I'm behind the curve here, like I've been all week, but the news out of the Democratic National Committee's meeting in St. Louis yesterday was a calendar that keeps Iowa first.
That's great in and of itself, but there's lots of interesting secondary points.
Here's the schedule as it stands:
Monday 2/6 Iowa caucusI remember being all set for January 14, 2008, and February 7, 2000, too. (2004 changed so many times that I can't even find the original original date anymore.)
Tuesday 2/14 New Hampshire primary
Saturday 2/18 Nevada caucus
Tuesday 2/28 South Carolina primary
Tuesday 3/6 probably everybody else
The biggest thing that protected Iowa is that we bet on the right candidate at the right time. If the Long March to the nomination had turned out the other way, President Hillary Clinton would likely have banned caucuses entirely and we'd be casting meaningless votes as a sidebar to our June primary. President John McCain (shudder), who rode a second consecutive Screw Iowa strategy and a fourth place caucus finish to the nomination, wouldn't have owed Iowa anything either.
(Speaking of which: remember Clinton's case that caucuses unfairly excluded shift workers and so on? And remember how we experimented this year with a Saturday afternoon caucus? Looks like we're back to that traditional Monday night.)
We have bipartisan date cooperation for now, which is good. I had a nightmare scenario in 2008 during the short time when the Iowa Dems and Republicans were talking about caucusing on different nights. Just one person going to two caucuses and holding a press conference to brag about "voting" (sic) twice would have burned us bad.
We also have bipartisan state cooperation, as somehow or other the Ds and Rs have jointly settled on Nevada and South Carolina as the two states to go second. When the Dems moved those two states up in 2006 for 2008, it was in large part to include states with significant Hispanic and black populations, respectively. What might have been: New Mexico really had a better case for itself than Nevada did, but with Bill Richardson running they were a non-starter.
The most important quite comes from this guy:
Michigan National Committee member Saul Anuzis also expressed appreciation for the new plan, but said he is hesitant to judge its merits before the DNC and each of the states lock in their primary election dates.Florida played too, but it was really Michigan that drove the absurd game of leapfrogging dates that pushed Iowa almost entirely out of the calendar year. Specifically, it was Michigan Democrats, led by Sen. Carl Levin, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and Rep. John Dingell. Their clout is reduced; Dingell has lost his Energy and Commerce chair and Granholm is term-limited out this year with the governorship likely to switch to the GOP. And Democratic action is irrelevant anyway as even Dennis Kucinich is already saying he won't offer a primary challenge to Obama.
“Assuming the Democrats not only accept but move to change dates state-by-state, I think most activists will appreciate the process better getting out of the holidays,” said Anuzis, who served as Michigan’s Republican Party chairman in 2008.
Florida Republicans, likely to lose the governorship to a Democrat and a Senate seat to their incumbent governor who quit the GOP to run as a freakin' independent, have bigger problems than playing leapfrog.
So Michigan Republicans are the ones to watch, and with Mitt Romney looking likely to run again and Michigan one of his many home states it'll be his interests that drive them.
The early states are a wash for Mitt and Iowa was bad to him despite powerful allies including the once and perhaps future governor. But even Branstad in Terrace Hill again - shudder - can't overcome the fact that the Vander Plaats wing of the party thinks the Mormon Church is a cult. Just like the Huckabee vs. Brownback battle for second of 2007, the 2011 Ames Straw Poll will settle who is the Jesus Republican candidate, and that person will beat Romney here.
The next two states, New Hampshire (another of his home states) and Nevada (next door to another other home state, Utah), are much friendlier turf. But South Carolina looks bad for Mitt again (McCain got really, realy lucky that the still-twitching corpse of Fred Thompson pulled votes away from Mike Huckabee).
There's a ten day gap between Nevada and South Carolina. Watch the open date: February 21. If someone leapfrogs to that date, that puts the ball in South Carolina's court. They've had Saturday primaries in the past, so look also at the 25th or even stepping on Nevada on the 18th.
My guess, or my hope, is that the leapfrogging will be less of a problem in `12 than it was in `08. Republicans are less process-obsessed than Democrats. They just penalized their leapfroggers 50 percent of the delegates and moved on. But for 2016, with a wide open Democratic nomination (YES, Hillary WILL again) all bets are off.