You know who this helps, don’t you?
Could New Hampshire voters be choosing a 2012 GOP presidential nominee … in early December?
New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner raises the possibility in a memo that also puts pressure on Nevada to push back its GOP presidential caucuses from Jan. 14 to Jan. 17 or later.
If not, Gardner writes, “it leaves New Hampshire no choice but to consider December of this year.” He says the Granite State’s “realistic options” would be Dec. 6 or Dec. 13.
Gardiner doesn’t have much choice in the matter. By state law, he is required to preserve New Hampshire’s place in the primaries by ensuring that Granite State voters get to the polls at least seven days before any other state holds “a similar election.” Iowa’s January 3rd date doesn’t count, because they hold a caucus, not an election, but Nevada’s new date of January 14th means that Gardiner has to find a new slot for New Hampshire. Unfortunately, January 7th falls on a Saturday, and January 3rd apparently comes too close to New Years Day to ensure a decent turnout, mindful that people like to travel in the first week of January for the holidays.
Assuming that the January 3rd date won’t fly for Gardiner, that pushes the date back into December — and as he says, that would have to be early in the month. People will also be traveling on the 20th and 27th due to Christmas, leaving the 13th or the 6th as the only other viable dates. Presumably, Gardiner would choose the 13th, but New Hampshire will have another problem by moving it back into 2011, which is relevance. If they leave a full month’s gap between their primary and the Iowa caucuses, the impact of the outcome in New Hampshire will be all but forgotten. New Hampshire doesn’t have a large delegation to the convention, and the intervening holidays will put their primary out of people’s minds.
Of course, that might not be the case if Iowa decides that it can’t abide New Hampshire coming first in the cycle. If Gardiner moves the NH primary to December 6th, Iowa might decide to have their caucus on November 29th to stay first in the nation — and in order to keep their own contest relevant. That’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving this year, and if other states decide to move into early December in reaction to these moves, we could have primaries cascading backwards into Halloween … which has a certain sense of irony to it.
The overall effect, besides having a few small states annoy the ever-living hell out of the rest of the nation, would be to shorten the Republican primary cycle considerably. And frankly, that helps the current frontrunners more than anyone else, depriving second-tier candidates of the opportunity for a breakout moment. Mitt Romney would be poised to take full advantage of that; if undecided voters had to rush to a judgment, I’d bet that Romney would get the benefit of the doubt.
I’d guess that the long-term effects of this pointless maneuvering and self-importance would be to generate a huge wave of revulsion against Iowa, New Hampshire, and the rest of the early states for their game-playing and one-upsmanship. Having to work over the holidays in 2011 would be worth it if it forced the GOP to reform the primary process to eliminate preferred positions for any states, and to declare that no delegates selected before March 1st in any presidential cycle will be seated at all. Very obviously, the system we have isn’t working, and the state parties can’t be trusted to work together to come up with a responsible plan that allows for the best environment to select a nominee rather than the best path to self-aggrandizement.