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June 2, 2015

"SEC Primary" bill awaits Governor's signature

Yellowhammer News reports: After Alabama passed its bill moving primaries up to March 1st last week, joining Arkansas and four other Southern states, the “SEC Primary,” appears to be ready to make waves during the 2016 presidential race.

The Yellowhammer State will join Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia to hold its presidential primary election on March 1st as soon as Governor Robert Bentley (R-AL) signs the bill into law. Electoral heavy hitter Florida will also have its primary in March, waiting until two weeks after its neighbors for March 15th. ...

Sen. Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the bill in the Alabama Senate, called his bill an "economic stimulus," because it would encourage presidential candidates, and their massive cadres of campaign staff, to spend more time in the state. -- Ala. leads 'SEC Primary' to make the South a major player in the presidential race - Yellowhammer News

May 24, 2015

Will presidential candidates show up in the South's "SEC primary"?

The Washington Post reports: Strategists say a Southern primary has the potential to buoy a more conservative candidate and be a challenge for candidates considered too moderate or too affiliated with the establishment -- such as Jeb Bush, who will not denounce the loathed Common Core education standards and has taken a more moderate stance on immigration.

Several Southern states have high rates of poverty and could benefit from an infusion of jobs, although Republicans in the region also like to rail against social welfare programs, and Obamacare is still wildly unpopular. There are worries about terrorism and a desire for an aggressive commander in chief. Evangelical voters are also a major force and are looking for a candidate who will not back down in opposing gay marriage and abortion. ...

But if the South builds an SEC primary, will candidates show up? Or will the attention still go to the biggest states or purplest states?

"No one can really afford a 50-state strategy anymore," said Angie Maxwell, director of the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas. "The truth is, the strategists don't need the South. .. The Republican Party is going to get the South, no matter who the nominee is. That's not a danger. I mean, they voted for a millionaire Mormon."

The last time there was this sort of early Southern primary was 1988, when Democrats still controlled the region. The goal was to boost a moderate Democrat, such as then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who could be more competitive in the general election. Instead, Al Gore won five of the states and Jesse Jackson took the other five. The same could happen for the Republicans in 2016, strategists caution.

But Kemp remains hopeful: "The South is the new heartland of America. The road to the White House should run through the South." -- As ?SEC primary? takes shape, will presidential contenders show up? - The Washington Post

May 22, 2015

Legislature moves the presidential primary date one week earlier reports: The Alabama Legislature passed a bill that will allow the state to enter the "SEC presidential primary" set for March 1, 2016.

Moving the primary up a week is expected to make Alabama a bigger player in election process; it allows Alabama to join circuit of southern states to attract more visits from presidential candidates. -- Alabama to join 'SEC primary' for 2016 presidential election |

April 2, 2015

"Bill seeks Alabama entry into 'SEC primary' for 2016 presidential election reports: The state of Alabama would enter the "SEC presidential primary" set for March 1, 2016, if a bill in the Senate is successful.

Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, is sponsoring the bill in the Senate that would move the U.S. presidential primary from the second Tuesday of March to the first Tuesday.

Senate bill 240 received a favorable report from the Senate Constitution, Ethics and Elections Committee today. It will now move on to the full Senate for consideration.

Ross called his piece of legislation "an economic stimulus bill" because it would help the state attract more visits from presidential candidates by allowing Alabama to join a circuit with other southern states. -- Alabama bill seeks state entry into 'SEC primary' for 2016 presidential election |

December 25, 2014

Should Alabama join the "Super SEC" presidential primary?

The Montgomery Advertiser opines: In presidential election years, Alabamians rarely catch sight of the contenders. There's the occasional fund-raiser or quick press conference at an airport, but the candidates don't spend much time here.

That might change in 2016, however, if our state becomes part of a "Super SEC" presidential primary proposal that would move the balloting in several states linked to the football league to the same date. Alabama's political influence likely will never match its football influence, but the plan could make the state a bigger player in the process.

The idea is being pushed by Brian Kemp, Georgia's secretary of state. Jim Bennett, Alabama's outgoing secretary of state, has called on his counterparts in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina to support the plan. Although Bennett won't be in office when the Legislature convenes next year, he has said he will urge his successor, John Merrill, to support it as well.

Alabama's 2016 primary is scheduled for March 8. Action by the Legislature would be needed to move it to the "Super SEC" date of March 1, the scheduled date for presidential primaries in Tennessee, Florida and Texas. It's a step worth taking to bring at least some of the big day's action to Alabama, and Merrill should support it. -- Joining the 'Super SEC' primary would help state

May 30, 2011

Alabama: the (primary) times are a'changin'

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Changing the date of Alabama's presidential pri­mary will save the state money, but could also cost the state national exposure.

In the spring of 2007, presidential candidates for both parties were storming into Alabama, hiring staff and lobbyists and securing lawmakers' en­dorsements. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giu­liani and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., spoke before the state Legislature. McCain visited Alabama at least four times between January and June of that year.

Four years later -- with a much less settled pres­idential field -- things are very different. ...

The comparative lack of activi­ty reflects both the still-fluid nature of the GOP presidential race, where campaigns are getting under way later than in the 2008 season, and Alabama's relatively late primary start, which will be pushed back a month under a bill approved by the state Legislature. -- Read the whole story --> Delaying Alabama presidential primary may save state money; affect candidates' plans | The Montgomery Advertiser |

May 1, 2011

"Alabama primary dates would shift under bill"

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama's primary elections would alternate every two years between being held in March and being held in June, under a bill that could win final legislative approval this week.

Under House Bill 425, Alabama's presidential preference primaries and its party primary elections for state courts, Congress and other positions would be held every four years on the second Tuesday in March. The first of those elections would be next year.

Alabama's primary elections for governor, the Legislature and other offices would remain on the first Tuesday in June in years with no presidential elections.

Alabama law now calls for two sets of primary elections in presidential election years, with the presidential primaries in February and primaries for all other offices in June. Read the whole story --> Alabama primary dates would shift under bill |

April 29, 2011

Alabama may change its primary schedule in presidential years

The Alabama House has passed and sent to the Senate a bill to move both the presidential primary (now in early February) and the non-presidential primary (now in June) to the second Tuesday in March. A copy of the bill is at the end of this entry.

Intended consequence #1: This change was adopted to bring Alabama into line with the schedule worked out by the DNC and RNC. According to the Washington Post,

Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their status as the nation's first contests, held in February, joined by South Carolina and Nevada.

Other contests would generally be held in April or later, although states would have the option of holding votes in March, provided convention delegates chosen at those elections were awarded to candidates in proportion to the percentage of the vote they received, rather than in a winner-take-all system.

Intended consequence #2: This schedule change will avoid the early February schedule's interference with Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile and Baldwin Counties.


August 7, 2010

RNC changes the presidential primary calendar

Hotline On Call reports: The RNC has approved a resolution making dramatic changes to the way the GOP picks a presidential nominee, moving primaries to later dates and requiring states to allocate their delegates on a proportional basis.

The proposal will move the earliest nominating contests -- in IA, NH, SC and NV -- back from early Jan. to Feb. It will also require states that hold nominating contests in March to award delegates based on the proportion of votes candidates win, eliminating the prospect of an early winner-take-all state that would effectively end the nominating process.

Proponents said the measure would avoid the calamity of a national primary. Already, nearly 40 states have primaries scheduled for the first possible day in the nominating calendar. ...

In practice, the new rules will require GOP WH candidates to place more emphasis on grassroots organizing. Candidates will have to build their campaigns in dozens of states, rather than focusing solely on raising money for TV ads. What's more, primaries won't be held so close to the winter holidays. Read the whole story --> RNC Passes Calendar Reform - Hotline On Call

October 9, 2009

"Reforming the Democratic Presidential Nomination"

Tom Schaller writes on I attended a panel today at Brookings featuring Elaine Kamarck and her new book, Primary Politics. Kamarck is both expert on, and key figure in, the transformation of the Democratic presidential nomination process during the past few decades. The panel was chaired by Brookings' incomparable Bill Galston, and featured WaPost national political reporter Dan Balz and PoliticsDaily's Walter Shapiro. I also met briefly with Jeff Berman, the Obama campaign's "delegate guru," who has agreed to do an interview with after the upcoming, October 22 meeting of the commission appointed to review and recommend changes to the Democratic Party's nomination process, of which he is a member. -- Read the whole post --> FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right

January 5, 2009

Florida: suit against DNC's primary schedule set for argument on Thursday

The Fulton County Daily Report reports: While the nation prepares to inaugurate a new president this month, at the federal appeals court in Atlanta a few Democrats are still arguing about the presidential primary process.

On Thursday the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear a challenge to the way the Democratic Party chooses its presidential nominee. Victor DiMaio, a Florida-based Democratic political consultant, contends that the party violates the federal Constitution by taking states' racial makeup and other factors into account in its rules on presidential primary dates. ...

In May, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara of Tampa rejected DiMaio's new complaint, granting summary judgment to the party. Within days, the Florida delegates were no longer critical because Hillary Clinton began backing Barack Obama, and in August all Florida's delegates received a full vote at the convention.

But in their 11th Circuit brief, the party's lawyers write that they can't say the issue DiMaio raises won't come up again, as the state law setting the primary date ahead of what party rules allow remains in effect -- which DiMaio calls a "train wreck" waiting to happen. The 11th Circuit recently requested additional briefing on whether the case is moot given that the election is over, said DiMaio's lawyer, Michael A. Steinberg of Tampa. -- - Primary Election Battle Continues in Federal Court

August 4, 2008

Michigan, Florida: Obama asks for full convention votes

The New York Times reports: Senator Barack Obama has asked the credentials committee of the Democratic Party to give full voting rights to delegates from Florida and Michigan at the national convention in Denver. ...

After Florida and Michigan held early primaries in violation of party rules, the party punished them by saying their delegations would not be seated at the convention. In May, the rules committee agreed to let the delegates have half a vote each. -- Obama Asks Panel to Restore Votes to Florida and Michigan Delegates -

June 1, 2008

Florida, Michigan: 1/2 vote to each delegate

The New York Times reports: To jeers and boos that showcased deep party divisions, Democratic Party officials agreed Saturday to seat delegates from the disputed Florida and Michigan primaries at the party’s convention in August but give them only half a vote each, dealing a setback to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The agreement, reached by the rules committee of the Democratic National Committee behind closed doors and voted on publicly before a raucous audience of supporters of the two candidates, would give Mrs. Clinton a net gain of 24 delegates over Senator Barack Obama. But this fell far short of her hopes of winning the full votes of both delegations and moved the nomination further out of her reach.

She now lags behind Mr. Obama by about 176 delegates, according to The New York Times’s tally, in the final weekend of campaigning before the nominating contests end.

Mrs. Clinton, who led the voting in the Michigan and Florida contests, which were held in defiance of party rules, picked up 19 delegates more than Mr. Obama in Florida and 5 delegates more than Mr. Obama in Michigan.

The deal prompted one of her chief advisers, Harold Ickes, a member of the rules committee himself, to declare that Mrs. Clinton’s fight may not be over, even though Mr. Obama’s advisers say he is only days away from gaining enough delegates to claim the nomination. -- Democrats Approve Deal on Michigan and Florida -

May 31, 2008

Florida, Michigan: if you think your vote won't count, you are less likely to vote

TPM Election Central reports: As the DNC prepares to decide the fates of the Florida and Michigan delegations tomorrow, a key question has to be asked: Did those rogue primaries truly reflect the will of their states Democratic voters?

The case against that proposition, it turns out, is a fairly compelling one in statistical terms.

Here s why: If you take a close look at the numbers, it turns out that while the Florida primary turnout was high relative to past primaries within the state, the relative Democratic turnout vs. the Republican primary lagged way behind relative party turnout in other primaries and caucuses across the country, where the voting counted from the start. And in Michigan in particular, the voting level there was simply abysmal.

This suggests the possibility that far more Democratic voters would have come out in both states if they d expected the contests to count, meaning that it s hard to argue that the primaries that actually took place really reflected the will of the people. -- TPM Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Do Florida And Michigan Primaries Really Reflect The Will Of The People? Nope.

May 28, 2008

Michigan, Florida: DNC lawyers recommend 50% penalty for each state

The Boston Globe reports: Democratic Party lawyers told a committee looking at the fate of disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan that at most they can restore only half of their 368 total delegates.

IN A MEmo sent late Tuesday to the 30 members of the party s Rules and Bylaws Committee, which plans to meet Saturday in Washington, the lawyers say the committee can either allow half the number of delegates from each state into the national convention or allow the full delegations to attend, but give them each half a vote.

The lawyers, however, don't suggest how any delegates should be divided between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

And the Democratic National Committee issued a statement that said the lawyers memo was not an official recommendation. -- Florida and Michigan can only get half of delegates, DNC lawyers say - 2008 Presidential Campaign Blog - Political Intelligence -

Hat-tip to Kos for the link. Taegan Goddard has a preview of Saturday's meeting.

May 26, 2008

Florida: new suit against DNC over seating delegates

The Miami Herald reports: Florida s history of discrimination against African Americans should force the national Democratic Party to count all of the state s delegates at its national convention, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday claims.

The suit, filed by state Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller and two other Democrats, claims that the federal Voting Rights Act prohibits the national party from stripping the state of its convention delegates as punishment for violating party rules by holding its primary too early.

The civil-rights-era law requires the U.S. Justice Department to approve any significant voting change in Florida to make sure it doesn t disenfranchise minority voters. Geller argues that includes the Democratic National Committee s demand that Florida switch from a state-run primary to party-run caucus system to avoid losing its delegates. ...

Federal courts have thrown out two previous challenges to the DNC s rule. In December, a federal judge in Tallahassee rejected a lawsuit by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson that claimed the punishment would disenfranchise Florida voters, and in March an Atlanta court dismissed the case of a Tampa political activist claiming that the DNC was treating Florida unfairly. -- Democrats file suit to seat Florida delegates - 05/23/2008 -

Note: The complaint can be viewed here: Geller v. Democratic National Committee.

April 26, 2008

Michigan: Clinton supporter files challenge to exclusion of delegates

Political Diary -
The Wall Street Journal 's Political Diary reports: Yesterday, a key supporter of Hillary Clinton's filed a challenge demanding that the Democratic National Committee seat all of Michigan's pledged delegates – 55% of whom backed Mrs. Clinton in a January primary that Barack Obama didn't participate in and whose results the national Democratic Party has so far refused to recognize.

DNC member Joel Ferguson says Michigan's 128 pledged delegates should be given half a vote each at the Denver convention and its 28 superdelegates – such as himself – should be given a full vote. He says such a settlement would represent a fair punishment for the state's decision to break party rules and hold an early primary.

Note: see the story below.

Michigan and Florida: DNC Rules Committee to meet on 31 May

AP reports: A plan to award half-delegates for the disputed Michigan and Florida Democratic presidential primaries will get a hearing before party leaders.

The co-chairs of the Democratic National Committee s Rules and Bylaws committee sent members a memo Friday announcing a meeting May 31 to consider the idea.

The committee stripped Michigan and Florida of their national convention delegates because they held primaries too early. DNC members in Michigan and Florida have filed challenges to restore the delegates.

Under the challenges, all superdelegates from both states would get to vote. The pledged delegates would only count for half votes.

Hillary Rodham Clinton won both contests and has been pushing for the delegates to be seated.

Her rival Barack Obama has said it isn t fair to award delegates based on the votes because all the candidates agreed to boycott the contests and his NAME wasn t on Michigan s ballot. Most of the Democratic candidates had their NAMEs removed, but Clinton left hers on. Forty percent of Michigan voters chose uncommitted rather than vote for Clinton. -- The Associated Press: Delegate challenges concerning Florida, Michigan to be heard

March 18, 2008

Michigan: do-over bill pending in legislature

AP reports: Legislative leaders reviewed a measure Monday that would set up a do-over June 3 Democratic presidential primary in Michigan.

The draft legislation included language that would set up a public fund to collect private donations for the election, ban voters who had voted in the Jan. 15 Republican presidential primary and keep both presidential contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama on the ballot. ...

Michigan now wants to hold a second primary. The campaigns of Clinton and Obama received copies of the primary election bill Monday. Clinton has said she would go along with another primary, but Obama's campaign has raised some concerns. -- MyFox Detroit | Michigan Legislative Leaders Consider Do-over Primary

Florida: Democratic Party decides against re-vote

AP reports: Facing strong opposition, Florida Democrats on Monday abandoned plans to hold a do-over presidential primary with a mail-in vote and threw the delegate dispute into the lap of the national party. ...

Members of Florida's congressional delegation had unanimously opposed the plan, and Sen. Barack Obama, who is seeking the party's presidential nomination, expressed concern about the security of a mail-in vote organized so quickly.

The national party punished Michigan and Florida for moving up their primaries before Feb. 5, stripping them of all their delegates to the party's national convention this summer in Denver. All the Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in the two states, and Obama was not even on the Michigan ballot.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won both primaries. As her race with Obama has tightened, she has argued the delegates should be seated or new primaries held. -- Florida Democrats: No Re-vote |

March 12, 2008

Florida: deal or no deal on a mail-in primary do-over?

The New York Times reports: Democratic Party officials here are close to completing a draft plan for a new mail-in primary that would take place by early June, a proposal that seeks to give Florida delegates a role in the party’s presidential contest, several people involved in the discussions said Tuesday.

A spokesman for Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat who has been pushing for a mail-in contest, said Mr. Nelson expected the Florida Democratic Party to finalize details of the complex plan as soon as Wednesday. The state party would most likely submit the proposal to Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, by week’s end, said the spokesman, Dan McLaughlin. Mr. Nelson is a supporter of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. ...

But after meeting with Mr. Nelson on Tuesday night, Florida’s Democratic members of the House of Representatives added a serious new wrinkle by announcing they were unanimously opposed to a mail-in contest. They did not elaborate, but released a statement that said, “Our House delegation is opposed to a mail-in campaign or any redo of any kind.” The statement also said the delegation was committed to working with state and national Democrats and the two candidates “to reach an expedited solution that ensures our 210 delegates are seated.” -- Democrats in Florida Are Near Plan for New Vote

March 10, 2008

Michigan: Levin wants a mail-in re-do primary

The Detroit Free Press reports: An all-mail revote may be the solution for Michigan Democrats who want their presidential primary votes to count.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, who has been fighting for years to break the dominant role that Iowa and New Hampshire have on the presidential nominations, said on the Sunday ABC-TV news show This Week that the only practical and fair way to conduct a Democratic do-over would be to hold a vote-by-mail election.

Only a mail kind of vote will work, and there still are a lot of logistics involved, he said.

It s a solution that several other prominent Michigan Democrats have been calling for, including former U.S. Rep. David Bonior of Mt. Clemens who was campaign manager for presidential candidate John Edwards. -- Levin promotes all-mail primary revote to seat Michigan delegates | | Detroit Free Press

March 7, 2008

Florida, Michigan: Soft money may pay for the do-overs

The Los Angeles Times reports: Eager to break an impasse over contested votes, prominent Democrats are floating possible solutions that include new presidential nominating contests in Florida and Michigan, and a compromise forged by a special committee of party elders. ...

One alternative mentioned now by the Florida Democratic Party is a vote-by-mail election. Under this scenario, ballots would be mailed to all of Florida's approximately 4.7 million registered Democrats in May or June. The cost would be $4 million to $6 million, and the state party would want to be reimbursed, a party official said Thursday.

The Florida Democratic Party would be open to accepting a "soft money" contribution from, say, a wealthy Democratic donor, labor union or other source to underwrite the cost, the official said. Also, Florida Democrats would want commitments from the Obama and Clinton camps that the two candidates would campaign in the state. State Chairwoman Karen L. Thurman issued a statement saying that the Florida Democratic Party was hashing out possibilities with representatives of the Clinton and Obama campaigns as well as the Democratic National Committee. ...

One possibility that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist said he would not support is another full-scale primary underwritten by Florida taxpayers. A Crist spokesman said that the price tag would be $25 million and that the state would not be willing to pay it. -- Democrats brainstorm Michigan, Florida delegate disputes - Los Angeles Times

Michigan, Florida: looking a way out

The New York Times reports: With the two Democratic presidential candidates in near-deadlock and battling for every delegate, party leaders and the rival campaigns started searching in earnest on Thursday for a way to seat barred delegations from Florida and Michigan. But they remained deeply divided over how to do so.

After weeks in which the issue hovered in the background, it shot to the forefront of the Democratic race as it became apparent that the delegates at stake could be vital in influencing whether Senator Barack Obama or Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the nomination.

Mrs. Clinton won the most votes in primaries in Florida and Michigan in January. But the states held their contests earlier than allowed by the Democratic National Committee’s rules, leading the party to strip them of their delegates to the nominating convention. Neither candidate campaigned actively in the two states, and Mr. Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan.

Mr. Obama has maintained a slim but steady lead over Mrs. Clinton in delegates awarded by voting in the primaries and caucuses of other states. The Clinton campaign is hoping she can translate her advantage in the popular vote in Florida and Michigan into a big share of their combined 367 delegates. -- Democrats Try to End Impasse Over Delegates - New York Times

February 20, 2008

Mara Liasson reports on the Michigan-Florida delegate problem

NPR reports: As presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fight for every Democratic delegate at stake, the question remains what to do about delegates in Michigan and Florida. Both states forfeited their delegates when they moved their primaries up to January. Now, some think the delegates should be reinstated. -- NPR: Forfeited Delegates May Get Second Look

February 18, 2008

Washington State: a Democratic primary, but why?

The New York Times reports: As many as 1.5 million votes are projected to be cast in Washington State’s presidential primary on Tuesday. The question is whether they will count. ...

More problematic is that the state Democratic Party long ago said it would award its delegates based solely on the results of the statewide caucuses that were held on Feb. 9. The party says a record 250,000 people turned out for the caucuses, which Senator Barack Obama won by 36 percentage points. ...

Political parties have the authority to decide how they select delegates to their nominating conventions, and Democrats here have continued to rely on the caucuses even after the primary. Democratic leaders say the caucuses are well attended and help build party unity. Republicans, who have often awarded a portion of their delegates through the primary and a portion through caucuses, accuse Democrats of deliberately alienating voters from the nomination process. -- In Washington State Vote, Relevance Is an Issue

February 9, 2008

Michigan: woulda, coulda, shoulda, and maybe

The Washington Post reports: The clever people in Michigan who decided to get into a game of chicken with New Hampshire last fall over the timing of their Democratic primary should be having second thoughts this weekend.

Had Michigan Democrats not engaged in gamesmanship over the shape of the nomination calendar, they would be holding the premier contest on today's slate, by far the biggest and most influential of the events between Super Tuesday and next week's Potomac primaries, rather than the nonbinding event that was held Jan. 15.

Michigan Democrats long argued that the party needed a major industrial state playing an early and influential role in the nominating process. Instead, Michigan Democrats -- and those in Florida -- have left their party with a monumental problem: what to do about their delegations to the national convention in Denver in August.

There is a growing sense of urgency about the need to deal with the Michigan-Florida issue, but no easy resolution. What happens could decide whether Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama becomes the party's presidential nominee. -- Sanctioned States Put Democrats in Quandary -

January 24, 2008

Super Tuesday may not turn out so great

Jeff Greenfield writes on Remember all the lamentations, the rending of garments, the gnashing of teeth over the outsize power of two small, unrepresentative states over the presidential nomination process? Well, never mind. It turns out that the apparent pattern of 2000 and 2004, when Al Gore and John Kerry won Iowa and New Hampshire and sailed to the Democratic nominations, was not a pattern but a two-off.

This year, a raft of states, big, small, and mid-size, will have a real say in choosing the candidates for president for both parties. The problem is that many would have had a far greater say had they not succumbed to mass hysteria and rushed to hold their primaries as early as possible—before or by Super Tuesday on Feb. 5. Indeed, other states that were more patient may turn out to have the loudest voices of all.

Once upon a time—from the dawn of the modern primary system in 1972 through 1992—the primaries played out through the spring. In the 1980s, the race went from a Southern "Super Tuesday" to a series of big states through March, April, and May, and finally to a California-New Jersey bicoastal finale in early June. But this year, misled by the Gore-Kerry sweeps into thinking that early momentum was a permanent, decisive element of the nominating system, some 24 states moved their primaries or caucuses to the first date permitted by the national political parties: Feb. 5. -- The Late State Gets the Worm

December 5, 2007

Florida: Judge dismisses Nelson suit over presidential primary date

The Palm Beach Post reports: A federal judge this afternoon rejected U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee, ending Florida Democrats' likely last hope of having the Jan. 29 presidential primary count toward selecting delegates.

"Florida has to comply with the same rules and procedures as everybody else, and does not get to have its own way," said U.S.District Court Judge Robert Hinkle following an hour-long hearing.

Nelson's lawyer, Kendall Coffey, said he was "disappointed" by the ruling but that doubted Nelson would appeal. ...

DNC lawyer Joe Sandler argued that the national party has the right to enforce the schedule it has set to maintain order in its primary process. "There's only one way the party can do it, and that's to refuse to seat their delegation," Sandler said. -- Federal judge says Florida must comply with DNC rules

November 27, 2007

Massachusetts moves primary to 5 February -- what a surprise

The Washington Post blog, The Trail, reports: Massachusetts may have an enviable record for producing presidential candidates -- think Mike Dukakis, John Kerry and Mitt Romney -- but this year's March 4 primary date made the state all but certain to be irrelevant.

That's why Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) today signed a bill into law moving the state's primary to Feb. 5, joining more than 20 states which are holding presidential voting that day.

The idea, according to lawmakers who quickly passed the measure, is to make sure the state's voters play a role in selecting the presidential nominees. The thinking is that candidates will be obliged to campaign in the state as part of the nationwide primary day.

But the history of such efforts to game the calendar suggests they don't always work out as expected. The state's former governor, Republican Mitt Romney, may indeed be forced to spend time in the Bay State to avoid losing there. But the other Republican candidates will simply stay away, conceding the state to its favorite son. -- Mass. Primary Moves Forward | The Trail |

November 22, 2007

New Hampshire: Sec of State moves the primary to 8 January

The New York Times reports: New Hampshire last night officially scheduled its first-in-the-nation presidential primary for Jan. 8, ending months of hedging from officials there and solidifying what has been a chaotic primary calendar that moves the nominating process closer to the start of the year.

The announcement, by Secretary of State William M. Gardner of New Hampshire, came hours after the Michigan Supreme Court decided that that state’s primary could go forward on Jan. 15.

Iowa has already scheduled its caucuses for Jan. 3. All told, the contests, along with a mega-primary day involving more than 20 states on Feb. 5, will mean an unusually early nominating season as states have battled for influence by moving up their primaries. ...

Mr. Gardner had been widely expected to choose Jan. 8, but until yesterday he left open the possibility that the primary could fall in December. He had repeatedly said he would set the date for New Hampshire’s primary only after Michigan made a firm decision on its primary. -- New Hampshire Selects Jan. 8 for Its Primary - New York Times

November 9, 2007

GOP to penalize too-early presidential primaries

The Washington Post blog The Trail reports: It's official: The five states who set their 2008 presidential primaries before Feb. 5 will lose half of their delegates to the Republican convention next summer, under rules passed by the Republican National Committee in 2004. Committee officials announced in a conference call with reporters this afternoon that New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, Wyoming and Florida will be punished with the withdrawal of half their delegates. Iowa and Nevada are exempt from the rule because their nominating contests in January are caucuses in which delegates will not technically be awarded. -- RNC Rules Early States to Lose Delegates | The Trail |

November 2, 2007

Florida: hearing set for 5 December in Demo primary suit

NBC12 First Coast News reports: U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle set an expedited Dec. 5 hearing Thursday for a suit filed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings, seeking to make their national party recognize the Florida delegation at the Democratic National Convention next summer.

The DNC stripped Florida of its 210 delegate votes because the Legislature moved the state's presidential-primary date from early March to Jan. 29 -- a week ahead of the date permitted by party rules. All major Democratic candidates for president have pledged not to campaign in states defying the national party's plan that lets only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada allocate their delegates before Feb. 5.

Contending that the party's action violates the voting rights of millions of Floridians, Nelson and Hastings asked the federal district court in Tallahassee to make the DNC rescind its sanctions against the state. ...

The DNC responded to the original suit on Tuesday, saying it did not act as a government entity and that parties have a right to enforce rules that were agreed to by state parties when the primary schedule was set. -- Florida - Florida Delegates May Count at the DNC

October 30, 2007

Florida: the intra-Democratic fight may hurt the party reports: Amid the swimming pools and shuffleboards, a new sense of outrage is buzzing through condo land. Democratic activist Adele Berger began to hear about it at her regular, eight-deck rummy game in Century Village, an expansive, historically Jewish community of New York retirees. "People have been coming over and asking me, 'What's going on, Adele? What's the purpose of voting if it won't be counted?' And that's sad, that's sad."

The head of the community's Democratic club, Sophie Bock, is hearing the same thing, forcing her to reassure residents in the monthly newsletter that their presidential primary vote will count -- at least symbolically. "I am trying to make nicey-nicey, because I can't stand it when the people say, 'I don't want to vote. My vote won't be counted.'" Privately, however, she is as angry as her club members, so angry that she has even begun deleting fundraising e-mails from Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee before reading them. ...

Such is the mood these days in Florida, where the specter of election meddling is again rearing its head. National Democrats plan to deny the state's 4.25 million registered Democrats any delegates to the 2008 National Convention as punishment for the state Legislature's decision to move the primary date to Jan. 29, one week earlier than the party rules allow, in an effort to make the Florida vote more influential. At the same time, the political leaders in four early primary states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- have bullied the major Democratic candidates to forgo campaigning in Florida until February, effectively prohibiting voters like Bock and Berger from meeting their candidates, receiving campaign mail or even seeing a candidate advertisement on TV. "We can listen to their debates," says Bock. "But, you know, sometimes if it interferes with a card came, someone is going to play cards." -- Another election fiasco in Florida? | Salon News

October 18, 2007

"Newest Factor for Earlier Primaries: Grinch Effect"

The New York Times reports: Oh, the Christmas season: the scent of eggnog, the sounds of sleigh bells, the good cheer — and all those slashing political attack ads, hard-hitting mailings, pre-recorded candidate phone calls and intrusive, get-out-the-vote drives?

With the first voting now scheduled to take place right after the first of the year, the presidential candidates are hurriedly making plans to cope with the challenge of conducting all-out campaigns smack in the middle of the holidays. Unlike previous elections, there will be no real buffer this time between the family gathering, bowl-game-watching (and drinking) tradition of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and the initial presidential contests in the early voting states.

On Tuesday night, the Iowa Republican Party decided to hold its caucuses on Jan. 3. It is the earliest that the party caucuses there have been scheduled since Iowa established its general position 36 years ago as the first state to vote in the national nominating contest, and it put pressure on the Democrats in Iowa to settle on the same schedule. The previous earliest date for the Iowa caucuses was Jan. 19, in the 1976 campaign. ...

Do the candidates need to unleash their advertising campaigns earlier than they otherwise would have? Will anyone show up if the candidates schedule town hall meetings in Iowa and New Hampshire right after Christmas?

How will candidates allocate their time if only a few days separate the Iowa caucuses from the New Hampshire primary? And will voters think poorly of candidates for running negative television commercials between feel-good spots starring Santa or the local news team singing while dressed as elves? -- Newest Factor for Earlier Primaries: Grinch Effect

October 15, 2007

New Hampshire: a plea for reason on the primary date

Walter Shapiro writes on to the New Hampshire secretary of state: As a reporter who covered his first New Hampshire primary in 1980 and who reveres its democratic values and traditions, I feel compelled to offer some scheduling advice from the sidelines.

You remain as inscrutable as Alan Greenspan before his memoirs, but I note that the Washington Post has divined from a recent interview that you are tempted to move the primary to December. (After our 90-minute phone conversation in July, about all I divined was that the New Hampshire primary would indeed take place sometime in 2007 or 2008.)

A word of warning: If you try to preserve the primacy of the primary by primly picking a Tuesday in December, you risk New Hampshire's being ridiculed by the late-night comics for voting on 2008 presidential candidates in 2007. As you know all too well, New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status is hanging by a thread. And holding the primary while the Christmas decorations are still up in Concord will seem to most Americans as absurd as beginning leaf-peeping season in February.

New Hampshire did not cause the front-loading of the system (your primary has been at the head of the class since 1920), but your state will be blamed for it. And in 2012, New Hampshire and Iowa would probably be shoved offstage to be replaced by a national primary, open only to candidates with household names who can raise $150 million before a single vote is cast. -- Save the New Hampshire primary |

October 12, 2007

Will the first primary be before Christmas?

The Washington Post reports: The New Hampshire primary, crowded by other wannabe primaries and caucuses, may be shifted from January to an unprecedented date in early December. It all depends on the calculations of one man.

"I have a lot of discretion," said Bill Gardner, the 16-term secretary of state of New Hampshire, who is invested with what amounts to dictatorial power to set the date under state law. "We are prepared, if it needs to be early December, it can be early December." -- A December Primary in New Hampshire? It's His Call. -

October 8, 2007

Florida: one suit against DNC dismissed

Slate reports: What's the matter with Florida? The Florida Democratic-primary showdown appears to have reached a stalemate.

On Friday, a judge threw out one of two lawsuits against the Democratic National Committee. The suit, filed by a Democratic activist, accused the organization of violating voters' constitutional rights by stripping Florida of its delegates in response to the state's decision to move its primary up to Jan. 29. The other suit, filed by Sen. Ben Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings, is still pending but seems unlikely to succeed given both precedent—courts have previously called party primaries internal affairs—and Friday's ruling. So if that suit fails, what happens next?

Chances are Florida Dems will go ahead with the early primary—sorry, "beauty contest"—and try to force the national party's hand. They say they'll send delegates to the national convention no matter what, which could get ugly if the DNC ends up turning them away. (The parallels to the 1964 Mississippi convention, where black delegates weren't allowed in, wouldn't look so good.) -- What's the Matter With Florida?

Presidential primaries: the rigged, chaotic system

Michael Scherer writes on It's far worse than you think -- worse than hanging chads, faulty Diebold machines, and billionaires who bankroll last-minute attack ads. The American system for nominating a presidential candidate has about as much in common with actual democracy as Donald Duck has with a lake mallard. It's not just that this year's primaries have been further front-loaded, or that the early primary states aren't representative of the nation at large. There is only passing fairness. There is only the semblance of order. There is nothing like equal representation under the law.

The whole stinking process was designed by dead men in smoky parlors and refined by faceless bureaucrats in hotel conference rooms. It is a nasty brew born of those caldrons of self-interest known as political parties. At every stage, advantage is parceled out like so much magic potion. "The national interest is not considered in any form," says University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. "Everything is left up to an ad hoc decision. It's chaotic."

That is not an exaggeration. Consider this: If you are a Republican, your vote for the presidential nominee will be worth more in Tennessee than in New York. If you are a Democrat, your vote in the primary will not count in Florida and is unlikely to count in Michigan. If you are a Republican in Wyoming, you probably won't get to vote at all, since only party officials have a say. -- The presidential primary scam |

October 5, 2007

South Carolina: will the Christmas decorations be down before the first primary?

The Caucus on reports: Now, Democrats in South Carolina may try to move up their voting day to Jan. 19 from Jan. 29.

The state’s Republicans have already moved their primary to Jan. 19.

South Carolina Democrats are worried that if the Republicans vote before they do, voters will think the election is over, the media carnival and the candidates will move on, and Democratic voters won’t turn out 10 days later. So state Democrats expect to ask the Democratic National Committee to let them join the Republicans and vote on Jan. 19. The national party would then have to approve the move.

Joe Werner, executive director of the South Carolina party, said that the party’s executive committee is to meet Oct. 16 to discuss the matter. There may be some dissent, he said, but he expected the committee would agree to move forward and make the request. -- South Carolina Democrats Join the Primary Shuffle

October 4, 2007

Florida: Sen. Nelson suing DNC over presidential primary date rule

Update: A copy of the complaint and the exhibits may be downloaded here.

The New York Times reports: Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is to file a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing the Democratic National Committee of violating the constitutional rights of four million of the state’s voters by refusing to seat its delegates at the party’s national convention next summer.

The suit also accuses the committee of violating the Voting Rights Act, which protects voters from racial discrimination.

The committee decided in August to strip Florida of its delegates to the Democratic convention unless the Florida Democratic Party obeyed national party rules by delaying its 2008 presidential nominating contest. The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature had voted in May to schedule primaries for Jan. 29, even though Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina are the only states that the national parties allow to hold primaries or caucuses earlier than Feb. 5.

Mr. Nelson will file the suit in federal court in Tallahassee along with another Florida Democrat, Representative Alcee L. Hastings, according to a draft obtained by The New York Times. The suit also names as a defendant Kurt S. Browning, Florida’s secretary of state. -- Senator Suing Own Party Over Discord on Florida

October 3, 2007

Nevada: what are the odds that NV will move its caucus date?

A Los Angeles Times blog reports: This isn't widely known yet, but Democratic and Republican officials in Nevada are now looking at moving the state's Jan. 19 caucus up a week to Jan. 12, a decision that would be predicated upon decisions over the next couple of weeks by New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.

Best to take notes here in pencil, not pen, because everything keeps changing.

Nevada is one of four states to which the Democratic National Committee gave its blessing to hold nominating contests before Feb. 5, when the door opens for the other states. As has been well-reported, Florida and Michigan are trying to make like Oklahoma settlers (as in, moving too soon).

As it stands, the Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Jan. 14, followed by the Michigan primary on Jan. 15, Nevada's caucuses and the South Carolina Republican primary on Jan. 19, and the Florida primary and South Carolina Democratic primary on Jan. 29, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State. New Hampshire has yet to set its date, though the DNC has pegged it at Jan. 22 -- after Michigan's new date. The DNC has threatened to not seat delegates from Michigan and Florida if they maintain their unsanctioned dates, but so far the thumbs are on the noses. -- Los Angeles Times: Top of the Ticket: Politics, coast to coast, with the L.A. Times

Hat tip to Political Wire for the link.

September 24, 2007

Florida: state Dems stick to too-early presidential primary date

The Caucus (NY Times) reports: Florida Democratic Party officials announced Sunday that they’re sticking with Jan. 29 as the official primary date, even though the national party has ruled that the move will strip them of their delegates and the top candidates have pledged not to campaign there. Karen L. Thurman, the state party’s chairwoman, sent an email to Florida Democrats explaining the decision:

There will be no other primary. Florida Democrats absolutely must vote on January 29th. We make this election matter. Not the D.N.C., not the delegates, not the candidates, but Florida Democrats like you and me voting together. We make it count.

Don’t let anybody call this vote a “beauty contest” or a “straw poll.” On January 29, 2008, there will be a fair and open election in Florida, which will provide for maximum voter participation. The nation will be paying attention, and Florida Democrats will have a major impact in determining who the next President of the United States of America will be. -- 2008: Florida Democrats Stick to Primary Date

September 20, 2007

Rotating primary hearing

NPR reports: The rapidly accelerating presidential primary schedule is frustrating some members of Congress. They want to change the system and used a Senate hearing to address the issue. A number of senators want a regional primary system, with the country divided into four regions. Each region would hold a separate primary, one month apart, starting in March 2012. -- NPR : Senators Lobby for Regional Primary System

July 2, 2007

Florida: re-shaping the 2008 primary season reports: The biggest political event over the past three months in the Democratic presidential race had nothing to do with the candidates, their fundraising prowess, their debates or their TV spots. In fact, it originated with the Republicans, though it had no direct connection to the Bush White House.

This epic moment in Democratic politics came May 21 when Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist signed legislation moving the Sunshine State's presidential primary to next Jan. 29.

After that dramatic drum-roll buildup, this one-state shift in the primary calendar may seem comically anticlimactic, especially since the move got little attention outside of Florida. But six weeks later, it is slowly becoming apparent that Florida destroyed the last vestiges of sanity in the 2008 presidential calendar by moving its primary. And for the Democrats, Florida potentially becomes Hillary Clinton's firewall state -- the primary in which she could launch a comeback even if she endures a string of early defeats. (A Jan. 29 Florida primary may also end up shaping the Republican race, but its implications are harder to decipher. Also, the Republican National Committee takes a more laissez-faire approach to the primary calendar, while the Democrats are constantly tinkering with their rules.)

The reason why the order of the caucuses and primaries is so important is that, historically, momentum (what an underdog Republican named George Bush called the "Big Mo" back in 1980) matters in choosing a nominee. In 2004, John Kerry romped to the Democratic convention largely because he won the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Similar back-to-back victories by Al Gore in 2000 left Bill Bradley on the canvas. -- Florida election mayhem for 2008

June 1, 2007

Alabama joins the National Primary -- again -- but with a footnote

AP reports: The Legislature approved a bill Thursday that keeps Alabama's early presidential primary on Feb. 5, but allows residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties to vote almost a week early to avoid a conflict with the Mardi Gras holiday.

The Legislature decided last year to move the state's presidential preference primary from early June to make the state more of a player in the selection of the Republican and Democratic candidates for president. But the change created a conflict because Feb. 5, 2008, is Fat Tuesday, the culmination of Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

The Senate voted 32-0 Thursday for a revised primary bill, and the House concurred 102-2. The bill will let residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties to go to the polls on Wednesday, Jan. 30 with the results sealed until Feb. 5. The bill will also allow residents of the two coastal counties to vote using absentee ballots for any reason. -- Alabama's Mardi Gras conflict resolved for presidential race

Kentucky: state won't join the National Primary

AP reports: With a growing number of states moving up their presidential primaries, Kentucky could strengthen its political muscle by keeping its traditional late May election, Secretary of State Trey Grayson said yesterday.

Grayson said Kentucky has no plans to change the date of next year's presidential primary, set for May 20, despite the rush by other states to move their elections and caucuses to January and February.

By standing pat, Grayson said Kentucky could become a player in the presidential race, but only if the race is so close that the likely nominees aren't decided until the last votes are counted. -- Kentucky won't move up presidential primary

May 30, 2007

Georgia: one more for the National Primary

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: Gov. Sonny Perdue has signed a bill that moves Georgia's presidential primary to Feb. 5, making the Peach State part of a mega-Tuesday primary that could be key to selecting each party's nominee.

So far, 14 states are currently scheduled to cast their ballots Feb. 5, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Another 12 states have pending legislation that would either bump their primaries up to early February or would give state officials latitude to do so.

The change moves Georgia's primary up almost a month. It had been set for March 4. ...

If all pending legislation passes, close to 40 states will hold their 2008 primaries by the end of February, which is early compared to past presidential primary years, she said. In the 2000 presidential primaries, most were held in March, she said. -- Georgia joins mega-Tuesday primary

May 21, 2007

Florida: state moves primary earlier than the Democratic "window"

AP reports: Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill Monday moving Florida's 2008 presidential primary to Jan. 29 and shaking up the race by bypassing a dozen other states set for Feb. 5.

The move puts Florida's primary, which had been scheduled for March, behind only the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the New Hampshire primary and on the same day as South Carolina's Democratic primary.

Florida has by far the largest population of any of the early voting states set for January and is the most expensive in which to campaign, giving well-funded candidates an even greater advantage and possibly drawing attention away from the smaller states. ...

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Stacie Paxton said the state would lose 50 percent of its delegates and all its superdelegates -- typically members of Congress. Any candidate who campaigns in Florida for a primary earlier than Feb. 5 will be ineligible for receiving any of the state's delegates, Paxton said.

She added that the DNC hoped to work out a separate plan with the state party, such as a caucus. -- Florida shakes up early presidential voting -

April 6, 2007

Alabama: House votes to stick with 5 Feb. primary ... sort of

AP reports: The Alabama House on Thursday passed a bill that will allow Alabama's early presidential primary to remain on Feb. 5, 2008, but let residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties to vote almost a week early to avoid conflict with the Mardi Gras holiday.

The Legislature voted last year to move the state's presidential preference primary from June to Feb. 5 to make the state more of a player in the selection of the Republican and Democratic candidates for president. But the change created a conflict since that Feb. 5 is also Fat Tuesday, the final day of Mardi Gras and a state holiday in Mobile and Baldwin counties. ...

The bill to make provisions for Mardi Gras, sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, and House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, passed the House on a 90-7 vote after Guin fought off several amendments that would have changed the date away from Feb. 5.

The bill now goes to the Senate for debate. It would cause most residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties to go to the polls on Wednesday, Jan. 30, and the results would be sealed until Feb. 5. One polling place would be open in each county for voters wishing to go to the polls on election day. The bill would also allow any voter in the two counties to cast an absentee ballot. -- House votes to keep primary on Feb. 5

March 21, 2007

New York: State Senate votes to join the National Primary

AP reports: New York's Republican-led Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday to move the state's 2008 presidential primary from March 4 to Feb. 5, where it would join California and a host of other states for Super Tuesday.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly was expected to approve the measure later Wednesday, and Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer indicated he would sign it into law.

The February date was sought by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and was supported by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. The two lead national polls in the race for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations, respectively. -- N.Y. Lawmakers Endorse Super Tuesday

March 19, 2007

"So you think you know politics" -- National Primary edition

Walter Shapiro writes in Back when baseball was indeed the national pastime, the Saturday Evening Post (a major weekly magazine from the era when reading words on paper was also a national pastime) boasted a feature called "So You Think You Know Baseball." By challenging readers to guess the rules governing wacky three-men-on-third-base plays, it underscored the complexities of a game that all red-blooded Americans assumed they understood.

These days, we are in a similar situation with presidential politics. Almost daily a news organization releases a new 2008 poll -- and often it contradicts the prior one. The press also breathlessly chronicles the campaign-finance wars and the horse-race ratings. But the clichés that govern cocktail-party chatter about the presidential race can often be questionable, misleading or even flat-out wrong. So, in the bygone spirit of the Saturday Evening Post, we are beginning an occasional campaign feature dubbed "So You Think You Know Politics." -- So you think you know politics |

March 15, 2007

California: the big state joins the February National Primary

The Los Angeles Times reports: California today joined the national scramble to choose presidential nominees far earlier, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation to advance the state's presidential primary election to Feb. 5. ...

The move has already sent ripples across the country, pushing other states toward earlier primaries and rocking campaign strategies. But experts are not predicting what effects a de facto national primary election on Feb. 5 will have on the traditional proving grounds of New Hampshire and Iowa, or whom the upheaval will benefit. ...

The full impact of California's move will not be clear for several months. It will take at least that long for the two major political parties to set their nominating calendars, and campaign strategists cannot make final decisions about money or staffing until then.

Only New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada will vote before California, but eight other states are tentatively scheduled to vote Feb. 5. And more than a dozen states -- including Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Texas and Florida -- are eyeing the same date, for fear of being shut out of the campaign action if they hold their elections later. -- Calif.'s presidential primary set for February - Los Angeles Times

March 14, 2007

“The Presidential Primary System’s Democracy Problems”

The Century Foundation says in a press release: As states clamber to move up the dates of their presidential primaries, politicians and political parties are scrambling to rethink their campaign strategies. Much of the news coverage of this issue has focused on the impact of those changes on particular candidates. However, in a new issue brief from The Century Foundation, Democracy Fellow Tova Andrea Wang warns that more attention needs to be paid to the impact of a changed primary schedule on voters and on the democratic process. She argues that, while the news about frontloading the primaries may not be all bad, the voting rights and civil rights communities need to make sure that any changes to the primary system enhance the democratic process by serving the rights of the voters.

In “The Presidential Primary System’s Democracy Problems,” Wang examines the current primary system as well as two widely discussed alternative primary plans: a proposal from the National Association of Secretaries of State, which recommends regional primaries with the order of the regions voting rotating each cycle, and a plan promoted by the Center for Voting and Democracy, called the America Plan, which features a schedule consisting of ten intervals, during which randomly selected states may hold their primaries. This plan would require that smaller states hold primaries in the earlier rounds. --

March 12, 2007

The National Primary has campaigns scrambling

Adam Nagourney begins his reports in the New York Times with a mixed metaphor:
The trickle of states moving their 2008 presidential primaries to Feb. 5 has turned into an avalanche, forcing all the presidential campaigns to reconsider every aspect of their nominating strategy — where to compete, how to spend money, when to start television advertising — as they gird for the prospect of a 20-state national Primary Day.

In the last two weeks, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, dispatched the director of his political action committee to run his primary campaign in California, where a bill to move the primary to Feb. 5 is on the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat, announced that he had won the endorsement of Richard J. Codey, a former acting governor of New Jersey, testimony to the state’s new status as it readies to shift its primary to Feb. 5 from June.

Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, held a rally the other day in Texas, and aides to Rudolph W. Giuliani, the New York Republican, said staff members would be sent to California, Florida and Missouri, as both candidates prepare for expected Feb. 5 primaries in those states. ...

For the most part, the candidates and their aides cannot quite figure out what all this turmoil means for them. The changes, which are shaping up to be the most substantial alteration ever to a campaign calendar in a single election cycle, have heightened the volatility of the most wide-open presidential race in 50 years, one with large and well-financed fields of contenders. -- Early Primary Rush Upends ’08 Campaign Plans - New York Times

February 27, 2007

New Jersey: NJ about to push toward the front of the primary bus

The New York Times reports: With a June primary that had become all but irrelevant, New Jersey would be romanced by presidential aspirants for its money — but rarely for its voters.

So under a measure approved unanimously on Monday by an Assembly committee, the state’s presidential primary would be held on the first Tuesday in February — or Feb. 5 next year.

The measure, which has been passed by the Senate and has received the blessing of Gov. Jon S. Corzine, would link the state with a round of early primaries in five other states. Next, the measure will be voted on by the full Assembly. Twelve other states are also considering holding primaries on the same day. ...

Last year lawmakers approved moving the primary from June to the last Tuesday in February, but the Democratic National Committee changed its primary schedule, forcing New Jersey to take another cut at it. -- New Jersey Moves to Join Early Presidential Primaries - New York Times

February 15, 2007

Alabama: move the presidential primary because of Mardi Gras?

The Birmingham News and have stories on Alabama's presidential primary date. First the Birmingham News: Tentative plans to move Alabama's party primaries to Feb. 2 next year are being reconsidered in light of national party rules discouraging most states from setting them earlier than Feb. 5. ...

The Alabama Legislature had settled on a Feb. 5 primary - a full four months earlier than during the 2004 elections - to try to make the state more relevant in picking the nominees for president. But Feb. 5 started to look unattractive because of the conflict with Mardi Gras and the rush of other states to pick the same date, so party leaders in Alabama recently decided Feb. 2 was a better option. They planned to make the change when the Alabama Legislature went into session in March.

But the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee have rules against most states holding their nominating contests earlier than Feb. 5. To discourage it, the national party organizations say states could lose a portion of their delegate seats at the national nominating conventions, and Democrats additionally could sanction candidates who campaign in states that break the timing rule. -- Plan for early voting may not work

CQPolitics reports: Alabama officials are considering a measure that would move the state’s 2008 presidential primary from its currently scheduled date of Tuesday, Feb. 5 to Saturday, Feb. 2.

This move, if executed, could give the state some stand-alone prominence in the wide-open contests for the major parties’ presidential nominations. But it also would run afoul of the rules set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee, which bar most states from holding nominating contests before Feb. 5.

Those rules already face a potentially serious challenge from Florida, the nation’s fourth-most populous state, where lawmakers in that state appear poised to enact a measure that would move its primary up before Feb. 5 — even in the face of possible penalties, including the loss of delegates to the national parties’ conventions in late summer 2008. Alabama could face similar sanctions if it opts for the Feb. 2 date.

The exact language of the Florida proposal would peg its primary for one week after the traditional first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary or for the first Tuesday in February, whichever comes first. The likely effect is that the Florida contest would be slotted for Jan. 29; although New Hampshire officials haven’t yet set their primary date, they are expected to choose Jan. 22, the earliest date allowed to it by DNC rules. -- Alabama Could Turn Primary Front-Loading Into a Crimson Tide

February 7, 2007

Spending much and getting started early

The Washington Post reports: Starting as early as last June, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was hiring staffers and consultants in New Hampshire and Iowa and building the foundation for his 2008 presidential bid at a time when those in early battleground states typically get a breather from national politics.

Campaign filings released last week show that he spent more than $375,000 on staffing and consulting, getting an early jump in those states. One campaign cycle earlier, a single candidate -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) -- had started hiring in-state advisers at that point, and by the end of 2002 he had spent only $4,200 paying those aides. ...

To understand the impulses behind this fundraising race, look no further than activity in a cluster of early caucus and primary states. Democrats competing for their party's nomination will face a rapid-fire succession of contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina in January. Republicans will compete in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan. A number of states -- including behemoths such as California and Florida -- are seeking to move up their primaries to early February. ...

To compete in those states, candidates are already confronting a daunting array of new expenses and demands that is creating a presidential sticker shock. -- In Campaign 2008, Candidates Starting Earlier, Spending More -

December 13, 2006

Alabama: Democrats will probably stick with earlier primary

The AP reports: Alabama Democrats aren't likely to go along with a proposal at the Democratic National Committee that would give extra convention delegates to states that move back their presidential primaries, the state party chairman said.

At the urging of the state Democratic and Republican parties, the Legislature has moved up Alabama's presidential primary in 2008 from June 3 to Feb. 5. The Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee has given preliminary approval to a plan that would award additional convention delegates to states that don't move up their primary as Alabama did or that move back their primary after moving it up..

State Chairman Joe Turnham said getting extra convention delegates "pales in comparison" to letting the people have a choice in the primary.

When Alabama's presidential primary was in June, the nominations for both parties were wrapped up before Alabamians went to the polls, and candidates largely ignored the state. Since the Legislature moved up Alabama's primary, several potential candidates from both parties have visited the state. -- Alabama not likely to swap primary date for delegates