Campaigns and elections

Why Don’t We All End Up at Super-Super-Duper Tuesday?

Henry Farrell Sep 29 '11

“Talking Points Memo”:http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2011/09/here_we_go_yet_again.php has a piece suggesting that the decision of Florida to move up its primary date is having knock-on consequences – the South Carolina GOP is threatening to follow suit. What’s interesting to me is why we don’t see more than this. In the very simplest game theoretic model of this, assuming that all states benefit from being earlier in the primary sequence, and are hurt by being later in the sequence, you would expect that all states would converge on holding their primaries on the same day – the very first day possible. You would also expect that threats like the one in New Hampshire law (that New Hampshire will always hold primaries one week before any similar contest in another state) to be non-credible, since if everyone ends up converging on the earliest date possible, New Hampshire won’t have that option. But – even if we see persistent pressures on states to move earlier in the calendar, we don’t see the kind of free-for-all that this theory would predict. Why not? Are the strategic motives of states more complicated than in this simple model (presumably they are: but in what way?). Do some states simply not have any reason to care where they are in the process (while other states, like Iowa and New Hampshire do?). Not being a scholar of US politics, I don’t know if there is a literature on this, and if so, whether it says anything useful, but would be very interested to know more about what is preventing the expected race to the bottom from taking place.