Monday, July 11, 2011

Caucus Date Leapfrog Less Intense But Still A Factor

Leapfrog Less Intense But Still A Factor

The Iowa caucuses are Monday, February 6. Really, swear to God, officially: Monday, February 6.

Of course, for several cycles in a row Iowa has announced dates only to move them later, as other states try to cut into a line that's been very carefully arranged by the national parties. The battle seems less intense this time, but one of the 2008 culprits is at it again.

Last cycle, the pushing and shoving that landed Iowa's caususes on the insanely early date of January 3 was led by the Michigan Democrats and the Florida Republicans.

Michigan's insistence on an early date was always less driven by their own desire for an early date than it was by the hatred of leading Michigan Democrats (Senator Carl Levin, Congressman John Dingell, and his wife DNC member Debbie Dingell) for Iowa and New Hampshire's early role. We don't care who's first, as long is it's NOT Iowa. With the Democratic monination lookig uncontested, and Republicans now in full control of Michigan government, Michigan has settled down, for now.

But the Florida GOP is still at it, though less intensely than in 2008. They've agreed to recognize the national quartet of early states selected by both parties: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. But their slogan is "We want to be fifth."

Politico reports that Florida, in the post-shuttle era, is trying to launch during a very narrow window. They'll accept a slot after South Carolina, currently scheduled for February 28, but before √úberdienstag, which for now looks to be Tuesday, March 6.

This means a non-traditional, non-Tuesday election:
"If we do it on that Thursday (March 1) or that Saturday (March 3), that would show respect for the RNC rules and those first four historic or semi-historic early states and also ... allow us to go before other states because Florida is that important,'' said Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, hopeful that the RNC will cut Florida some slack.

Don't count on it, says the RNC.
The Republican penalty for breaking the calendar rules is half the delegates, a tradeoff Florida and Michigan gladly made in 2008. Indeed, Florida was the final Republican contest of significance in 2008, where Rudy Giuliani bet it all and fizzled, leaving John McCain to take the nomination by default. (The Democratic penalty was Officially 100 percent, but in the end was ignored. Yeah, I'm still pissed.)

So the ball is in the court of the South Carolina GOP -- entirely, because they re paying for and conducting the primary themselves. Will they be satisfied with going two or four days before Florida, or will they move back? They had a Saturday contest in 2008. Saturday the 25th is a possibility, and Nevada (now at 2/28) might be OK with that. This would leave New Hampshire on Valentine's Day and us on February 6.

Of course, all that's a best case scenario that assumes no one else wants to cut in line. It's a political version of the Tragedy of the Commons. Everyone agrees that obscene front loading is bad for everyone, but it's not in the best interest of any one state to hold back.

In any case, Iowa Democrats are likely to be bystanders in all this. Separate caucus nights would be a disaster for the state. If just one person goes to both party caucuses and has a press conference to brag about it, BAM, we're voting in the June primary. So Dems are likely to follow the Republican lead.

While I'm at it, does Michigan J. Frog's friend look familiar to anyone?

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