Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Wrong Friday Headline

Unless you're covering a high school sporting event, 9:35 on a Friday night is pretty much the Siberia of the news cycle. It was at that odd moment that Steve King decided to drop Da Bomb that he was not running for the U.S. Senate.

The casual news observer, or a national reporter at a distance, might think that was the big story of the greater extended weekend. But not really.

Every apparatchik of both parties had already come to the conclusion that King, despite a lot of posturing, was not going to make the move. Bruce Braley was well aware and moving ahead accordingly. The third tier contenders (Ernst, Roberts, Whitaker) knew it and started making conditional announcements. I'll run "if King doesn't," wink wink say no more. Bill Northey knew it Thursday when he made his decision not to run, much more newsworthy and significant because there was an actual chance he might have.

But Steve King's not dumb. He's not even crazy. Extreme, sure, but very calculated. He accepts state wide unelectability in exchange for district-level invulnerability. Democrats threw everything we had at him last year and still came up short, and post-Christie Vilsack we're looking at another Some Dude to put his name on the ballot and pull a third of the vote.

King knows he can hold the house seat through this district cycle and probably longer, and that he can exit to talk radio or Fox News whenever he wants. Why throw that away for a very tough fight?

The A list of candidates started and ended with King. Most of the B list, Latham and Northey and Reynolds, have already non-announced, leaving Matt Schultz the lone statewide office holder in the mix. The Republican bloggers - Hall and Vander Hart - know their own party's internal dynamics better than I do, so let them handicap Schultz and the C list.

Instead, I'm going to talk about the MOST important Iowa-related political news on Friday.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio persuaded state lawmakers to make a last-minute change eliminating Florida’s early presidential primary – a race in which the Republican could be on the ballot.

Rubio’s main concern was shared by lawmakers and operatives from both parties: Ensuring that Florida’s 2016 primary vote counts. The measure, barely discussed, was tucked in an election-reform bill that passed the Legislature by wide margins Friday.

New penalties by the Republican National Committee made the early primary too prohibitive for Republicans, who control the Legislature.

On Friday afternoon, Reid suggested changing the election law to ensure the primary vote jibes with party rules, effectively setting the date in early March of 2016.
For the last two presidential campaign cycles, Iowa and our unreliable ally New Hampshire have been fighting two mega-states, Florida and Michigan, for our traditional spot at the front of the presidential nominating calendar.

We still need to battle Michigan. Their stance has never been as much pro-Michigan as it's been anti-Iowa/New Hampshire. And Arizona also helped mess things up in 2012. But Florida was always about Florida, about getting themselves a seat at the table.

Calendar expert Josh Putnam says this probably puts Florida on March 1, 2016. "The big winners in (Friday's) maneuvering in Tallahassee were the national parties and the carve-out states;" (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina),  "especially South Carolina, which has had to push forward the last two cycles because of Florida to maintain its first in the South status."

If everyone else goes along, a HUGE if in nomination calendar politics, we could see ourselves caucusing - and with open races in both parties it'll probably surpass 2008 - as late as Groundhog Day 2016, a full month later than `08 and `12.

A whole extra month of campaigning will magnify Iowa's influence. An actual break over Christmas will recharge candidates and caucus goers, who won't have to leap straight from holiday mode to caucus end game. In college counties like my own, the students will be back, increasing the involvement of young people. All of this is a bigger deal than a campaign that was never going to happen.

And a more important Iowa means strengthened organizations on both sides. Rand Paul is in Des Moines Friday and Johnson County Saturday, raising party funds. It's already here, folks.

Steve King's un-announcement was interesting, and was a necessary precondition for the Senate race to get started in earnest. But it was both predictable and predicted. The sudden move to rational scheduling by Florida was both less predictable and in the long range more significant.

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