Calendar Calisthenics
An item over the weekend reminds us that for some national politicos, it is already time to start tinkering with the schedule for the 2012 presidential primary cycle. In this case, it is the Democratic National Committee hoping to avoid a reprise of the chaos and rancor that characterized the scheduling process in 2008.
Three key questions come to mind immediately. First, if (as the reporting suggests) Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina maintain their early positions outside of the contest window, will there be any attempt to reshuffle the order, particularly between New Hampshire and Nevada? Second, will the DNC be able to move the entire cycle back (February 1st is mentioned), so that the early contests don’t all occur shortly after New Year's Day? Third, can the DNC come up with an attractive incentive scheme to reverse the frontloading trend and spread the primaries and caucuses back out of bit?
The idea of regional groupings (usually mentioned in conjunction with rotation) has been kicking around for some time now. It is typically pitched as a means of instilling greater fairness between the states, and as a way to get Iowa and New Hampshire out of the lead-off slots. This current DNC proposal, however, seems to suggest that the groupings would not affect the pre-window states.
I must say that I am generally skeptical of the national parties’ ability to incentivize state-level scheduling behavior in a coherent and sustained fashion. But perhaps all of the key players were sufficiently chastened by the last cycle’s conflict to act with greater cohesion the next time around. Having an incumbent president running for reelection may also stabilize the process, at least for Democrats.


Posted On: 12-08-2009 21:44:28 by Jim Splaine
Our First-In-The-Nation Presidential Primary is not going to be dependent on any schedule the national parties decide. Our primary date will be the same for Democrats and Republicans, and will be set by law -- a law I sponsored in 1975 and updated several times since (and I have another update that I'm proposing to further protect our primary for 2012). Since we pay for our primary, we can hold it whenever we wish, and our Secretary of State is REQUIRED to set our date "...7 days or more..." before any "...similar election..." He doesn't negotiate with the national parties, nor does he need anyone's permission in his date-setting process. My proposed update will include wording that will mandate that the Secretary of State also jump ahead of any other event, such as another caucus (by Nevada or whomever) other than Iowa. I think we're all set for 2012, 2016, 2020 and beyond, no matter what the national parties or other states do. Our law has protected us for almost 40 years, and will continue to do so.

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