From NBC's Chuck Todd and Mark Murray
California has now moved up its presidential primary to Feb. 5, raising the prospect that as many as 20 other states -- including giants like Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas -- will hold their nominating contests on this date. We're calling it Tsunami Tuesday. So which candidates will Tsunami Tuesday end up benefiting? What will it all mean? A few notes on the impact in California:
-- Independents. According to the state parties there, political independents will be able to participate in the Democratic primary, but not in the Republican one; it is open only to registered Republicans. That could potentially hurt GOP candidates like McCain or Giuliani, who appeal to these kind of voters. There is a growing effort to open up the GOP primary to independents, but the California Republican Party will need to change its bylaws to do that -- and the state party's next bylaw meeting, we're told, doesn't occur until after voters are supposed to be registered. As for the Democrats, John Edwards was considered the candidate independents helped the most in 2004. For this cycle, no one Democrat seems to have made appealing to independents a priority. Will that now change?
-- Ballot Initiatives. Expect to see ballot initiatives included in the California primary. As we know, California ballot initiatives can have lives of their own. (imagine what an immigration-related init could do to the GOP primary, for instance) There is already one proposed init for Feb. 5, per today's Los Angeles Times: "An advisor to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) has submitted a proposed initiative that would change California's term-limits law, allowing current lawmakers to stay longer but reducing the number of years permitted for those who come later."
-- Hispanics. This really hasn't been talked about, but the prospect that California, Florida, and Texas could all hold their primaries on Feb. 5 suddenly puts the Hispanic vote in play, especially on the Democratic side. Could this benefit someone like Bill Richardson? Probably -- but he first has to survive to get to Feb. 5….
One last thing to chew on: According to its Secretary of State's office, California voters are allowed to submit absentee ballots 29 days before an election. That would mean that Californians begin voting well before the Iowa caucuses, which are slated for Jan. 14. Of course, if New Hampshire leapfrogs Nevada (as many speculate), then Iowa would move up a week as well. Still, absentee ballot programs by all the campaigns would have to begin in California well before Iowa and New Hampshire.