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Democrats advance early primary proposal which could matter more to Republicans

By Tom Baxter

The thud of excitement which has accompanied the news that the Democratic National Committee has included Georgia in its window of early primary states bespeaks how exhausted Georgia voters are with being in the spotlight of national politics after the last couple of years. They may not be able to avoid it.

Georgia Democrats have been given until June to get him to change his mind, but Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has for the moment blocked the idea of moving up the Democratic presidential primary next year. The Republicans have already approved a more traditional calendar and Raffensperger doesn’t want the primaries on different days.

Except as a chip in the negotiations to bring the Democratic National Convention to Atlanta, it really doesn’t matter so much when Georgia Democrats vote next year since President Joe Biden appears to have an open field heading toward his renomination.

But that’s where Georgia’s place on the calendar gets interesting.

Raffensperger told the Associated Press this week that while he didn’t think Georgia should move up its primary date next year, he thought having an early primary in 2028 would be a splendid idea.

“[Georgia] has a good cross-section of engaged voters from both parties, and, as everyone seems to now recognize, we run great elections,” Raffensperger said, taking one more victory lap for weathering the attacks both of Democrats and Donald Trump.

Having an early spot on the calendar would also be an advantage for a Georgia presidential candidate, should there be one in 2028. Right now, most speculation has Gov. Brian Kemp aiming toward a 2026 challenge to U.S. Sen. John Ossoff. If Ossoff continues to pull off deals like the agreement announced in which the Indian government is cutting its tariff on Georgia pecans by 70 percent, he may not look like such an inviting target in a couple of years. In any case, Kemp could run for president in 2028, whether he runs for the Senate in 2026 or not.

Nor should we dismiss too quickly the idea that Raffensperger’s general endorsement of the early primary leaves a little wiggle room to change his mind about next year.

A lot can happen over the six months the DNC has given Georgia to work things out, particularly in the realm of Republican politics. Trump is still regarded as the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination, but the ground may be moving under him faster than it appears.

A January poll of 1,000 likely GOP primary or caucus voters conducted by North Star Opinion Research indicates that a majority of Republicans would prefer another candidate than Trump, although 28 percent would vote for Trump even if he ran as an independent.

With a host of legal problems coming to a head in the next few months, the Republican nomination which has seemed like a slam dunk for Trump could very quickly be transformed into an existential moment for the party. Will it stick with Trump, and who takes the mantle if it rejects him? If those are the stakes, the state’s Republican leadership might look at the calendar proffered by the Democrats as an opportunity.

Under the Democratic calendar, Georgia would be the fourth state, voting in the third time slot. South Carolina would vote on Saturday, Feb. 3. New Hampshire and Nevada would vote the following Tuesday, Feb. 6 and Georgia would vote a week later, on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, who chairs the party, have touted the economic benefits of being one of the first states to vote, envisioning hordes of campaign operatives and journalists traversing the state, and of course lots of television advertising to enrich local stations.

The reality is that even in New Hampshire and Iowa, the old free-spending days when Jack Germond held court at the Wayfarer Inn in Manchester and credit cards flashed at the Iowa Beef Steak House in Des Moines are, for the most part, over. An early primary probably wouldn’t generate as much revenue for restaurants and hotels as an NBA All-Star Game. But you can count on a lot of ads.

Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.


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