Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Haley's Path Forward ...and more in response to New Hampshire

Nikki Haley's path to the the 2024 Republican presidential nomination may have more obstacles.

Leading the day at FHQ...

...for now. 

A day after an expectations-beating performance in New Hampshire, the former South Carolina governor faces a daunting task ahead in her one-on-one duel with Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. Mired in the teens in the Granite state as recently as the holiday season, Haley rose as other candidates fell by the wayside. That cleared a path to a head-to-head with Trump, but the results in the New Hampshire primary did little to grease the skids for the former UN ambassador to rise much further. 

In fact, New Hampshire was a good state for Haley on paper: more college educated and fewer evangelical voters (than in Iowa), independents could participate, etc. And she still came up short. Still, the final polls made things looked bleaker than they turned out to be and that is not nothing. But exactly how much that something is worth remains to be seen. 

It buys Haley some time, but not much. And it is tough to chart out a viable path forward to the nomination, much less South Carolina on February 24. Viable path. There is a path, but it entails stringing together what little Haley's campaign can muster in the meantime. She is the headliner on the Trump-less primary ballot in Nevada. Yes, it is a beauty contest primary, and while a win promises no delegates, it may carry the distinction of garnering her more votes than Trump will receive in the Silver state caucuses two days later. Again, that is not nothing, but how much that particular something is worth is hard to gauge. A vote-rich "win" in the Nevada primary coupled with a win the caucuses in the Virgin Islands on February 8 probably does not hurt. 

But what does that buy Haley in two weeks' time? 

Maybe it grants her a bit more time, but it grants her time to consider that she is even further behind in the delegate count and that her home of South Carolina still does not offer much relief. Perhaps the polls in the Palmetto state will have moved by then. Maybe Nevada, the Virgin Islands and/or the campaign will spur such a change. But if the polls do not move, then, as FHQ noted yesterday, the cacophony of winnowing pressures from Republicans in the broader party network are only going to grow louder and the prospect of not just a loss at home, but a big loss, will loom large. 

Again, there is a path forward for Nikki Haley. Only, it is not a particularly good path. And it certainly gets her no closer to the nomination. 

But hey, if she can manage to bankroll it, then why not play it out, grab what delegates she can, cross her fingers that Trump's legal troubles catch up with him and head into the convention in good standing? Yeah, that is a path, too. In theory. It just is not a sustainable path. Whatever incentives the former president's courtroom drama provide to stay in the race, the winnowing pressures will more than offset. And that would affect any "good" standing she may have as the candidate with the second most delegates at the convention.

The convention is way off. Haley's concerns are more immediate. And her path? Filled with obstacles.

All the New Hampshire results are not in, but it looks like the delegate count out of the Granite state is going to end at...
Trump -- 12 delegates 
Haley -- 10

But currently Haley is clinging to her tenth delegate. If she drops below 43.2 percent, then she will fall below the rounding threshold and that tenth delegate will become unallocated. Trump is not in a position to round up unless he approaches 57 percent of the vote. However, he would claim that unallocated delegate formerly in Haley's column because all unallocated delegates go to the winner of the primary. That would push Trump's total to 13 delegates in the state. 



Tuesday, January 23, 2024

2024 has been a weird cycle in New Hampshire ...and more

Leading the day at FHQ...

Happy New Hampshire primary day!

It has been a weird cycle in the Granite state. 

The Democratic primary there today will happen as it always does, but it will not count toward determining the outcome of the nomination after the national party reshuffled its early primary calendar for 2024. [There will be New Hampshire delegates -- reduced by half -- but they cannot be allocated based on the results of an unsanctioned primary.] But all the chatter of bumping the primary and the resulting write-in effort on President Biden's behalf in New Hampshire will likely garner a few seconds more attention than the primary otherwise would in an incumbent cycle for Democrats. And that is to say, not much.

On the Republican side, well, this looks like it. If the last polls, especially the tracker in the field after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suspended his campaign, are taken as the final results or anything near them, then Donald Trump is in for another romp. A 60-38 win would translate to a 14-8 delegate win for Trump over former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. And that, not the net delegate gap, per se, but the 3:2 loss in a state that is supposed to be "good" for the former UN ambassador, would make it a little easier to bow out with her home state up next. Haley is not on the ballot in Nevada, so South Carolina would be next. And even in the event of a closer than expected loss, Haley would be staring down the prospect of getting whipped at home for a month and a day. In other words, she may have made it out of New Hampshire with a win relative to expectations, but that would not necessarily carry her all the way to and through South Carolina. The winnowing pressures would have grown deafening in that time.

As FHQ said before Haley's third in Iowa took some of the [limited] air out of her sails, "Haley may or may not become a disruptive factor in her bid for the presidential nomination, but if she does, it is more likely to be in the form of a speed bump rather than a total roadblock."

But that it came down to two viable Republicans by New Hampshire -- just the second contest -- is the weirder thing for the Republican contest relative to past cycles. It is one thing to have local Granite staters politically plugged into the politics of it all complain in the year before the primary about candidates not showing up as much as they used to, but it is quite another for folks on the ground in New Hampshire to be talking about how dead things are in the 24 hours leading up the voting. 

New Hampshire typically does at least some of the winnowing -- and the primary may yet in a limited capacity for 2024 -- but most of the winnowing took place in the invisible primary (and after Iowa) before New Hampshire. And a lot of this is it is just the nature of the cycle. After all, there is an incumbent president running on one side and a former president running on the other (and one of them is not even on the ballot in the Granite state). 

Again, it has been a weird cycle. But it is not clear that some of the same forces will not return to New Hampshire for 2028. It remains to be seen if the Democratic National Committee wants to take another shot at shunting New Hampshire to a different slot on the calendar, but the nationalization of the process in the invisible primary preceding New Hampshire will continue to be a factor that likely detracts from the way the New Hampshire primary "used to be."

Over at FHQ Plus... 
I pushed back on what has seemingly become a dominant narrative in how the delegate rules came together on the Republican side for 2024. There has been way too much Trump was heavy-handed in forcing state parties to adopt favorable rules and not nearly enough examination of the actual rules. 

If anything the delegate rules are marginally less favorable to Trump in 2024 than they were in 2020. 

That does not mean that they are not well suited to the former president. Far from it! But there very simply was not much improving Team Trump could have done in 2023. They did some incremental work, but most of it was working the phone lines to defend what they established for the 2020 cycle. That is the story of the Republican rules for 2024.


Friday, January 19, 2024

How many delegates do New Hampshire Democrats have anyway?

Leading the day at FHQ...

By now the story is old hat. At least around these parts it is. The Democratic National Committee altered its presidential primary calendar rules for the 2024 cycle. New Hampshire Democrats did not take kindly to the change that saw South Carolina's primary nudged into the first slot and spent 2023 openly defying the national party rules changes. 

Now, under the delegate selection rules of the Democratic Party, such a move on the part of New Hampshire Democrats carries a penalty, a 50 percent reduction in the size of the base delegation. That reduction has taken place, and New Hampshire Democrats now have 10 delegates to the national convention in Chicago later this summer. But the reporting, if one reads it closely, still seems to toggle between saying that New Hampshire Democrats will lose/have lost half of their delegates and that Granite state Democrats will lose/have lost all of their delegates.

So which is it? Half or all?

Actually, it is both. The actions of the New Hampshire Democratic Party -- opting into the noncompliant state-run presidential primary on January 23 -- cost the party half of its delegates. That is done. However, due to a tweak in the national party delegate selection rules for the 2024 cycle, state parties cannot allocate any delegates to any candidate who campaigns in a state like New Hampshire which has a primary scheduled in violation of the guidelines. Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson cannot even win any actual delegates by being on the ballot in the upcoming primary in the Granite state (even if they manage to qualify). 

So, New Hampshire Democrats have 10 delegates but cannot allocate them. Half and all, all rolled into one. 

The question is, what happens with those 10 delegates? Obviously the back and forth continues between the New Hampshire Democratic Party and the national party to resolve their impasse. But in the meantime, here are some thoughts at FHQ Plus on where things may go as primary season progresses

In the continuing state-by-state series on delegate allocation rules, FHQ examines changes for 2024 in...
  • Utah: Republicans in the Beehive state have once again shifted to caucuses for selecting and allocating delegates. Otherwise, the same eccentricities remain under the surface in the allocation process.
  • Vermont: FHQ often says that there are only so many ways to proportionally allocate three congressional district delegates under RNC rules. Well, that is true in terms of the 17 delegates Vermont Republicans have to offer as well. Nevertheless, Republicans in the Green Mountain state have built some unique features into their delegate selection plan.


Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Trump's firewall isn't the delegate rules, it's his support ...and more in response to Iowa

Leading the day at FHQ...

Over at FHQ Plus yesterday, I had a long takedown of the notion that Donald Trump has a firewall in the state-level delegate allocation rules across the country. 

Look, the rules Team Trump crafted for 2020, and for the most part defended for 2024, are not a bad thing for the former president. But no firewall provides any real safety if it is a conditional firewall. And for the next month, true success in the delegate count for the Republican frontrunner is going to depend on how often he hits 50 percent in states and in congressional districts in many cases. 

If the results in Iowa demonstrated anything it was that Trump's support among Republicans is his firewall. Yes, the Hawkeye state is state that is well-suited to the former president, so one should use some care not to extrapolate too much from the caucus results. But still, a majority is a majority in Iowa and that does not mean nothing. But if the caucuses prove to have been a harbinger of things to come, then Trump will likely rack up a lot of delegates in March. 


Speaking of delegates...
As it stands now, the delegate count coming out of Iowa will end up somewhere around the following:
DeSantis -- 9 (21.2 percent)
Haley 8 -- (19.1 percent)
Ramaswamy -- 3 (7.7 percent)

That is no different than it was last night before I turned in, but overnight there was an interesting shift and a delegate moved to unallocated. And how do the Iowa Republican rules work in the case of an unallocated delegate? Here is what FHQ had to say on the matter last month in our rundown of the Iowa rules:
Hypothetically, there is one unallocated delegate after rounding and Donald Trump has won a little more than half the vote. His raw, unrounded share of the delegates ends up at 20.47. On the other hand, Asa Hutchinson receives a little more than one percent of the vote (but under 1.3 percent) and his raw, unrounded share lands on 0.48 delegates. Hutchinson would receive the last delegate because his remainder is closer to the .5 rounding threshold than Trump. He would gain one delegate and Trump would stay on 20 delegates.
Well, overnight Ron DeSantis saw his vote share drop from 21.3 percent to 21.2 percent. Big deal, right? Actually, it meant that his raw delegate share dropped below the rounding threshold, lowering his total from nine to eight delegates and leaving one delegate unallocated. 

But that also left him with a fairly high remainder. The unallocated delegate came down to Trump (20.4 unrounded delegates) and DeSantis (8.48 delegates). DeSantis has the highest remainder under the rounding threshold, and as such, the unallocated delegate goes (back) into his column. 

Rounding rules at work!

[Yes, it is more than a little eerie that the very same .48 remainder I made up for Hutchinson in the hypothetical above was the remainder DeSantis ended up on.]

Maybe New Hampshire shakes things up next week, but I stand by this from that Firewall piece over at FHQ Plus:
First, let’s dispense with the obvious: Trump remains a heavy favorite to become the Republican Party standard bearer atop the ticket in the general election. Haley may or may not become a disruptive factor in her bid for the presidential nomination, but if she does, it is more likely to be in the form of a speed bump rather than a total roadblock.
DeSantis placing second in Iowa had many on cable news last night speculating about whether that may have blunted any momentum Haley had or has heading into the Granite state next week. It also had them -- and this was true on Fox News last night and NPR this morning -- falling back on the tired 2016 adage that Trump does well when his opposition is divided among several candidates. 

Maybe, but it is not as if DeSantis coming in third last night and joining Ramaswamy among the winnowed candidates was going to set his supporters rushing off to Haley. Some DeSantis folks may gravitate toward Haley, but many, maybe even most, would likely drift over to Trump, bolstering the former president's prospects even more moving forward. Still more may have decided to stay home rather than participate in subsequent primaries and caucuses. 

It just is not clear at this point that a continued split in Trump's opposition is hurting the opposition. It may just be that Trump has majority support and the opposition cannot be helped ( least not to a winning position). 

Perhaps DeSantis and Haley need each other to limit Trump's delegate haul through the early part of March. Of course, that sort of three person race is not sustainable long term. The winnowing pressures are only going to pick up in the days ahead. And besides, one them will have to figure out how to not only win, but win consistently to derail Trump. 

On to New Hampshire.



Monday, January 15, 2024

What if Iowa Republicans used the old Democratic caucus rules? ...and more

Leading the day -- caucus day! -- at FHQ...

In the coming days there is going to be enough written on Iowa's Republican caucuses and the results therein. Who finished second? Did Trump beat the expectations (that many worked feverishly over the last weekend before the caucuses to set)? The questions go on and on.

One thing that struck FHQ in this final weekend before the (in-person) voting phase of the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race begins was how candidates campaigned (bundled up!). But not just where they were but how they approached one another in their final pitches to potential Iowa caucus goers. After months of relative quiet -- an implicit truce if not an unofficial alliance -- Trump turned on Ramaswamy. And after going toe to toe on the debate stage last week, DeSantis and Haley continued to attack one another (and also draw contrasts with Trump). 

But it is funny. Rather than shrug those off and chalk them up as normal caucus fare, those strategic decisions made me think about how things might be or have been different under different rules. Iowa Republicans, after all, will caucus on Monday night, but that process differs from how Hawkeye state caucus goers convened and operated on the Democratic side four years ago. Yes, Iowa Democrats bungled their attempt at a revamped caucus. But FHQ is not talking about that. 

Rather, I mean the difference in how both state parties have traditionally handled the caucuses. Republicans, when they gather in gyms, conference centers and living rooms across Iowa, will hear speeches from candidates or in most cases their proxies and vote by secret ballot on presidential preference. Some will leave. Others will stick around and haggle over party business and choose who will move on to the next stage of the caucus/convention process. 

Yes, the Democratic process in Iowa is new, different and later for 2024. But Democrats, relative to Republicans in the state, have traditionally convened, heard similar pitches, conversed with neighbors, friends and others and then gathered with likeminded supporters to express presidential preference. There is no secret ballot. Individuals physically move to join with the Biden group or the Sanders group or whomever to express presidential preference. Those candidate groups with more than 15 percent of all of those in the room move on to the next round. 

However, the people in the candidate groups with less than 15 percent then become free agents. Their candidates are eliminated in a given precinct and they can realign with a viable group (one with more than 15 precent support). Post-realignment movement helped Barack Obama surge across the state in 2008 and sunk Joe Biden in some cases in 2020, for example. After that process is complete, some folks leave while others hang around to do exactly what Republicans will do after the preference vote tonight. 

But it is that middle part, the difference in process, that sets the Republican and (old) Democratic methods in Iowa apart. And it is exactly that which would have some impact on the stretch run of the campaign. 

Take the Selzer poll of the Iowa Republican caucuses that was released over the weekend:

Yes, Trump has a commanding lead. Yes, Haley slipped into second place. Yes, DeSantis and Ramaswamy, after their full and double Grassleys, are further back in Iowa.

But if the caucus rules were different, then how each of them has talked about the others might have been different down the stretch. Under those old Iowa Democratic rules, Ramaswamy might be above 15 percent in a handful of precincts across the state, but would be well under it in most. His supporters in the caucuses, again, under Democratic rules, would then become free agents. Would Trump have been attacking Ramaswamy over the weekend or courting his voters with a second round after realignment in mind? 

And DeSantis would be facing a similar situation, albeit in the inverse. As opposed to Ramaswamy, DeSantis would likely be above 15 percent in most places, but below it in a handful of precincts. And honestly, at 20 percent, Haley would likely be in a similar but perhaps less vulnerable position as well. In past races on the Democratic side, that is a situation where campaigns of those two candidates might strike a deal. If DeSantis groups slipped under the 15 percent threshold and were not viable in some precinct, then under the agreement, they would realign with Haley supporters to give her a better shot against the frontrunner. And Haley groups would do the same for DeSantis when they failed to reach viability and a DeSantis group made it. Strategically, the collective moves would potentially keep delegates away from the frontrunner. 

Look, this is not the way things will work tonight in the Republican process. But this what-if does shed some light on the impact the process -- the rules of the process -- has on campaign strategy. What has been witnessed in the Republican campaign as the caucuses draw nearer may have been different under different rules. Yes, rules matter. 

Something fun to consider as everyone passes time until caucus o'clock. 

Happy caucus day, everyone!

In the continuing state-by-state series on delegate allocation rules, FHQ examines changes for 2024 in...
  • Oklahoma: The year may be different but the rules are not for Oklahoma Republicans in 2024. All the fun quirks are back again from when the Republican presidential nomination was last competitive.
  • Tennessee: There are frontrunner-friendly delegate rules and there's the Tennessee Republican delegate selection rules. While other states may have moved in a Trumpier direction for 2024, the Volunteer state did not. But that does not necessarily mean it is any easier for non-Trumps.
  • Virginia: After an incumbent cycle using a state convention for delegate selection, Virginia Republicans are back to a primary, but with markedly different allocation rules in 2024 than in 2016.


Thursday, December 21, 2023

Colorado Republicans Eyeing a Primary Switch? ...and more

Leading the day at FHQ...

The Colorado Supreme Court decision to remove Donald Trump from the presidential primary ballot in the state has the state Republican Party exploring a late shift from a primary to a caucus. But that process is more complicated than simply declaring the change. More in a gift article at FHQ Plus.

In the continuing state-by-state series on delegate allocation rules, FHQ examines changes for 2024 in...
  • The US Virgin Islands: Republicans in the territory pushed the limits of the RNC rules in putting together a delegate selection plan for this cycle. ...and paid a price for it.
  • South Carolina: Meanwhile in the Palmetto state, Republicans are back to business as usual in a competitive presidential nomination cycle. But there are some interesting tweaks to an allocation system that has been a model of consistency for much of the post-reform era. 

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

There is a central tension point in the New Hampshire presidential primary situation, but this still isn't it.

Updated (2:15pm, Wednesday, November 15):

Original post:
It is primary date announcement day in New Hampshire.

Later today, Secretary of State David Scanlan will follow his statutorily-defined role and officially schedule next year's presidential presidential primary in the Granite state. It will answer the question of when the contest will occur on the 2024 presidential primary calendar, but that action will do little to change what has been clear for some time: New Hampshire will have an early contest and it will conflict with Democratic National Committee (DNC) rules for this cycle. 

But again, that has been clear for a while now. Republicans control the levers of power in the state and balked at making any changes to business as usual in terms of how the primary date gets decided every four years. That left in place a law that requires Secretary Scanlan to schedule the primary at least seven days before any other similar election. And Scanlan has maintained for nearly a year now that he intended to follow state law. Unless he takes issue with something in the Iowa Republican Party plans for 2024, then the primary will most likely land on January 23. [In none of Scanlan's comments since Iowa's Republican Party scheduled the caucuses there has he indicated that there is anything problematic.]

None of what will happen today, much less much of what has happened (or not happened) in New Hampshire state government this year has much of anything to do with the DNC calendar changes for the 2024 cycle. Well, they have not had much to do with it for months anyway

That is not where the tension is. That is not where the tension has been. But that did not stop NPR from pointing the finger in the wrong direction in a story about the announcement today. No, instead Josh Rogers gives us New Hampshire is expected to set a primary date that will buck Biden's preference.

Just to reiterate: All of that -- New Hampshire Secretary of State Scanlan not going along with Biden and the DNC's calendar design for 2024 -- has been a known known for most of 2023. And that has not been where the tension has been in this first-in-the-nation ordeal. Instead, that tension lies where it has been: in an intra-party dispute on the Democratic side between the national party and the New Hampshire Democratic Party. 

Look, FHQ realizes that New Hampshire Democrats are not going to budge on this. They just aren't. But the decision makers in the state party have and have had the power to defuse this situation all along. All they had to do -- all they have to do -- is plan for a party-run process that complies with national party rules and not go along with a rogue primary and primary date. Yes, that far easier said than done. There are political pressures that those same decision makers face from the rank-and-file members of the state party. And that is all well and good.

However, that is where the tension is in all of this. It is not and has not been between the DNC and Scanlan or Biden and Scanlan. And stories that are inevitably going to pursue that angle in the wake of the secretary's decision today are barking up the wrong tree. They just are. Today's announcement is meaningful in that it will answer the question of when the primary will be. It is an early contest in the process and that is important. 

But disputes with the DNC? That is all about the New Hampshire Democratic Party opting into a contest that the secretary of state sets, not the secretary himself or the action he is on the verge of taking. And the NPR piece is another in a long line of them that fails to note that. 

This is a fact that will become more and more prominent in the context of the Democratic calendar standoff as it will now move into the consideration of penalties phase. And the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee has already given strong indications about where that is headed

Over at FHQ Plus...

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

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Which couple of states?

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • The Biden campaign officially informing Democrats in New Hampshire that he would not file to appear on the presidential primary ballot brought out all usual points in the stories about the national party's standoff with decision makers in the Granite state. ...and all the usual omissionsAll the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Leave it to FHQ to locate and respond to something buried deep in a piece on Biden and New Hampshire. Well, in truth, that is where the primary calendar stuff usually gets tucked away. And Steven Porter's recent article at The Boston Globe saved the intrigue for the final line of a story about New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan's reaction to Biden skipping out on the primary there: 
"Scanlan said he’s not quite ready to announce the date of the 2024 primary. He’s still keeping an eye on a couple of states to make sure they don’t try to jump ahead."
But which "couple of states?"

There are not a lot of states with legislatures currently in session. And fewer are actually looking at moving presidential primaries around. None of those efforts are particularly active at this late date. So it is unlikely that Scanlan is eyeing any state with a state-run process, a primary that would definitively conflict with the oft-discussed first-in-the-nation presidential primary law in New Hampshire. 

All that leaves are some question marks in states that project to have party-run processes in 2024, party-run processes that will not necessarily trigger any action from Scanlan in Concord. What is missing on that front are answers to where contests in Alaska, Wyoming and four of the five territories will end up in the order. [Ahem.] Let's go ahead and scratch the territories from the list. Call them what one will. Primary or caucus. It really does not matter. Those contests will be party-run and in locales far away from both New Hampshire and where the candidates are likely to be next January. And there just are not a lot of delegates at stake.1 

It would appear, then, that Scanlan is referring to the uncertainty surrounding the dates of the Republican delegate selection events in Alaska and Wyoming. But a caucus, which is how Republicans in those states have typically chosen to select and allocate delegates, is not a primary. 

Now, it used to be that the distinction from the New Hampshire perspective as to defining a "similar election" was not primary or caucus -- even if that became the shorthand -- but rather, whether the threatening contest allocated delegates or not. That was the line that former New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner drew. Iowa's caucuses were always in the clear because neither Democratic nor Republican caucuses in the Hawkeye state allocated (bound) delegates to the national convention. 

Even that line got blurred in recent years. Wyoming Republicans jumped the New Hampshire primary in 2008 and stayed there on January 5, three days before the primary in the Granite state. And those caucuses allocated some but not all of Wyoming's Republican delegates that cycle. Actions in Iowa in recent cycles also helped to further muddle things. In 2016, Republicans in Iowa bound delegates to candidates for the first time in response to changes in Republican National Committee rules, and a cycle later Hawkeye state Democrats reported more than just state delegate equivalents on caucus night which more clearly bound delegates to particular candidates. In neither case did Bill Gardner opt to leapfrog Iowa. 

So what Scanlan is waiting on is probably not that. The hold up with Alaska and Wyoming Republicans is twofold. Yes, it is the when. When will the contest occur. But it is also the how. How will those parties conduct their processes. That may have something to do with what the parties in Alaska and Wyoming call their delegate selection events -- primary or caucus -- but it may have more to do with whether they include a mail-in option or something else that makes the processes more "primary-like" in Scanlan's eye.

But if past cycles are any indication, then Alaska Republicans will likely land on Super Tuesday and Wyoming Republicans will claim a spot some time in March. And it would not be a total surprise if both end up on March 2, the weekend before Super Tuesday. 

All of this is to say that it still looks very much like New Hampshire will be scheduled for January 23. Scanlan may not officially make that decision, but it is pretty safe to continue to assume that that is the date. The secretary has some time anyway before settling on a date. And it is always better safe than sorry in the Granite state. 

From around the invisible primary...

1 Now, Puerto Rico does offer more delegates than New Hampshire, but Republicans there would cede all but nine of them to penalties in order to challenge the Granite state on the calendar. There are also some quirks that do make the Puerto Rico Republican process a bit of a wild card, but it is not that wild. There is uncertainty as to what the date of the contest there may be, but it very likely will not fall on any date before March.

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Why DeSantis Attacks Haley

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • Some Missouri Republicans keep advancing a bogus rationale to justify the 2022 elimination of the presidential primary in the Show-Me state. And FHQ keeps getting irritated by it. Venting... All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
On its surface, the latest fusillade from DeSantis-affiliated super PAC Never Back Down against Nikki Haley seems to fit into the now-conventional narrative of a fight for second place in the Republican presidential nomination race behind former President Donald Trump. 

It comes from a branch of the consolidation theory of the race. That, if only the race narrowed to Trump and an alternative, then that alternative, whomever he or she may be, could finally overtake Trump. Mathematically, that makes some sense. Some sense, but it has made less and less sense over time as Trump has expanded his lead in the polls nationally and on the state level. After all, if Trump is pulling in more than a half of support in surveys, much less votes during primary season next year, then it is going to take more than just a one-on-one with the former president for an alternative topple him. It is going to take something else. In other words, it continues to be consolidation theory but with a side of magical thinking. 

However, the DeSantis case is a bit different than it may be for other would-be second placers. And the explanation may be simpler for why the Florida governor and company are going after Haley (and putting off focusing on Trump for a hypothetical one-on-one). And it has everything to do with the trajectory of the DeSantis campaign. It is not so much that DeSantis has lost or is about to cede second place to Haley. Rather, it is about how he has lost second place (if he has lost it). As DeSantis' fortunes have declined, it is Trump who has gained the most. And one does not win back former supporters who have drifted over into the Trump column by attacking Trump. 

The campaign may not win them back by fighting Nikki Haley either. But overall, the move stands less a chance of success by directly taking on Trump now.1 

That said, this is another case of Trump benefiting from opposing campaigns putting off the inevitable. Short-term motivations outweigh long-term considerations.

From around the invisible primary...
  • Iowa focus: DeSantis has some company in the "all in in Iowa" category. The campaign of South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has now also begun to redirect money and staff to the first-in-the-nation caucuses in the Hawkeye state. 
  • Debates: Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's campaign has indicated that he has qualified for the November 8 debate in Miami. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum has met the donor threshold, but continues to fall short of the polling criteria. 
  • New Hampshire entrants: Both Donald Trump and Mike Pence filed in Concord on Monday to appear on ballot in the as yet unscheduled primary in the Granite state.
  • Quiet winnowing: If a candidate is winnowed from the field and no one is there to see it, has that candidate really been winnowed? FHQ does not know. What is known is that businessman Perry Johnson has suspended his presidential campaign. Yeah, that is winnowing.
  • Staff primary: Staffers in the Florida governor's office keep leaving their jobs and finding their way into roles with the DeSantis campaign
  • Blast from the past: Trump's expanded lead has made this a bit less of a thing, but calibrating Trump 2024 to Trump 2020 and/or Trump 2016 is still a thing if attempting to assess where his current campaign is now. Tending the grassroots in New Hampshire in 2023 appears to be ahead of where it was in 2015. But support is not nearly as consolidated behind him as it was in 2019.
  • Consolidation theory, South Carolina edition: The editorial board at the Charleston Post & Courier called on hometown candidate Tim Scott to withdraw and clear the way for Nikki Haley to challenge Trump in the state and nomination race.

1 Note also that DeSantis has upped the attacks on Trump lately. But the overall effort is not exclusively homed in on Trump.


Friday, October 20, 2023

There is no path to the Democratic nomination that goes through New Hampshire

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • The Democratic presidential field may expand to include another candidate with a New Hampshire focus, but the story for Democrats in Granite state is not finished. The impasse between the state party and the DNC continues over the primary and there are a few ways forward in the fight from here. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
There is no path to the Democratic presidential nomination that goes through the New Hampshire primary in 2024. And any wrong-turn detour that works its way across the Granite state is highly unlikely to embarrass the president and alter the outcome.

So why are the handful of D-listers trying their hands at challenging President Joe Biden trekking to New Hampshire (or keeping the phone lines to well-positioned Democrats in the state warm)?

Mainly, it is because it is the only play they have got. But that did not prevent Politico from trotting out the well-worn embarrassment angle in their latest on the rising Phillips 2024 campaign:
Should Phillips go through with announcing, he will need to quickly get himself on the ballot in key states. He’s already missed the deadline to appear on the ballot in Nevada, the second presidential nominating state for Democrats. South Carolina, the first nominating state in the new calendar, has a balloting deadline of Nov. 10. 
But Phillips may opt to skip the new calendar, focusing instead on New Hampshire, which is expected to hold its own unsanctioned primary after losing its first-in-the-nation status. A strong showing there would not net Phillips substantial delegates but it could prove a major embarrassment for Biden.
FHQ has discussed this before, so I will not rehash it all for the umpteenth time. But the gist is this: Biden will not be on the New Hampshire primary ballot when the unsanctioned contest is held (likely) on January 23. One cannot be embarrassed if one is not on the ballot. And how would one measure a "strong showing" under those circumstances? Winning? It would have to be winning because losing to an unorganized write-in for Biden would be embarrassing for the competition (not to mention New Hampshire Democrats) and not the president. 

Fine, but there is an organized write-in effort, right? 

Sure, there is that. But even the write-in campaign is being put together by folks who are openly mad at the president for advocating for the early calendar change. In other words, there are people working against a random candidate winning and further embarrassing New Hampshire Democrats. And that is not an environment in which it is any easier to score a "strong showing" by the competition. All sides are disadvantaged and not in the same ways. No, that will not stop some from trying to score the outcome, but the bottom line is that non-Bidens are fighting for a "strong showing" in a beauty contest primary with no delegates on the line. 

That is a springboard to what? A collapsing Biden candidacy? A subsequent meteoric rise for the winner? Both? The entry of new candidates? 

The goals in this are very strange. But again, there just are not that many openings in the process for prospective candidates not named Biden. If there were, then the field would have expanded long ago. But it has not.

From around the invisible primary...