YouTube GOP success, several different ways

Eric Pfieffer from the Washington Times says, basically, that the Save the Debate coalition has won:

The majority of Republican presidential candidates are backing off their objections to participating in the unconventional YouTube debate.

Candidates’ reservations about the seriousness of the format, which features videotaped questions from voters, and the original September date are being resolved and the field is growing, said sources close to the campaigns and debate organizers. …

Initially, only two of the 10 declared Republican candidates agreed to participate: Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

The number is now at four and, the sources said, the full field could be announced as early as this week. The debate now likely will take place in November or December.

This last is a very important point. The date will now be in November or December, when people are actually paying attention to the race. Hopefully, the format can help us achieve a large number of younger viewers, like the Democrat debate achieved:

Monday’s CNN-YouTube debate brought in pretty good numbers, delivering the highest viewership for a debate among adults 18-34 in cable news history.

The GOP CNN/YouTube debate has been converted from an interesting idea and gimmick to, in all likelihood, one of the most important debates of the primary cycle. Also, with nearly 4 months of run-up to the debate, we can expect an enormous number of questions that will have to be sifted through. CNN might have to come up with some better ideas for how to do that.

Calendar still in flux: OH and MI

Just when you thought that the calendar was going to be stable, Ohio and Michigan start to screw it up.

In Ohio, legislation has been introduced by a Democratic State Senator to move the date to Jan. 29th, the same day as Florida. Stealing Florida’s special location would probably have a significant impact on the race. This is another state that Rudy Giuliani is ahead in.

In Michigan, according to sources on the ground, there are several ideas in play. At this point, the parties can pick their own date, so the GOP can change the date by a vote of a convention, executive committee, or central committee meeting. There are two options. First, the GOP can pick the 29th also. Alternatively, they could try something like the 25th. If they do the primary on a different day than the Democrats, one wonders what impact that would have on the electorate. If the GOP votes first, then the rules (effectively open primary) could have a significant impact on the results.

It is certainly looking like the big states are taking over.

Timeline of an immigration bill

Last week, after the seeming pause in the fight over the immigration bill, a number of people wrote that the delay in the immigration bill was either good or bad for John McCain. Now it seems likely that the immigration bill will pass the Senate, as Rep. Tom Cole indicated at the NRCC/Heritage blogger lunch. This issue will continue to have a profound impact on the GOP primary.

Let’s just be clear about the timeline, assuming that the bill passes:

  • The Senate votes this week or next.
  • The House writes a bill in July and holds floor debate in September, at the earliest. Pelosi has indicated, in CQ, that this may not start until September.
  • The bill goes to conference in September and either comes out in October (unlikely) or in 2008.
  • The final vote, and the President’s signature with a big ceremony, occurs in 2008. Question: will this occur before or after Feb. 5th? Note that Pelosi and Reid will get to make the timing decision.

The upshot is that the GOP candidates are going to get drilled on this through the primary season. It is clear what they would all like. After all, just one year ago, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Huckabee all expressed support for solutions to the Senate bill. Only John McCain and Sam Brownback have had the courage of their convictions. The GOP candidates want to rail against the bill and have it pass.Then they get their private policy preference and an issue.

But this means that the issue of "amnesty" will be live in the primary, but probably be off the table in the general. The general will probably focus on implementing border security.

Of course, the other option is that they go to conference and it never comes out, with Pelosi and Reid hoping for a Democratic President and more Democratic Senate. But Congress already has lower ratings than the GOP Congress, and they cannot afford a "do nothing" label being applied to them. And under the right circumstances, the GOP might just get the House back, and the Dems won’t get the bill they want.

West Virginia moves up

I don’t know how I missed this last week, but I thought it interesting. West Virginia wants to move up. According to The Hill, they will be picking most of their delegates at a Feb. 5th convention. And the timing during the day matters:

The West Virginia GOP could announce its pick for president by 2:30 p.m. Eastern time on Feb. 5, potentially giving that candidate a boost in states where polls close hours later.

I guess that they want to be in the cable shows as the votes are being cast in other states. Weird.

NH slaps IA

You have to love this headline from the Concord Monitor:

Frontloaded primary takes stuffing out of Iowa’s straw poll

And the lede:

So far, the New Hampshire primary doesn’t seem to be suffering from the front-loading of the presidential nominating calendar. For some candidates, the New Hampshire events may be bigger than normal. But they’re still coming, and voters are still turning out to see them.

Is the same true in Iowa? News that Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Rudy Giuliani were skipping an Iowa straw poll – conceding the event to Mitt Romney – made headlines last week. And last month, the New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff had considered whether Clinton should stop competing in Iowa (they ultimately rejected that plan).

In other words, according to the monitor, NH is important. Iowa isn’t. I am not sure I agree, but … this a news story. What boosterism!

SC and Florida calendar dance

The Washington Times has a good story about why this calendar is still in flux. First Florida moves up. Now the South Carolina GOP is talking about moving up:

"We have the latitude as a party of setting our own primary dates and we are going to move our primary accordingly before January 29 to ensure that we are the first in the South," South Carolina Republican Chairman Katon Dawson told The Washington Times yesterday.

"I’m not worrying about angering anyone else. Remember, this is a state that started the Civil War. We are not worried about offending any other state. We’re going to pick a date and let the chips fall where they may," Mr. Dawson said.

So what day?

Their decision trumps Florida’s attempt to hold its primary much earlier than all but four other states and likely will force New Hampshire to hold its primary a week or two earlier than its tentatively set date of Jan. 22

What’s the catch? That’s the day of New Hampshire. And ….

New Hampshire’s primary law does now allow any other primary to be within a week of its first-in-the-nation primary, and South Carolina’s move likely will force the state to hold its primary much earlier, Mr. Dawson said.

So New Hampshire moves up a week to the same day as Iowa. And Iowa moves up…

Does Florida’s advance foreground immigration?

ABC just wrote about the damage that Mitt Romney’s pandering on immigration will do to him in Florida. It even quotes Jeb Bush as "disappointed" in Romney.

I think that this raises an interesting process point. There has been much talk about adding Nevada to the Democratic schedule having the impact of foregrounding Hispanics and service workers unions. And I have written about the timing and composition of the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary highlight social conservatives and guns as issues, respectively.

Does a similar argument apply to Florida? Does Florida’s location, as the gateway to Feb. 5th, highlight certain issues?

Still, Florida Republicans — with their relatively high proportion of Hispanics — are more inclined than Republicans in other states to support a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to achieve citizenship, said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

(Isn’t Diaz-Balart a McCain supporter?) Does the location of Florida in the calendar make it harder for anti-immigration candidates to succeed? Will it force the GOP to be more Hispanic friendly?

Early voting impact on the calendar

The WSJ’s Chris Cooper makes a good point about early voting and its impact on the calendar:

But even before the official votes kick off in Iowa on Jan. 14, large numbers of voters around the country already will have cast their ballots, as major states encourage voting far in advance of election day.

Florida’s primary is now scheduled for Jan. 29, and about 20 states, including California, have moved theirs up to Feb. 5. Many of them also allow early voting weeks before their official balloting dates.

This early voting could dilute the traditional role played by Iowa and New Hampshire in providing early momentum for candidates — or dooming campaigns to failure.

However, if Iowa and New Hampshire are in December, which would not surprise me, the impact will be limited. In fact, it might provide a reason for South Carolina to move up, to increase its impact, which would further accelerate the movement by IA and NH.

Rudy and winner-take-all primaries

Marc Ambinder has a great article on the New Jersey delegate selection process. The idea is pretty simple. There is a push to make New Jersey’s primary "winner-take-all," meaning that the candidate with the plurality gets all 52 delegates.

The point is that other states may go this route. Utah good assign its 19 delegetes overnight to Mitt Romney doing the same thing. Perhaps New York with its 70 or 80 could too?

One interesting leading indicator of performance might be states making decisions to go winner-take-all or proportional. If state party leadership doesn’t like their likely winner, they take away delegates by going to proportional. If they do like the likely winner, they give them delegates with winner-take-all.

This puts another spin on Rich Lowry’s recent statement on Rudy regarding Rudy’s strategy for handling abortion and social conservatives:

It seems to me—unless the changing primary schedules have utterly scrambled the typical dynamic of the Republican primaries—that this is a foolish strategic choice.

This is precisely the sort of change, and not just in the calendar, that could change dynamic. Especially with a large number of credible candidates, this is also how you get into a brokered convention.

Minneapolis could be a lot of fun, and I’m not referring to the parties.