Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Politico discusses how this continually fluctuating primary calendar can reveal tensions between the aims of national party leadership and those of state parties. The Democratic National Committee is considering what to do with states that push their primaries earlier (contrary to national party policy). It could ask candidates to boycott primary contests (as Clinton and Dole did not, according to this story, not campaign in Delaware in 1996) that violate the rules, but it might also consider more forceful measures:
The DNC could also strip the rogue states of 50 to 100 percent of their delegates to the nominating convention. The most likely option right now is to strip them of all delegates, at least two rules committee members told me.

“You are going to see big signs on the floor of the Democratic Convention that say ‘Florida’ and ‘Michigan’ and you are going to see rows of empty seats beneath them,” one DNC member warned.
But is this an empty threat?
However heated tempers are now, they will have cooled considerably by the time the convention rolls around in August of 2008. And the credentials committee for the convention, whose membership will be packed by the presumptive nominee, can overrule anything the rules committee decides now.

In the interest of party unity and because withholding delegates from a candidate who has already won the nomination would be meaningless, the delegates from Florida or any other rogue state would probably be seated.
Or not so empty?
One member of the rules committee told me, however, that in an extremely tight race, the missing Florida delegates, about 10 percent of what a candidate needs for the nomination, could make the difference, and stripping Florida of its delegates, therefore, could be a meaningful act.
Certainly, if both Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates, and the race were somewhat tight, this stripping could lead to some serious tension by the time the national convention rolls around. And this front-loaded campaign cycle might make a close primary result more likely (since fewer candidates will have dropped out by the time of the big primaries). The DNC hopes it can work out some compromise with Florida; it meets tomorrow morning.
And these tensions may not be confined to Democratic candidates, either. A quote from the chair of the Michigan Republican party encapsulates some of the tenor of the current conflict between state and national parties (e.a.):
On Tuesday evening, Michigan Republican party chair Saulius "Saul" Anuzis, told me: "On Wednesday the Michigan senate will pass a bill choosing Jan. 15 as the date for the primary. We understand that this violates the rules of both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee. We don't care."