North Carolina state legislators are getting ready to make a move which could add a significant new wrinkle in the 2016 primary and send some candidates scurrying south in the near future. Traditionally, in the primary race, the Tar Heels don’t go until May when things are already starting to gel and they don’t get a lot of attention. That may change entirely if the state moves their primary election up to a very specific date in May. (From our friend Sister Toldjah at The Journal by IJReview)
In years past, if you were a Republican seeking the GOP presidential nomination, the state of North Carolina wasn’t too high on your list of states to target. The Tar Heel primary has traditionally been held in May, at which point there already was (usually) a presumptive nominee. And, at least until 2008, the state was regarded as safely red for the general election.
This year, however, the low priority of North Carolina for challengers for the Republican nomination looks to be changing, as state legislators are putting the finishing touches.
North Carolina could become a key state by setting its primary date to March 15. Legislation – known as House Bill 373, or the 2016 Presidential Primary bill – would do just that. Last week, the state Senate passed the bill and sent it back to the House for concurrence.
Under the new RNC rules, any state moving up to go between March 1st and March 14th has to divide their delegates proportionately. But on the 15th of the month the flood gates open up and states can go with winner take all rules as they have traditionally done. That rule is diluting the effect of the states going earlier than that and really driving the focus toward those who pick the 15th. (And there will be quite a few of them.) Whoever comes out of the 15th with a decent lead is going to have The Big Mo and will probably begin attracting a lot more of the money and, of course, the earned media attention.
So who needs a big day in North Carolina? It sounds like Scott Walker is already salivating in anticipation.
March is full of big primary states packed with delegates, but three of the biggest have hometown candidates that could take those states off the map: Ohio’s governor John Kasich just joined the race, Florida has Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, and Texas has Rick Perry and Ted Cruz all claiming support back home.
That leaves North Carolina as the biggest primary prize in March: 72 delegates will be at stake in a winner-take-all contest
With all of that mess taking place in a short period of time, Walker could use a victory. IJReview points out that Trump is currently in first place in North Carolina, but Walker, Bush and Huckabee are all bunched up in second place only a few points behind. If Walker invests some time there early he might be able to snag their 72 delegates and keep himself in the race, assuming he doesn’t manage to take any of the first three.
I wonder how many other states are looking at this? At some point maybe we can do away with all this nonsense and see all the states going on March 15th in a de facto national primary. But if they did, much of the fun in watching the drama play out would be lost.