Schedule Subject to Change
03-24-2009
Believe it or not, it is presidential primary commission time again. The Democratic National Committee’s new chairman, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, announced the formation of a 37-member commission yesterday to examine various aspects of the party's presidential selection process. New Hampshire will be represented on the commission by former state party chair Ned Helms. Although the commission is tasked with addressing several issues for 2012, including a reexamination of the calendar window for holding primaries and caucuses, there is no explicit mention at this point of the thorny issue of contest order.
 
Pitched battles over the primary schedule are cyclical, and while they never completely go away, they don’t necessarily hit with the same intensity every four years. Given that Democrats will be running with an incumbent president in four years, who will exert a tremendous influence on the behavior of all interested players, it is entirely possible we won’t see the same remarkable contentiousness the party experienced with its schedule in 2008. But individual states will inevitably pursue their own political and economic self-interest to the extent possible, so there could certainly be some scheduling dust-ups along the way.
 
One lesson both parties should take away from the 2008 scheduling experience is that there are real limitations to the benefits accrued by moving a state primary or caucus forward. Frontloading a contest will yield few of the traditionally coveted benefits (exposure, money, king-maker status, etc.) if an early date means a state is but one of 10 or 20 states holding contests on the same day. In fact, the last cycle showed us that with a competitive field of candidates (as could be true for the GOP in 2012) later states can potentially have a significant impact on the primary campaign’s endgame, one which makes the candidates stronger for the general election, not weaker.  In the rush to be just like New Hampshire, other states may ultimately miss an opportunity to carve out their own unique electoral identity elsewhere in the process.

Comments:


Posted On: 03-26-2009 00:03:16 by Jim Splaine
And...as we know, there is no sense for either the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee to try to change the date, or dictate the date, of the New Hampshire First-In-The-Nation Presidential Primary. We have a state law, which I had something to do with dating back to 1975, that says that New Hampshire's Secretary of State MUST set our primary "...7 days or more..." ahead of any "similar election." He has no choice, and he can't negotiate our date with anyone. He has to follow state law. And try as they do, no other state, and the national parties, haven't figured out a way to successfully challenge our primary. We pay for our primary so we can set the date for whenever we want to have it, as shown time and time again.


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