Wednesday, August 14, 2013

North Carolina Nudges Caucus Date

It's hardly the most important thing in North Carolina's new vote suppression law. And it's definitely not the biggest problem the Iowa Caucuses have had lately. We may well find ourselves voting in a June primary between Hillary and That Dude In Federal Prison Who Got 41% Against Obama In West Virginia. (Shout out to blogger/operative Shane Vander Hart, who goes where few other Iowa Republicans are going and calls for a Kent Sorenson resignation).

I feel a little bit "How will this affect me, Al Franken" bringing it up. But buried in the new North Carolina election bill, outlined very well here, is an effort to move the state earlier in the presidential primary process.

The new law ties the primary date to its neighbor South Carolina, which has established itself as First In The South and has been a critical state, especially on the Republican side, back to about 1980. Current protocol, agreed to by both parties, sets South Carolina as the fourth and last "early carveout" state, following Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.

Despite our recent problems, potential candidates (with one very notable exception) and the national political media are still proceeding on the premise that Iowa is first. Last weekend of course was Vander Plaalooza. And while Hillary has things frozen on our side, Amy Klobuchar is coming to the Wing Ding Friday, and Joe Biden is literally - LITERALLY! -speaking at the Harkin Steak Fry next month. (We need to keep the Steak Fry or something like it going post-retirement.)

So the caucuses are coming Soon. How soon? Josh Putnam at Frontloading HQ does a better job than anyone at tracking the maneuvering and scheduling. He's assembled a calendar for 2016.

It's extremely tentative, like the extended weather forecast or your flight departure time. Putnam's good but he's not Nate Silver good. He's got Iowa tentatively slotted in for the evening of Monday, January 18, 2016.

That's Martin Luther King Day. We caucused on MLK Day in 2004, and again in the off year cycle in 2006. There was some grouching from the African American and civil rights communities about having to choose between the caucuses and MLK events. The Democrats tried to paint a happy face on it with an approximate spin of: participating in the caucuses is a great way to honor Dr. King. Whole thing is kind of ironic when you remember that one of the raps against the caucuses is that Iowa is Too White.

Right now the Democratic higher-ups seem more concerned about landing on a Saturday instead. Again the nationals, armed with Stephen Bloom's notoriously anti-Iowa article from late 2011, will wonder why Too Christian Iowa is worried about the Jewish Sabbath. I doubt the Republicans are; most GOP events I've attended in the last few years include a prayer that's specifically "in Jesus' name."

Personally, I'd rather go on MLK Day or a Saturday than on the insanely early January 3 as we did in 2008 and 2012. I live in a college town and the students have been a non-factor those two cycles, scattered and unlikely to attend. But we rank and file activists really have little say in the power struggle to Stay First.

The Republican National Committee meets this weekend and will no doubt have an opinion on North Carolina. Not the vote suppression part, of course, but the primary calendar part will come up.

The most important things Iowa can do at this point are 1) denounce Sorenson loudly and firmly while making the case for what the caucuses really are and should be. Sue Dvorsky does this well here. 2) The Democrats and Republicans need to keep each other in the loop and keep their efforts and scheduling coordinated. Attn A.J. Spiker: First In The Nation is more important that How will this affect me, Rand Paul.

No comments: