Beltway Happenings
March 11, 2006--The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee considered the Report and Recommendations of the Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Schedule In its Dec. 10, 2005 report the Commission recommended a) changing the Democratic schedule by adding one or two caucuses after the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses and one or two primaries after the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary but before the Feb. 5, 2008 opening of the window and b) devising an incentive system of bonus delegates to encourage states to go later in the calendar.  The objective is to introduce some diversity in the early stages of the nominating process while respecting the retail experience provided by Iowa and New Hampshire.

The first part of this meeting was marked by considerable confusion.  At one point Committee member Elaine Kamarck asked, "Are we passing this without passing this?" and member Harold Ickes stated, "I am totally confused."  Don Fowler, concerned about the effect the proposed changes might have on 2006 gubernatorial races in Iowa and New Hampshire, decried a rush to judgment. 

In the above photo, during a recess, Committee co-chairs Alexis M. Herman and James Roosevelt Jr., Committee member Gary Shay (seated) and (standing L to R) Parliamentarian Helen T. McFadden, unidentified, member Don Fowler, member Alice Huffman, unidentified member, and Counsel Joe Sandler worked out acceptable language.  Members of the Committee voted to "accept the report of the Commission in principle as the framework for the 2008 delegate selection rules."  Thus they are not bound to any specific Commission recommendations but intend to follow the spirit of the report.  

Staff will develop details, and the Committee will take up matter again during the DNC meeting in New Orleans on April 20-22, 2006.  States interested in going early are invited to repond to the Committee.  Led by Michael Stratton, Western states have been pushing to hold an early contest, and Nevada is seen as a strong prospect for a pre-New Hampshire caucus.  Another possibility for pre-New Hampshire caucus is the District of Columbia; Paul McKenzie, a member of the DC Democratic State Committee observed the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting and introduced himself to members afterwards.  Changes would need to be adopted by the full DNC, possibly at the its Fall meeting, the date of which has not been set. 

Some Committee members expressed concerns about the proposed changes.  Kathy Sullivan, the New Hampshire Democratic chair, questioned how all the early states will fit between the January 14, 2008 starting point and the opening of the window on February 5.   "I don't see how it works," she said.  Don Fowler stated, "We've frontloaded this thing in the most sensitive time."  He foresaw the possibility of the nominee being selected before the window opens on February 5.  More broadly Harold Ickes decried the long general election campaign that results from early selection of the nominee.  "It is a senseless, goofy, out-of-whack system," he said.   (related)

Below, Rules and Bylaws Committee members Kathy Sullivan (New Hampshire) and Sally Pederson (Iowa).

Democratic National Committee
Copyright © 2006  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action