It seems like just yesterday that we completed another election cycle-and less than six months ago we did elect a new Congress-and now the discussion is beginning to turn to the 2012 Presidential Election and its potential schedule of primaries and caucuses. There has been no small argument about when these primaries and caucuses should take place. The Republican National Committee passed a set of rules to try and prevent “frontloading,” or extremely early primaries. In 2008, both polls and party activists-including this writer-complained that we were given an election season that began even before the New Year, and some of us called that rediculous. Many early potential caucus and primary-goers just stayed at the house. Those of us who are used to political fights wondered if we’d ever get a break.
Well, despite new GOP rules that were originally designed to insure that the entire nominating process wouldn’t begin until February of next year, because a few States (the biggest of which seems to be Florida) are trying to jockey their nominating and delegate-allocation contests in such a way that if they do not beat Iowa and New Hampshire to the polls, they’ll come right after the two first-in-the-nation contests, Iowa and New Hampshire are both talking about the possibility of earlier-than-planned contests. We have to presume that the earlier dates are going to prevail based on previous historical patterns. If that proves to be the reality, the Iowa Republican Caucuses would likely be held on Monday, January 16th, with the New Hampshire Primary being held eight days later on Tuesday, January 24th. The Saturday following New Hampshire, on the 28th, Nevada will hold their Caucuses and the South Carolina Primary could also be held that day.
If the current situation plays out as some expect, that would put Tennessee voting on Tuesday, February 7th-the day that is currently being slated as “Super Tuesday” on the primary calendar. A mid-January start to primary and caucus voting (and early voting in Tennessee) wouldn’t be so unbearable and would be something closer to what most political people might consider “normal.” Febraury 7th as the date for Super Tuesday is actually a good date for Tennesseans to go to the polls, and gives us plenty of time to digest what the candidates are saying after we have digested Christmas dinner. All of that presumes, however, that if Iowa and New Hampshire move their caucus and primary dates to mid-January that Florida won’t try to steal Christmas by moving its primary to an even earlier date, forcing Iowa and New Hampshire to uphold convention by moving even further back. This isn’t about one-upmanship, this is a serious matter of nominating a candidate for President of the United States. It will be no time to play childish games about who gets to play with the toy first. Iowa and New Hampshire first-that’s the tradition-Americans and Tennesseans would prefer a Christmas free of political haggling.