CIRCUC COMING TO FORT SMITH? That's the rumor.
A friend says several people have told him that the fight over changing the Arkansas 2016 primary election
from May to March had an ulterior motive — landing one of the Republican presidential primary debates
for an Arkansas locale, specifically Gov. Asa Hutchinson's
former home of Fort Smith.
I found this tentative schedule of Republican primary dates
online. It appears to have most locations penciled in until March, where a Fox News debate is still listed as "to be determined." But that won't work for Arkansas. The primary will be March 1.
To get a visit from the Republican clown car and a few days of setup time seems a pretty small haul for shifting the primary season. Because the costs are large. A huge advantage for incumbents. An extension of the campaign season into the Christmas holiday. Difficult adjustments for local election officials. A potential delay in implementation of new voting machines. The prospect of bad weather depressing turnout.
The debate — in which Gov. Hutchinson got his way — did reveal a little division within the Republican Party, even drove Rep. Nate Bell into the ranks of independents in party affiliation, if not in general voting pattern.
Jay Barth has written for us
about benefits on the Republican side, in addition to the presumed boost to Mike Huckabee's candidacy (if his big mouth hasn't driven him out of the race by then.) For one thing, the Arkansas GOP will pile up filing fees from candidates who may be gone time the primary rolls around.