California Moves Primary Date To March 3rd

California is set up throw a huge curve ball into the 2020 Presidential nomination fight.

Thanks to a new law signed by Governor Jerry Brown in his  final days in office, California is poised to shake up the Presidential nomination process significantly in 2020:

The nation’s biggest and second-most-diverse state has long complained about being effectively shut out of the presidential nominating process because its primary usually comes months after the initial four contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill moving the state’s primary up to the earliest date permissible.

California is slated to vote on March 3, the first day allowed for a state that’s not in the traditional early state lineup. And because of California’s early-voting system, voters will get primary ballots starting 30 days before the primary, which coincides with the Iowa caucuses.

Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state and a Democrat, said there are already “a heck of a lot more calls for people who know California to join certain teams.”

Especially for Democrats, California is a fixture on presidential aspirants’ itineraries because of the trove of high-end donors there. But Padilla and other California politicos hope candidates now feel they must reach out to the state’s voters, too.

“The voters of California deserve a larger role in selecting the nominees of both parties,” Padilla said.

California won’t be the only state voting on March 3. It will join at least eight others — including another behemoth, Texas — on what’s known as Super Tuesday. It’s possible that more states will move their primary dates up to increase their clout, especially since California has jumped to the front of the pack.

The enormous amount of votes up for grabs that day, coupled with the astronomical price tag of competing in California, may end up increasing the importance of the early states — especially overwhelmingly white and rural Iowa and New Hampshire, which are least like California.

That’s because winners in those states are likely to receive heavy attention and, with that, donations that could fund a California operation. Once Super Tuesday is over, a huge percentage of Democrats will have voted, making it hard for candidates who aren’t in first to catch up.

“You win early or you go home,” said Josh Putnam, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington who tracks presidential primaries. The massive number of delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday “doesn’t mean it’ll settle things, but it’ll get us a measure of the way there,” he said.

Bob Shrum, a veteran of several Democratic presidential campaigns who is now director of the Center for the Political Future and the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said Iowa and New Hampshire will still be critical. “They winnow the field,” he said.

(…)

The California presidential primary is like 53 individual elections because it allocates delegates based not on statewide vote totals but the results in each of its congressional districts. Those stretch the equivalent of the distance from Maine to North Carolina, through teeming cities, empty rural areas and affluent suburbs.

But in the end, California voters are not that different from other ones, said Andrea Steele, a veteran California-based Democratic operative who runs Emerge, a group that helps female candidates run for office. She expects traditional issues like the economy and health care to dominate, along with growing Democratic concerns like climate change.

“I don’t think Californians are so different from people in Iowa and New Hampshire,” Steele said.

Traditionally, of course, California’s primary has been held in June and has had almost no significant impact on the outcome of the fight for either party’s nomination. Generally speaking, this has been either because one candidate or the other has had the nomination wrapped up long before the process gets to California or because the delegate count math is such that coming in first or second place in the Golden State hardly matters because it’s clear which candidate will go over the top on the day of the California primary. This law, though, would significantly change California’s role in the nomination process for both parties, something that will most directly impact Democrats in 2020 and which could constitute a problem for candidates who lack the resources to compete in large states like California and Texas, both of which would now be holding their primaries on the same day.

The other result of moving up the primary date in California could have is the fact that it means that early voting in the state will begin on the same date currently scheduled for the Iowa Caucuses. Because of this, campaigns will be required to focus resources not only on early primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina but also on California due to the fact that early voters are likely to be basing their decisions on what happens before people even begin voting in the early states. This will likely benefit candidates with large war chests given the fact that campaigning in California, on top of campaigning in the other early states, is not exactly an inexpensive undertaking. It also means that March 3rd, which was already being dubbed the “Super Tuesday” of 2020 will become an even more important day because of what California has done.

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    My first thought is, if I have the war chest and name recognition to play in California, why would I waste time in Iowa and New Hampshire? Kamala Harris take one giant step forward. If she could just get Beto signed up as her shadow Veep the whole thing will be over 24 hours after the results start coming in from LA, the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

    I am not yet a big Harris fan, so while I do think California should be allowed to punch at its own weight level (heavy) I don’t want a process that crowns Senator Harris from the get-go.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    One other very out-there unlikely thought about California. In 2020 Jerry Brown will be 82, which is damned old. But Biden will be 78, Bernie will be 79, Warren will be 71 and Trump will be 74. In that gerontocratic line-up, what’s the big deal between 82 and 78?

    Tell you one thing, if Jerry wanted it and he was 10 years younger he’d have it. He’s been a good governor.

  3. @Michael Reynolds:

    Candidates have tried to ignore Iowa and New Hampshire in the past. Presidents Giuliani and Rubio can attest to how well that works. Even with California coming up early in the calendar, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina are still going to be important states for candidates to pay attention to because the early momentum — and hence a good deal of the coverage and the cash — will go to the people who perform well there.

    Perhaps you’re right that moving California up early will benefit a candidate like Harris, I’m not sure. It’s also likely to benefit candidates who can raise a lot of money, meaning people like Biden.

    As for O’Rourke, we’ll see. I am somewhat skeptical about the idea that a candidate whose primary claim to fame is running for office in his home state and losing is anything but a flash in the pan. Beto may have peaked too early.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    I share your skepticism about Beto. But the man (and his team) know how to reframe an issue. Have you seen his video on the wall? Smart reframing and well-aimed at a younger demo.

    Giuliani bet on Florida. Florida is not to the GOP what California is to the Democrats, either in terms of numbers or in terms of emotional impact. NH and IA matter not even a little here, we are heartily sick of being led around by goobers and yahoos. In California it’s almost 2019; in Iowa it’s 1950. Moving us to the near-front means we can completely dismiss IA and NH from our considerations and I suspect we’ll do just that.

  5. Mister Bluster says:

    California is slated to vote on March 3, the first day allowed for a state that’s not in the traditional early state lineup.

    My State and Local Government class in college was a mere 50 years ago. 1968. The year Bobby Kennedy was assassinated soon after he had won Democratic Presidential Primaries in California and South Dakota.
    I do not recall if we even covered state primary election laws for candidates for federal office.
    How is it that March 3, (is) the first day allowed for a state that’s not in the traditional early state lineup?

  6. @Michael Reynolds:

    I’ve seen the video but like I said I think he may be peaking early.

    And actually, I think the analogy between Florida and California fits here. The issue is whether a campaign strategy of skipping the early states and concentrating on the big prize is a wise one. We don’t know the answer with respect to Calfornia because it’s never been tried before, but the Florida strategy that Giuliani and Rubio attempted (more Giuliani really, Rubio never really had much of a strategy as I pointed out at the time) has not worked.

  7. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Yes, but Jerry has made clear he doesn’t want it…

  8. Kathy says:

    Sincere question: why don’t all states simply have their primary or caucus or whatever the same day?

    2
    2
  9. al Ameda says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Tell you one thing, if Jerry wanted it and he was 10 years younger he’d have it. He’s been a good governor.

    My friends and I were talking about this a couple of days ago, I said that if Jerry was 60 and not 80 he’d win.

    He’s been a great governor this time around, primarily because he’s willing to say ‘no’ to his own party when the situation requires it. He’s pretty damned close to being an actual ‘independent’ or perhaps a ‘green Democrat.’

  10. al Ameda says:

    @Kathy:

    Sincere question: why don’t all states simply have their primary or caucus or whatever the same day?

    I’m not sure we really want that – these people need to be vetted. Can you imagine this thing being ‘settled’ by February or March, with 5 months to go before the conventions?

  11. @Mister Bluster:

    How is it that March 3, (is) the first day allowed for a state that’s not in the traditional early state lineup?

    This is part of the rules established by the Democratic National Committee. A state that violated these rules would most likely be “punished” by having the size of their convention delegation reduced.

  12. @al Ameda:

    Can you imagine this thing being ‘settled’ by February or March, with 5 months to go before the conventions?

    Given the fact that Democratic primaries allocate delegates on a proportional basis rather than winner take all, that’s unlikely.

    Also because the Democratic field is likely to be so large the odds of the race being completely decided by then is low. However, it’s likely that there will be a massive culling of candidates after March 3rd or so, though.

  13. @Kathy:

    I think a better solution would be to spread the primaries out with a system of regional primaries.

    I’ve described it before, but basically it would go this way:

    1. Divide the country up into four or five regional blocs made up of big and small states alike.
    2. Each state in a given region would have their primary (no caucuses) on the same day;
    3. Each regional primary would be scheduled for a Tuesday four to six weeks apart, beginning no earllier than the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February of a given election year; and,
    4. The order of which region goes first would change every four years, perhaps via a system where the region that went first in a given year being at the end of the list four years hence

  14. Mister Bluster says:

    @Doug Mataconis:..rules established by the Democratic National Committee.
    Thank you for the information.

  15. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    How is it that March 3, (is) the first day allowed for a state that’s not in the traditional early state lineup?

    It’s not a legal limitation, but the party bylaws for the nominating conventions punish states that hold primaries before a certain date by taking away almost all of their delegates.

  16. Scott says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Michael Reynolds: I always found the interesting thing about O’Rourke was that he simply stood in front of an audience and said what he stood for whether it was a liberal or conservative office. He went into deep, red rural Texas and just stated his beliefs and respectfully listened to the responses. He also never went after Cruz personally. It made him hard to attack. It was a non-traditional approach that I think resonated well with a population tired of the negativity. I know the campaign traditionalists say that negativity works but I certainly hope it has diminishing returns.

    It will be interesting to see how California shakes up the dynamics of the primary season. Personally, I always thought that some large states should get together and have a critical mass primary out in June/July timeframe so we don’t have to suffer for almost an entire year of politicking.

  17. Mister Bluster says:

    @Stormy Dragon:..party bylaws…
    My failing memory wants me to think that one of the major national parties (R?) had a dispute with a state party organization (FL?) during the 2016 delegate selection process for the 2016 National Convention.
    Something about elected state delegates not being seated at the National Convention since national party rules were not followed.
    I can’t Google up anything but that could be because it’s all just dust on my brain.

  18. Mister Bluster says:

    …diminishing returns.

    The returns from the 2016 Presidential election can not diminish fast enough.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Shouldn’t that be “yahoos and goobers” considering the order in which you listed the states one or two phrases back?

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @al Ameda: Or we could have one big national election 30 days before the first convention. Just sayin’…

    @Kathy: Doesn’t help, I know, but I ask the same question.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: I think if you google Obama + Clinton + Michigan + 2008, you might find what you are looking for.

  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Doug, I generally like your idea for dividing the states into zones, but rather than have a zone vote on the same day, I’d rather have a state from each zone vote on a particular day. In this arrangement no candidate has a geographic advantage and voters in each region have an opportunity to review the candidates as the field winnows.

  23. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Kathy:

    Sincere question: why don’t all states simply have their primary or caucus or whatever the same day?

    Because focusing in a single state allows relatively unknown candidates to have a chance of winning the nomination. It also forces a type of retail politics.

  24. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If Beto is as politically savvy as he appears, he won’t run, but will play a very public role in another candidate’s campaign as you suggest he might do with Kamala Harris. I think Jerry Brown won’t run either, as he will appropriately see that his time has past. But, with the March 3 California primary, Brown can be a kingmaker and I’d think he’d relish the role.

    I’m going to be watching who Brown and O’Rourke are associating themselves with as the field takes shape. That will tell us a lot.

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    large states like California and Texas, both of which would now be holding their primaries on the same day.

    Not e to self: Stay far away from Texas and California in January and February 2020. After 3/3 it should be possible to walk through a diner w/o tripping over a Republican or Democratic candidate for President.

    @Doug Mataconis: I like that idea.

  26. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    I think I remember that as well. As I recall, the RNC was worried that punishing Florida would hurt them in a swing state for the general election, but didn’t want to set a precedent by letting Florida get away with openly defying the rules. I forget what the ultimate outcome was.

  27. Kari Q says:

    This can only be a plus for Harris, given the ‘favorite daughter’ vote she’s likely to get. Media coverage is likely to downplay the importance if she wins, perhaps correctly. Conversely, she loses, her campaign will be over.

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    My friends from Iowa, even the politically involved ones, dread the lead up to the caucuses for this reason. I think you’ll be safe in California, though. It’s so large that I’ve literally never seen a candidate, even for statewide office. There are just too many people and too many places to go.

  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Scott F.:
    That is an excellent insight.

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kari Q:

    There are just too many people and too many places to go.

    Another reason to avoid California. Actually, I know California has many lonely and beautiful places and if I am lucky I will get to visit a few of them before I exit this vale of tears.

  30. Kathy says:

    @al Ameda:

    I’m not sure we really want that – these people need to be vetted. Can you imagine this thing being ‘settled’ by February or March, with 5 months to go before the conventions?

    So have all the primaries in June.

    The thing is it draws out the election a very long time. you pretty much have non-stop campaigns for a year and a half as it is.

    The other thing is that the piecemeal nature of the current process allows silly season candidates, like El Dennison, to perform better than they should. Even if el Cheeto is an outlier (and let’s hope that’s the case), often the fringe candidates can spoil the chances of more serious candidates.

  31. Tyrell says:

    @al Ameda: I was a supporter of Governor Brown when he ran for president in 1992. He had some novel ideas and seemed more middle class supportive then. He seemed to be a sensible candidate.
    Now he has literally gone off the rails with this “high speed train to nowhere”, which would have more stops than an elementary school bus on a Friday afternoon (“Frequent stops – every 10 feet!”): a project that is pushing a lot of people off their lands. And the “sanctuary” fiasco: the law abiding citizens are the ones who need the sanctuary.
    How much is gas out there now? I just filled up for $1.75/gal.
    Investors Daily “California’s Bullet Train to Fiscal Oblivion”
    (3/12/18)