before March 15 by using a baseline proportional allocation method with a winner-take-all trigger. Candidates have to hit 50 percent of the vote statewide in order to activate that trigger. There were 17 such proportional states in 2020 before and after March 15.

What's more Bullock and Johnson suggest ranked choice voting (RCV) as a means of avoiding the administrative and financial strain a subsequent presidential primary runoff election may place on states. The irony, of course, is that the RCV alternative they propose is the same one that Republican state legislators across the country are considering banning during this current state legislative season. [FHQ really needs to update the 2023 RCV legislation post. But it is the ban legislation that is actually moving through legislatures rather than the bills to institute RCV.]

Republican county chairs prefer DeSantis over Trump. This piece was built on survey work that Seth Masket has been doing this cycle. Masket undertook a similar endeavor four years ago in the midst of the Democratic process. His work continues to be invaluable. 

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) doing a CNN town hall will do little to quell the presidential chatter that has quietly operated on the fringes of the Republican invisible primary for some time. That said, some donors have not viewed him as an "all-in candidate" in recent days. That is not to say that the governor cannot rev things up in the money primary at some point, but he would likely have to make that transition to "all-in" first. the very least in the eyes of the donors.

On this date... 1992, it was Super Tuesday, but a less super Super Tuesday than the Southern Super Tuesday of the 1988 cycle. Much of the southern states held together again in 1992, but Georgia moved earlier (as allowed under DNC rules that cycle) and states like Alabama, Arkansas and North Carolina moved back to consolidated dates later in the process. 2000, a western subregional primary of sorts was held. Rare Friday primaries in Colorado and Utah and Republican caucuses in Wyoming occurred on March 10. 

UPDATED: Maryland Bills Would Resolve Presidential Primary Conflict with Passover...

...but the possible resolutions take different routes. 

The Maryland primary along with contests in three other states will conflict with the observance of the Passover holiday in 2024. Over the years, the Old Line state has been no stranger to these sorts of electoral/holiday overlaps. Spring holidays have proven to be a bit of a thicket in recent cycles in terms of election scheduling there. 

Eight years ago, in fact, it was the Easter holiday that was problematic, forcing a change to a presidential primary initially scheduled for the first Tuesday in April. However, efforts to push the election back by just a week to the second Tuesday in April raised another conflict: that the canvass of the presidential primary would have elections administrators working during Passover week at the end of April. The solution was to push the Maryland primary even further into April so that the the voting did not conflict with Easter and the canvass did not overlap with Passover. Of course, that solution -- scheduling the election for the fourth Tuesday in April -- meant that voting took place during Passover in 2016. 

That 2015 experience is important context for the current dilemma in Maryland. And history has repeated itself to some degree early in the efforts to correct the conflict. Over the last two weeks, two bills -- one in the House (HB 1279) and one in the Senate (SB 955) -- have been introduced to shift the Maryland presidential primary up a week from the fourth Tuesday in April to the third Tuesday in April. But while that moves voting in the primary out of the Passover window, it would have election administrators working on the canvass during the holiday. That is, it would create the very same conflict that initial bills in 2015 proposed before being amended later on in the legislative process. 

However, the sponsor of the Senate version, Senator Shelly Hettleman (D-11, Baltimore), has devised a different path that avoids all of the April holiday snags. In an amendment that Hettleman has offered to a broader elections omnibus, the presidential primary would be pushed out of April altogether. That floor amendment to SB 379 would move the Maryland presidential primary back three weeks to the second Tuesday in May, aligned with the Nebraska and West Virginia primaries. 

Senator Hettleman explained the rationale for the later date to WMAR in Baltimore:
Originally, we looked at going a week earlier but there were concerns that Early Voting would conflict with the legislative session, so the idea was to go later so as not to conflict with any holidays. Procedurally, I understand it looks different, but there is no difference between amending the change onto another bill and having a bill on its own -- as long as it's making the change. We thought that this was the most efficient way of getting this done at this point in the session.
The move would push the primary later in the calendar during a cycle in which Republicans look to have the only competitive nomination race. And while it would place the Maryland contest during the home stretch of the 2024 process, it would allow the Republican Party in the Old Line state to continue using the truly winner-take-all plan it adopted in 2019 for use in 2020. 

The amendment will be considered on the floor of the Maryland state Senate on Friday, March 10.

UPDATE (3/10/23, 2:15pm): Senator Hettleman's amendment to move the Maryland primary to the second Tuesday in May was adopted on a voice vote and the enter bill later passed its second reading in the chamber. That clears the elections omnibus bill, including the presidential primary move for 2024, for final passage. A cross-filed companion bill has already passed the state House, but without the presidential primary provision. 

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Doing the things that prospective candidates do

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

One of FHQ's typical bits of invisible primary advice is to look at actions not words when trying to divine what it is that candidates or prospective candidates are up to in the early going. Only, in 2023 on the Democratic side, there is something of an exception to that rule. President Biden is doing all of the things that a prospective candidate for reelection does. While he has drawn a challenger, all of the arguably most viable alternatives are not readying for long and divisive bids. In fact, many of them have already signed on to advise the president in his quest for reelection. Those around the president are suggesting he is running and the president has hinted at it himself. The only thing he has not done is say, "I'm running."

But that has not stopped a steady stream of stories in recent days from reporting on planning going on in the event that he does not throw his hat in the ring or speculation about the field of candidates that could line up to seek the nomination in his stead. All of this, of course, belies the reality presented above.  And races involving the incumbent are usually boring. The same things happened four years ago on the Republican side. But then it was stories about Weld, Sanford and Walsh, how Trump was going to play the delegate game and Republican state parties opting out of contests. It is the same thus far in 2023. But replace those Republican stories from four years ago with stories about Biden's (similarly weak) challengers and the primary calendar shake up (which is also being spun as an incumbent defense). 

There may be some there there in the Democratic presidential nomination process in 2024, but it is a relatively small there. Actions, not words.

In the travel primary, T-minus one day until DeSantis descends on Iowa for the first time. And there is a Las Vegas stop in early primary (caucus?) state, Nevada, on Saturday as well.

The contests in four states conflict with Passover next year. [Yep.] One of those states, Maryland is on top of it: 
The Maryland House speaker and Senate president both came out in favor of changing the date for next year’s primary. A spokesperson for Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, told JI on Tuesday that he “supports moving next year’s primary Election Day so it does not fall on Passover.”

But the Jewish Insider goes on...
In Pennsylvania, no such effort is yet underway. 
[Uh, well...]

Actually, there is an effort to move the Pennsylvania presidential primary. Two of them, in fact. Passover may not be the impetus for that change, but there is a change in the works. Oh, but JI goes on...
There is currently another push in Pennsylvania to change the Democratic presidential primary date for 2024. Democratic legislators introduced a bill to move the Democratic presidential primary next year a month earlier, to March 19, to give Pennsylvania a bigger say in the party’s nominating contest. If it were implemented, that bill would not affect the Republican primary — still set for April 23 — or other statewide primaries set to take place on that date.
That is not how this works. States may move a consolidated primary up. [And that is what is happening in the two bills proposed in Pennsylvania.] They may split a presidential primary off from the rest in order to schedule it earlier. But rarely does a state split up a consolidated primary and then schedule two separate presidential primary elections. That is just too expensive for most states. South Carolina stands out as the only state with two separate, state-run presidential primaries; one for each party. But the Palmetto state is the exception to the rule.

On this date... 1976, Jimmy Carter bested George Wallace in the Florida presidential primary, seen as a southern elimination contest after Carter's victories earlier on the calendar. Wallace had won the primary in the Sunshine state in 1972. 1980, John Connally (R-TX) pulled out of the Republican nomination race, raising and spending a lot of money along the way to win one delegate. 1992, Tom Harkin (D-IA) withdrew from the Democratic nomination race following wins in the Iowa, Idaho and Minnesota caucuses. 2000, it was the day of the South Carolina Democratic firehouse primary. It was the last cycle that South Carolina Democrats held a contest after Super Tuesday. It was also the day that both Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) gave up bids for their respective nominations after big Super Tuesday losses. 2004, it was (again) the day of the Florida presidential primary. The contest in the Sunshine state had not moved from that second Tuesday in March position on which it had been conducted since the beginning of the post-reform era. Florida, infamously, was not in that same position in 2008.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Winner-take-most, please

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) continues inching toward a presidential bid. No decision is on the horizon in the near term, but initial hiring has taken place and super PAC infrastructure is taking shape. Former Senate colleague, Cory Gardner (R-CO) heads one such entity, and Rob Collins, who was involved with the super PAC, Future 45, during the 2016 cycle, is in the fold as well. Future 45 often gets pegged as a Trump-aligned group but most of the money it took it in was spent against Hillary Clinton rather than for Trump in that cycle. In the staff primary of 2024, Collins' support of Scott is noteworthy but it seems more like just that -- Scott support -- rather than a defection from Team Trump.

Douglas Schoen has an op-ed up at The Hill assessing the state of the Republican presidential race. And that is fine. But this section violated a major pet peeve of FHQ's:
The design of the Republican Party’s winner-take-all delegate system also inherently benefits a candidate like Trump, whose devoted base comprises roughly 35 to 40 percent of the primary electorate. This is far from a majority but is enough to carry him to the nomination, as it did in 2016.
Technically, this is right. There is a "winner-take-all design" to the Republican presidential nomination process. But when one describes it in this manner without all the important caveats, it just ends up perpetuating the myth that the Republican allocation process is ALL winner-take-all. It is not

Look, it takes a lot to explain all of the caveats. Truly winner-take-all rules, where one candidate can win all of a state's delegates if he or she wins a small plurality even by just one vote, are prohibited before March 15. But states can be proportional with a winner-take-all trigger, where if a candidate wins at least a majority of the vote statewide, he or she wins all of the state's delegates, before March 15. And states after March 15 can still adopt a variety of rules. They are not all winner-take-all after that point. 

The answer to this should be pretty simple. So, for 2024, call the Republican delegate allocation process winner-take-most and be done with it. Winner-take-most encompasses the full range of proportional (winner-take-more), hybrid and winner-take-all rules without having to get down in the weeds about the caveats to all the different plans. This holds when comparing the Republican process to that of the Democrats as well. The latter mandates proportional rules while the former allows a variety of winner-take-most rules. 

Over at Bloomberg, Jonathan Bernstein has a good one on how an organized Trump campaign in 2024 might be able to exploit the divorce between delegate allocation and selection in the Republican process and use it to his advantage even in the event he doesn't win a majority of allocated delegates. A few things on this one:

1. There may be some tinkering at the margins that brings some delegate allocation in line with the allocation process on the state level, but it is probably too late in the 2024 process to mount a full scale effort to change the rules. The national party rules are already locked in for the cycle and have been since April of last year. But there may be some efforts on the state level to alter state rules on the matter. 

2. Still, there is reason to think that those efforts will be limited. As Bernstein notes, delegates on the Democratic side have to meet the approval of the candidates/campaigns they will represent at the national convention. That is not necessarily the case on the Republican side. But there was an attempt to add candidate approval to the rules that were to come out of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Here is the FHQ dispatch from Tampa at the time and the relevant excerpt from a proposed rules change that did not make the cut: 

Proposed Rule 15(b):
For any manner of binding or allocating delegates permitted by these Rules, no delegate or alternate delegate who is bound or allocated to a particular presidential candidate may be certified under Rule 19 unless the presidential candidate to whom the delegate or alternate delegate is bound or allocated has pre-certified or approved the delegate or alternate delegate.

Analysis of Change:
This is the rule that has drawn so much backlash from Paul supporters, Santorum supporters and other state party officials and has threatened to throw the convention into a floor fight. Honestly, this change has the potential to be the proportionality requirement of of 2016: an overhyped rule with no real impact on the process. At the heart of the conflict is the notion that delegates being approved by candidates is a power grab at the expense of a state party's right to choose how it allocates its delegates. Further, it takes a grassroots activity meant to build the party and turns it over to the candidate or candidates. FHQ gets the rationale, but I struggle to see what fundamental impact the change will have.

Actually, I do see the impact it will have. Together with Rule 15(a) the candidate approval mechanism altogether ends the possibility that a statewide vote can be overturned in subsequent steps in a caucus process by enthusiastic and organized supporters of a candidate that did not comprise a majority or plurality of the statewide vote. We can call it the Ron Paul issue. It isn't a problem because the Paul folks and their supporters were behaving well within the confines of the rules laid out for the 2012 cycle. It is, however, perceived as a problem by the national party. It takes what has been an orderly process and leaves the order up to chance every cycle; opening the door to discord within the party and a less than cohesive national convention that could hurt the presumptive nominee for the party.

The backlash was pretty severe and was seen as another in a series of power grabs by the national party orchestrated by Ben Ginsberg who was running the show for the Romney team on the convention Rules Committee at the time. I mean, conversations about the Ginsberg power grab and the true grassroots of the party took place among RNC members for years after this. State parties are loathe to make changes that shift the balance of power away from them. Most will resist efforts to change the linkage (or lack thereof) between the delegate allocation and selection processes. 

The bottom line here is that Trump has in 2023 an institutional advantage that he and his campaign did not have in 2015. That is important.

On this date... 1988, it was Super Tuesday. Well, not only was it Super Tuesday, it was Southern Super Tuesday, the first real concerted effort at a regional primary date. I have put 3/8/88 into a lot of datasets a lot of times over the years. It is burned into that gray matter.

Pennsylvania House Bill Would Move Presidential Primary from April to March

A group of five Republicans led by Rep. Keith Greiner (R-43rd, Lancaster) has introduced legislation to shift the Pennsylvania general primary, including the presidential primary, to the third Tuesday in March

HB 51 would take the consolidated primary that has been on the fourth Tuesday of April for every cycle of the post-reform era but one (2000) and move the contest up five weeks. Functionally, this measure accomplishes exactly the same change as a bill introduced earlier this session in the state Senate. The same presidential primary move from April to March is called for in both, but the Senate version contains a second section that specifies that this change is to take place for the 2024 cycle. That section is mostly superfluous because the next section sets the effective date of the legislation for 60 days after it is signed. Only in the event that the House version 1) becomes the sole vehicle for this change and 2) if it carries over to the 2024 session would the legislation not take effect for this upcoming cycle. 

All in all, this is a minor distinction that only becomes meaningful if the legislature does not act on one bill or the other early enough in 2023. But there are now active bills to accomplish the same presidential primary date change in both chambers with bipartisan support. The Senate version has a bipartisan group of sponsors and while the Senate list of co-sponsors does not include any Democrats, two House Democrats have already expressed support for such a shift

The odds, then, are higher than they have been in most Pennsylvania legislative sessions that this will be the cycle the presidential primary date changes. Similar legislation failed in 2019 and 2022.

Pennsylvania would join four other states -- Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio -- already set to conduct March 19 presidential primaries in 2024. 

This legislation has been added to FHQ's updated 2024 presidential primary calendar


See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Hawaii Senate Passes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary Bill

The Hawaii Senate on Tuesday, March 7 passed legislation creating a presidential primary in the Aloha state and scheduling the stand-alone election for Super Tuesday.

With little discussion and by a vote of 23-1, the upper chamber in the Hawaii state legislature passed SB 1005 with amendments added during the committee stage. The measure now heads to the House, where a similar bill was deferred in committee earlier this session after it failed to meet a deadline. But the House version was deferred because the Senate companion was further along in the legislative process.

Hawaii is the lone remaining state under unified Democratic control with no state-run presidential primary. That looks to change for 2024. Obviously, the bill would come back to the Senate if the House makes any changes, and one area that might force another Senate vote is the appropriation for the new, separate presidential primary election. There is an expenditure called for, but it remains blank in the version the Senate just passed. Ultimately, those funds come out of the Office of Elections and the amount (estimated at $2.7 million) may be specified more clearly in their budget.

If that proves to be a snag, it will likely be a minor one. SB 1005 now moves to the state House. 


See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

Invisible Primary: Visible -- New Hampshire's Primary Asterisks

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

There is not exactly a who's who lining up to try their hand at challenging President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination. Yes, Marianne Williamson is in (as noted a day ago in Invisible Primary: Visible). And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. revealed on the Politics and Eggs circuit in New Hampshire that he, too, is considering a run. These are not names that are going to capture the imaginations of Democratic primary voters in 2024, but it is no mistake that both have stopped in the Granite state early on in their considerations. They may not capture imaginations, but they may draw some protest votes their way in a rogue New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary next January

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley earlier this year before the DNC finalized the calendar rules for 2024 told Politico that Biden losing to a "mechanic from Arkansas or Oklahoma" (or whoever files to gain access to the New Hampshire primary ballot) would be a potential early embarrassment for the president. Maybe. But if New Hampshire goes rogue, then the president will not be on the ballot there. Candidates stand to lose delegates if they campaign in states that break the rules. And no president is going to break the rules of the party that he or she leads. 

That means that either Biden cannot lose (a contest that will not mean much during primary season) or that a write-in effort (not organized by the reelection campaign) might fall short of protest votes against a president who attempted take first-in-the-nation status away from New Hampshire. But if Williamson or Kennedy stand to gain in that scenario, it may not be Biden who loses. It may be New Hampshire that loses even more clout with the national party for 2028.

Speaking of New Hampshire, the AP went looking for Biden resistance among Democrats and found some in of all places, New Hampshire. 

Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is back home in Tallahassee today to deliver the State of the State address as the legislature in the Sunshine state revs up for a quick 2023 session.

Harry Enten had a nice look at Trump's position in the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race relative to history. He called Trump a frontrunner (which he is) but also added:
It would be easy to dismiss Trump’s numbers as merely the product of high name recognition, but history suggests something different. The eventual nominees from this group include, among others, President Gerald Ford for 1976, Vice President George H.W. Bush for 1988 and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole for 1996.
Likening Trump to Bush and Dole in particular gave off real next-in-line vibes; a flashback to a whole different era Republican nomination races. Trump is not so much next in line as he reluctant to give up his spot in line. But it remains unusual in the post-reform era for former presidents to seek their party's nomination after they have lost a general election. 

On this date...

... in 2000, it was Super Tuesday. And it was a crowded Super Tuesday at that. Nearly 50 percent of the total number of delegates were on the line in the Democratic process that day. Only the Titanic Tuesday of 2008 has eclipsed that 2000 Super Tuesday in the percentage of delegates allocated on one date.

May Presidential Primary Bill Continues Its Quick Pass Through Idaho Legislature, but...

The Idaho legislation to consolidate the stand-alone March presidential primary with the primary elections for other offices in May emerged late last week from the Senate State Affairs Committee with a Do Pass recommendation. 

With just two dissenting votes, the panel passed off H 138 to the full state Senate for consideration on the floor. But that move followed quick passage through the state House and a committee hearing on the upper chamber side that heard far more testimony against the move to consolidate the presidential primary with later contests. And both the trade-offs involved in the discussion and the battle lines drawn offer an interesting mix of factors in a state long under unified Republican control.

Part of the equation is a classic tale in the journey that some bills take to move a presidential nominating contest around on the primary calendar. Bill sponsors (and Secretary of State Phil McGrane) in this case have touted the savings that eliminating the separate presidential primary will have once merged with the primaries for state and local office in late May. Indeed, the move would strike an estimated $2.7 million from the state budget. No one providing testimony offered much to counter that reality. 

Instead, the resistance came from the Idaho state Republican Party and to the supposed infringement on its right to free association under the first amendment. To boil the session down to its essence, it was a struggle between a state party's right to determine when to hold a nominating contest and the state's obligation to foot the bill for such an election. 

That happens across the country from time to time. But what is unique here is that this is a Republican-on-Republican dispute. A majority of Republican legislators are driving a change to a process that the state Republican Party opposes. The latter wants an earlier presidential primary that does not fall after the nomination has already been decided. That is the typical draw for the frontloading of presidential primaries and caucuses. 

But interestingly, Idaho is stuck in this weird vicious cycle where the lessons of the past are forgotten and bound to be re-learned on some level. To garner attention in the presidential nomination process, the state Republican Party abandoned the May primary in 2011 in favor of earlier (Super Tuesday) caucuses. That pushed the state government -- again, under Republican control -- to eliminate the presidential primary line from the May primary ballot altogether. And those moves had implications. First, the earlier caucuses actually brought 2012 Republican candidates into the Gem state to campaign. But the caucus process also proved arduous for the state party. Financing it was one thing, but finding the requisite manpower to pull it off was another. Often, there is no substitute for a state-run process, even if that means a later date. 

But it did not end up meaning a later date. In fact, ahead of the 2016 cycle, Idaho legislators revisited the idea of a presidential primary. And the legislature opted to set aside funds for a separate, earlier election a week after Super Tuesday. That expenditure was offset by the prospect of bringing in candidates again and bringing in any financial windfall that brought for Idaho businesses in the process. Only, that windfall never came. 2016 Republicans focused on delegate-rich Michigan instead. And not only did those gains not come in 2016, but the Idaho presidential primary was even less of a draw to Democrats in 2020 on a date crowded with other, more delegate-rich contests. 

And that is why proponents of H 138 are talking up the cost savings and the potential gain in turnout in the May primary. The irony, of course, is that those turnout gains may never be realized. The state Republican Party may be forced to abandon the potentially later presidential primary to hold earlier caucuses once again. And that, in turn, may put legislators in 2027 right back where they were in 2015: considering an earlier presidential primary for the upcoming cycle. And so it continues in Idaho.

A few other odds and ends from this hearing:
1. Former state senator and current Ada County Commission chair, Rod Beck noted in his testimony before the committee that the bill they are considering does not, in fact, do what proponents set out to do. It eliminates the separate presidential primary, but does not also build back the legal infrastructure that was in place before the presidential line was eliminated from the May primary ballot in 2012. This is something FHQ noted in the initial post on H 138. In other words, under the provisions of this bill, there will not be a presidential primary in March OR May. That is an additional nudge to the state party (or state parties) to move to caucuses for 2024.

2. As another in a long line of folks testifying on this bill noted, a late May primary also creates a logistical nightmare for the state party. The point was that a late May primary forces a caucus/convention process to select delegates into a very small window before a July national convention. That point was, perhaps, a bit exaggerated. After all, other states have begun the selection process before a late primary allocates slots to particular presidential candidates in the past. There would be ways to work around that in Idaho as well. However, that late May primary date would push Idaho much closer to the new 45 day buffer the RNC has put in place for 2024. States have to have completed their delegate allocation and selection processes before the end of May. So there is probably some wiggle room for Idaho under the scenario where the state conducts a late primary, but not a whole lot. 

3. Yet another person who offered testimony raised questions about the supposed impact a move to consolidate the primaries would have on turnout. Obviously, if the parties move to adopt a caucus procedure, then those effects will be minimal. But the point made was that Idaho has changed the process so often in the last decade plus that it is difficult to get a baseline to compare turnout to, a baseline that is not just some function of the quirks of any given presidential nomination cycle. 

More on the committee hearing in the state Senate here and here.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Super Tuesday is just a year away

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

There have not been a lot of them this cycle, but this figures to be the week that "candidates aren't heading out to Iowa like they used to" stories die. Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) will visit the Hawkeye state on March 10, and former President Donald Trump (R) will follow on the 13th. The other candidates -- announced and not -- have already made initial forays into the first state on the 2024 Republican presidential primary calendar but the frequency of visits will only grow with the current top two candidates in the Republican race hitting the circuit. 

Marianne Williamson (D) is in (again), Larry Hogan (R) is out, and JB Pritzker gets a white knight profile in the Times. Meanwhile, Biden, who has not officially entered the 2024 race but is widely expected to, is not getting a serious challenge from the likes of Pritzker for much the same reason Trump did not four years ago: incumbency. It has its advantages and is something Trump, former president though he may be, cannot claim for 2024. ...with not entirely unpredictable results.

Speaking of that lack of incumbency on the Republican side, there continues to be a steady stream of stories confirming that 2023 Trump is more organized than his campaign was in 2015 but not in the dominant position he was in 2019. Incumbency (or lack thereof) is part of but not the only explanation. 

The operative question at this point is whether Trump is closer in 2023 to 2015 than to 2019. That answer likely differs depending on what area one is talking about. On the delegate rules, 2023 Trump is likely closer to the 2019 version. But it is much harder to map out how the delegate rules will work in a competitive setting than in one with one or more viable alternatives. On endorsements and financing, there is some greater distance between Trump 2023 and Trump 2019. On media coverage and legal proceedings, 2023 is much different than both 2015 and 2019. But it is also early in a dynamic process. Things could turn back in Trump's direction on those fronts should it appear that the race is, well, turning in Trump's direction. That could happen in the invisible primary and it could develop during primary season.

Walter Shapiro has more on the pitfalls to avoid when trying to project the winding path that 2024 is likely to take.

Kansas is trying to revive a presidential primary that was never really used in the past anyway. But there is a twist this time that may change that. 

On this date... 2024, the nomination process will be just on the other side of Super Tuesday, a day that will once again feature primaries in California, Texas and eleven other states (as of now). 2012, it was Super Tuesday, anchored by the primary in Ohio. That was such a backloaded calendar with California opting to return to its June consolidated primary, Texas forced to late May because of redistricting delays, and states overcorrecting in the face of new RNC rules that prohibited winner-take-all allocation before April. 1984, it was just another Tuesday. Democratic Party rules allowed non-exempt states to hold primaries and caucuses only as early as the second Tuesday in March. Super Tuesday, or what passed for it in those (still) early days of the post-reform era, was still a week away.