Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Calendar Set

New Hampshire formally set their primary day to January 10 today, thus basically ending the process of setting the calendar of primaries and caucuses for the 2012 presidential cycle, certainly for the early events.

I really haven't been talking about this much at all...I've long had an interest in it, but Josh Putnam is such a category-killer on the subject that I haven't found much else to say other than to remind everyone to go to him for information and analysis.

Basically, it looks to me that the GOP got what they wanted. Nothing in 2011, of course. They preserved the Iowa/New Hampshire/South Carolina kickoff. They successfully moved Super Tuesday back to March (6th, from February 5 in 2008)) and ratcheted it down quite a bit from 2008. That seems to be what they wanted, and they got all of it.

Sure, it starts in January instead of February, but there's little harm done there (and in fact, I'd say it's a plus for the party, but who knows?). I'm happy with it because I've been against a de facto national primary, and the GOP appears to have seriously broken it up for now.

I don't know whether Josh made this point already, but what really helped the Republicans is that no one in that party actually cares at all about Nevada going early. That's not true on the Democratic side, where Latinos and African Americans care a lot about protecting the early scheduling of Nevada and South Carolina, and in fact have long objected to the lack of ethnic diversity in Iowa and New Hampshire. As it worked out, the Democratic schedule does in fact preserve both in front of Florida by decoupling them from the GOP versions in those two states (South Carolina has long -- always? -- been different for the two parties, but they both had Nevada on the same day in 2008).

Of course, there's no way of knowing what will happen next time around, but it's possible to see a bit of stability emerging, for a while at least, with the four exception states leading off (or three on the GOP side), and the parties perhaps next time around reaching an accommodation with Florida to make it the kickoff state for the rest of the campaign.

Not that the long-term reasons for states to try to frontload, or the lack of ability by the national parties to prevent it, have changed. My guess? The pressure away from frontloading will stay relatively minimal until the next time that Iowa and New Hampshire are perceived to have locked up the nomination by themselves. The more that happens, the more people find the sequential system unacceptable; when the results are spread out so that many or all states have meaningful contests, they're less likely to care about sequencing the next time around. Of course, in my view a whole lot of this is illusion, anyway, with party actors across the nation doing a lot to decide the nomination before the voters get involved. But that's certainly not how everyone sees it.


  1. I hope your view that the party actors are deciding the nomination is correct because nothing will change the rush to be first. Not with the media focusing so heavily on the horse race aspect. If the parties want to use a primary system to choose their nominees, it should be a slow and methodical process but that just doesn’t sell very well. The whole thing has become a colossal bore to me.

  2. A couple of things:
    1) I have not made that same assessment of the Nevada GOP and RNC relationship because it is more complicated than that. That said, you are right to point out that Nevada is there (the front of the calendar) by virtue of the process within the Democratic Party. The Nevada Republican caucuses were written into the RNC delegate selection rules in 2012 in a way that they weren't in 2008 and have been given some assurance by the national party that they will be there again in 2016. Now, whether that is before or after Florida will depend on whether the RNC decides to solve the Florida problem by simply including them in the mix at the front in a more formalized way. [That may be, fine it is, the path of least resistance for both national parties.]

    2) Yes, the RNC got what it wanted for the most part: a spread out process with a beginning that while a month earlier than the party would have otherwise wanted, still maintains the same basic order codified in the rules from 2010. However, one thing that should always be mentioned along side of this is that the RNC got a major assist from Democratic-controlled states that opted to not only move back, but move back into the April-June period. The DNC may not be so lucky in 2016. They will have a contested nomination race no matter what and the same pressure to move up that existed pre-2008 will be present in 2015 in a way that it was not this time around with nothing on the line. Now, I don't know that that means a repeat of the predictable "chaos" we have witnessed during this cycle, but the motivation will be there for a great many of those Democratic-controlled states that moved back this time to move back up for 2016.

    The more interesting thing to watch between now and 2015 is what the national parties do with their rules and penalties at their conventions next year and in the likely-to-be-formed commissions to reexamine the rules in 2013-14.


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