The GOP 2012 primary schedule is gradually falling into place, as a disaster. Running the gamut from boos to jeers, the Republican Party in Florida moved up its primary to January 31, flouting its national party’s schedule supporting four important states for the primary season and fouling up the campaign schedule particularly for the early states:
“As for the four states given permission to hold their primaries in February, Iowa would not be penalized for moving it. Theirs is a non-binding caucus. But should New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina move to January, they will lose half their delegates. . .
Delegates are awarded proportional to the vote. There are no winner-take-all primaries before April 1.
“That means a candidate who might be able to get 28 delegates in Florida may think twice about campaigning here only to get 14 under the punishment,” said Dena DeCamp of Lakeland, a board of directors member for the Florida Republican Women’s Clubs.
“Florida is hosting the Republican National Convention. How embarrassing it is that we ignore the rules and wind up with half our delegates.””
Everybody and his brother has commented that this move means there will be campaigning over the Christmas holidays in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, a prospect that undoubtedly looks less dire from Florida. From any standpoint other than weather, though, the Florida move seems so simply destructive it’s tempting to wonder whether there is a motive to damage other states, candidates:
“When asked what the fallout of Florida’s move will be, CBS News political analyst John Dickerson said, “It messes everything up.”
“Florida is now going to be on the 31st of January. That means that New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada will all move up THEIR process, so now the whole thing starts earlier.
“That means for Chris Christie or Sarah Palin who might jump in the race, they have to get started even faster. It means they have such a short time period before those first contests,” Dickerson said on “The Early Show on Saturday Morning.””
The fallout has already begun for New Hampshire, which by law must set its primary at least seven days before any other:
“[New Hampshire Secretary of State] Gardner said following Florida’s decision that he is moving up the filing period for candidates to qualify for the New Hampshire contest “because we cannot rule out the possibility of conducting the primary before the end of this year.” Candidates will have to file paperwork Oct. 17-28 to be on New Hampshire’s ballot.”
Since New Hampshire is not changing its law, it now has to have its primary—in which undeclared voters can vote in either party’s contest–by Jan. 24. In 2008, the New Hampshire primary was held on Jan. 8, so this is not a first. (The significant problems with the vote tally in the 2008 New Hampshire primary went underreported.)
There’s more: Following the Florida announcement, Nevada promptly moved its caucuses up to January. The Nevada caucuses were previously set for February 18. They are now January TBA. New Hampshire is thus now waiting for the exact Nevada date so it can reschedule its own primary. Again, any candidate might be tempted to campaign in Nevada in December-January, rather than Iowa and New Hampshire, especially since Mitt Romney seems to have a formidable leg up in New Hampshire.
From any standpoint other than milder winter, the reshuffling looks like calamity. South Carolina, also waiting to announce its new primary date if any, has already expressed strong displeasure with neighboring sunshine state Florida.
Will we see some primaries jettisoned?
It might be noted that Arizona and Michigan had already announced that their primaries will take place on Feb. 28, also jockeying for earlier position. If New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina move to January and the party enforces its rules, every early state on the primary calendar will lose half its delegates to the national convention. Florida goes from 28 to 14; New Hampshire from 23 to 12 or 10; Nevada from to 14; South Carolina to 25(?), depending on how the rules are interpreted; Arizona and Michigan down from 59. The reduction would comprise 123 delegates, 39 of them in the South and/or 82 in the Sunbelt.
Seems like an odd way to enhance the importance of the South in the GOP election process. Understandable, of course, if the rationale is to get rid of specter-candidates Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, etc., further ridding the GOP of the embarrassing suggestion that its voters are still looking for–as they said in Tootsie–somebody else. (The ‘crowded Republican field,’ to use the dignified term, is starting to look like a snow paperweight: Shake the whole plastic sphere and stick with whichever flake settles upright. With few exceptions, they will all go the pro-corporate line anyway, like their counterparts now in Congress tasked with breaking the middle class.)
But the political consequences, whether intended or unintended, look at this point mostly a huge benefit to Mitt Romney. No more attention-getting last-minute candidates jumping in. A speeded-up, more front-loaded schedule, meaning that copious early money and longstanding organization gain even more advantage. That should mean an advantage in Michigan, already strong in some sectors for Romney, as well as in New Hampshire. Regardless of the much-hyped ‘Christian right’, Tea Partyers, and ‘rebellion’ in the ranks, the reorganization of the GOP primaries goes a long way to make Romney the inevitability guy.
This is not a prediction. With enough strident opposition, Romney could be derailed. The opposition, however, would have to come from the grass roots in public and from big money behind the scenes. The sight of unappealing candidates and para-candidates like Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann trying in their ham-handed way to swipe at Romney just makes him look better by comparison. It makes him look like a GOP candidate who at least does not flunk the one-look-from-across-a-crowded-room test. But the sight of slavering crowds not finding a ‘top-tier’ candidate ugly enough for their tastes, and successfully replacing him with someone more transparently unsavory, does not promise a joyous primary season.
Unfortunately, if Romney is not derailed and does become the out-and-out inevitable nominee in (or by) early 2012, the prospect for the year is also melancholy. The theoretical advantage to the GOP is that it could train all its opposition against the president and the Democrats, for most of a year. This strategy, though, would seem to entail getting even uglier than the Koch Brothers and their ilk have been up to now, with even more expensive and misleading television ads, and even more intransigence from Republicans in Congress. It’s hard to imagine all the money in the world making that look appealing.
By the way, the weekend talk shows have not picked up on the negatives in the new GOP primary calendar–typical for the double standard on the two major parties in political reporting. Dem political disarray gets touted; GOP flubs, or even near-collapse, tend to get underreported.
If any part of the objective in rearranging the GOP primary calendar was to keep out New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, it apparently worked. Reportedly Christie is about to announce that he will not run in 2012.