Yesterday Ted Cruz laid out his case for the presidency in front of a crowd of 500 at conservative State Representative Jim Lyons’ (R-Andover) “Barn” in Andover. This event kicked off what is set to become the first contested Republican Presidential Primary in Massachusetts since 1980.
Photo Credit: Rob Eno (c)2015 All Rights Reserved
Cruz made the case for a contested Massachusetts primary near the end of his speech. Cruz said, “with a date of March 1st, two weeks after South Carolina, Massachusetts is an early primary state.” Cruz further said he would be campaigning in the Bay State.
Already, Rand Paul is set to join Cruz on the trail in Massachusetts with an event next Sunday in Peabody, Massachusetts.
Cruz’s campaign has told Red Mass Group that the Senator does in fact plan on campaigning in Massachusetts because of the state’s role as an early primary state.
The attention paid to Massachusetts this cycle may seem counter intuitive to some, but it is not. For a multitude of reasons, Massachusetts hasn’t had a contested presidential primary since 1980.
In a discussion with long time Republican activist, and Andover Republican Party Chairman, John Moffitt yesterday he agreed that it was a unique situation this year.
Looking at the history one begins to see why the Republican primaries have not been contested, in any meaningful way since the 1979-1980 campaign season, and certainly not in the way they they will be this year.
In 1984, 1988, and 1992 Republicans nominated a sitting President, or Vice President. There was barely a campaign, save Pat Buchannon in New Hampshire on the Republican side in these years.
In 1996, the entire primary season was seen as Bob Dole’s turn, and no serious contest for the nomination truly developed, anywhere, including Massachusetts.
In 2000, W. Bush and McCain battled it out, but the Massachusetts primary was 17 days after the South Carolina primary. In 2016 it will be ten days. With the smaller field, it was easier for the two major candidates to ignore Massachusetts.
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In 2004, Republicans nominated their sitting president, George W. Bush.
In 2008, and 2012 with hometown favorite Mitt Romney running, Massachusetts’ vote was a foregone conclusion. Even if the calendar was favorable to Massachusetts playing a role, Romney’s candidacy stopped the state from having a meaningful role.
That brings us to the 2015-2016 cycle and why Massachusetts will see Republican candidates campaigning in the state through the summer, fall and winter of 2015-2016. There are three major reasons.
First with the size of the field, it is most probably that there will not be a front-runner after South Carolina and Nevada. With the size of this field, it means an early Super Tuesday, of which Massachusetts is a part, is poised to become the key event that whittles the field down to a handful, or fewer, candidates.
The second reason is number of available delegates. Massachusetts is a proportional delegate state, with at this point a 15% threshold to be awarded delegates. Massachusetts is awarded 42 delegates at the 2016 GOP Convention. This includes 37 base delegates and five bonus delegates.
Those 42 delegates are a little less than a third of the total delegates available in the first four states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada who together total 133 delegates. In addition there are 676 total delegates up for grab on Super Tuesday.
Third, campaigns can get significant economies of scale with a focus on Massachusetts. The Boston television market already is a major player in television ads leading up to the New Hampshire primary, given the proximity of the two states. Campaigning hard in Massachusetts is a natural offshoot of a campaign in New Hampshire.
For those reasons, Massachusetts Republicans should get used to the fact that their vote will be courted, and count, almost as much as the votes of our friends to the North. It is going to be an exciting primary season here in Massachusetts and it started yesterday, almost exactly 9 months before the date of the primary.
Relish your role.