The primary calendar keeps getting pushed more into January. As you know, both South Carolina and Florida announced last week that their respective primaries would be moved earlier in the year to January 21st and January 31st. Not to be outdone, the Nevada GOP yesterday moved its caucus to January 14th:
The Nevada Republican Party announced Wednesday that it will hold its presidential caucus on Jan. 14, likely pushing the first votes of the 2012 election cycle into 2011.
“I’m extremely pleased to finally have a firm date for a caucus that will greatly improve Nevada’s standing and relevance in terms of national politics,” Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian said. “By establishing this date, we maintain Nevada’s standing as one of the first four ‘carve-out’ states and as the very first in the west.”
This move is very likely to bring us a scenario where we’ll see the first votes cast for the Republican nomination in December:
With Nevada’s decision to hold its caucuses on Jan. 14, it’s possible that the presidential primary season could begin immediately after Christmas — with New Hampshire settling on Jan. 7, and Iowa going either Dec. 28 or 29. If that happens, it could be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back on Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s dominance of the primary calendar.
Over at The Atlantic, Molly Ball explains that with primaries and caucuses being so frontloaded — five in the first month of the year — that it may not allow a candidate that wins all or most of those states to gain any real momentum since February will bring a lull in the race:
The effect on the race for the Republican nomination could be major. It means that even if one candidate accomplishes a clean sweep of the early states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and now Florida — that will be followed not by a flood of simultaneous primaries that seal the nomination, but rather a momentum-killing dead zone that gives challengers time to rearm.
Assuming those five states have all voted by Jan. 31, they’ll be followed by a February that’s virtually devoid of primaries.
There are caucuses in Colorado, Maine and Minnesota on Feb. 7 — and then nothing until Feb. 28, when Arizona and Michigan are scheduled to hold primaries. Super Tuesday, when 12 states are scheduled to vote, isn’t until March 6.
“I think the ‘Florida will prove decisive’ angle is being overplayed in the wake of their move last week,” said Josh Putnam, a Davidson College professor who closely tracks primary calendar developments on his Frontloading HQ blog.
“Florida won’t be the contest to propel a candidate or the race into Super Tuesday. It will send the contest into a relatively barren February,” Putnam said. By contrast, within a week of 2008’s late-January Florida primary, more than 20 states had held primaries.
That’s bad news for Mitt Romney, who hopes to pull away after what may be a successful January, and whoever winds up being the “Flavor of the Month” in the conservative movement. The gap may provide an excuse for Bachmann or Cain, who have both seen momentum shifts during their candidacies, to stick around until Super Tuesday (March 6th) as they may want to “see what happens” in the next round of primaries.
Yep, this race just gets more interesting by the day.