We talked about this a few weeks ago when the measure was still being debated, but now it’s a done deal. Outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law which will move California’s 2020 presidential primary election up to March 3rd, the earliest date possible for anyone besides Iowa and New Hampshire. Due to the state’s already “generous” voting possibilities, that means that Californians will have the option of voting at the same time as the early states, raising questions of how and where candidates will spend both their time and money in the early going. (Associated Press)
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.”
Because of early voting rules, there will be people in California voting on February 2nd. That’s a day before the Iowa caucus. And once those votes are cast, it’s very difficult (if not impossible for some) to alter them. So it does indeed seem that some of the Democratic contenders will have to be thinking about campaigning in the Golden State instead of camping out in Iowa and New Hampshire. Not all of them will be able to afford it, however. California has one of the most expensive media markets in the country.
As I pointed out in the earlier article, however, this won’t change the momentum game all that much. Even if votes are being cast in California first, they won’t be counted and the results won’t be known until March 3rd. So the candidates with less funding may still get a leg up from the first “official” caucus and primary.
The other aspect of this story which is changing the electoral landscape is that we now have both California and Texas going on Super Tuesday, along with eight other states. In terms of the delegate count, that means that if someone manages to pull off a sweep, the race could basically be over before it’s fully begun. In 2016 you needed 2,382 delegates at the convention to win the Democratic nomination. California awarded 475 in 2016 and Texas was worth more than 250. Those two states alone get you roughly one third of the way to the magic number.
Assuming everyone else gets tired of being “shut out” of the process, we may be heading toward a situation where everyone goes to the primaries on March 3rd. Of course, then we wouldn’t all be plagued with primary advertisements all the way through the summer, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all? Personally, I’d still like to see both parties move to a series of rotating Super Tuesdays through the spring, with everyone getting a chance to go first every five or six cycles, but that’s clearly not going to happen.