Arizona Setting off Race to Front on Primaries

Governor Jan Brewer says Arizona will hold its primary February 28, per state law. This violates Republican primary rules and will almost certainly set off a chain reaction.

Governor Jan Brewer says Arizona will hold its primary February 28, per state law. This violates Republican primary rules and will almost certainly set off a chain reaction.

Arizona Republic (“Brewer keeps presidential primary on Feb. 28“):

Brewer had toyed with holding the Republican primary earlier but opted against it in part to avoid a domino effect in which other states pushed their contests into January. State statute specifies that Arizona hold its election on the fourth Tuesday of the month but gives the governor unilateral authority to set the election earlier.

Brewer had said moving the primary could thrust Arizona into the center of the national dialogue on key issues such as immigration and the economy. Instead, the governor has secured preliminary approval to host the leading GOP candidates in an officially sanctioned debate later this year. A date and place have not been set.

So, Brewer is actually being cooperative here. The problem is that the Republican Party has set up rules about the primary contest and Arizona is breaking them.

Des Moines Register (“Iowa GOP chair: Arizona’s defiance could cause Iowa to reschedule caucuses“):

 The Republican National Committee has designated four early voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Other states that hold a primary or caucus before March 6 will be penalized. States could lose half their delegates and guest passes to the 2012 national convention in Tampa.

South Carolina is now scheduled to hold its primary on Feb. 28, but it is unclear whether the Palmetto State is willing to share the date with Arizona.

It’s also unclear what actions the Republican National Committee may ultimately take against states that defy the March 6 rule or what date other states – like Florida – may ultimately set for their primaries or caucuses, Strawn noted.

Actually, it’s quite clear: States flouting the rules will be penalized by having their delegates awarded proportionately rather than in a winner-take-all format. That will significantly dilute the value of winning a primary and change the calculations about allocating campaign time. But the political fallout is predictable:

Arizona’s move today to defy Republican Party rules and set the state’s GOP presidential primary before March 6 could push Iowa to reschedule its first-in-the-nation caucuses, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn said this evening. ”It’s too early to assess the impact,” Strawn said. “The question remains whether that will force other states to move up and that would then bump us forward. We don’t know the answer to that yet.”

The Iowa caucuses are now scheduled for Feb. 6.

For no good reason, Iowa has long held the privileged position of going first and thus forcing candidates to spend more than a year campaigning in a tiny, unrepresentative state while barely paying attention to huge, diverse states later in the cycle. But the parties have gone along with this nonsense and crafted rules reinforcing it.

via Taegan Goddard

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Vast Variety says:

    I’m an Iowan so I’m significantly biased.

    It’s not nonsense. It’s been this way since 1972 and it forces the candidates to focus on a state and a region of the country that would be largely ignored as fly over country if all the candidates had to do is campaign in the big cities, which are mostly on the coasts. By forcing candidates into 1 small Midwest state you force them to campaign in small towns and really get face to face with people.

    Besides… we need the money. =P

  2. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    “For no good reason, Iowa has long held the privileged position of going first and thus forcing candidates to spend more than a year campaigning in a tiny, unrepresentative state while barely paying attention to huge, diverse states later in the cycle.”

    Arizona?????

    What???????????

  3. @Vast Variety:

    All due respect, but what it usually does is force the candidates to pander to special interests like Big Corn and the ethanol lobby.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: But Doug, that’s all we have.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ig’rant cracker: I’m not proposing making Arizona the substitute for Iowa–although it would be a much better choice. I’m saying this quadrennial fight over positioning is a natural byproduct of the Iowa-New Hampshire tradition.

  6. Vast Variety says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’ve heard very little from the Republican candidates so far in regards to Big Corn and the ethanol, which frankly I agree with eliminating the subsidies to them.

    From what I’ve seen so far is that most of them are pandering to social conservatives and groups like the Family Leader.

    What it really boils down to is… We need the money. =)

  7. Vast Variety says:

    I’d also like to point out that none of the candidates have really said anything of substantial value so far. None of them have offered any real plans for improving the economy and getting people back to work other than giving more tax breaks to the wealthy and the corporations who are all ready flush with cash.