North Carolina state legislators voted this week to hold the state’s 2016 GOP Presidential primary on March 15 of next year, bringing a very new dimension to the tern “March Madness.” The change has serious implications for the huge field of Republican presidential candidates as they draw up their nomination roadmaps.
North Carolina has in recent years held its primary in May, and by May, the nominee is usually a foregone conclusion. There hasn’t been a competitive Republican primary in May in 40 years.
Here is what makes North Carolina a big March prize, the month is full of big primary states, jam packed with delegates. That is 17 primaries with the big prizes of Florida, Texas, Ohio and now North Carolina all coming in the month of March.
It also means that three of the biggest have hometown candidates that could take those states off the map but who finishes second through fourth are very critical.
Ohio’s governor John Kasich should win in the Buckeye State, Florida has Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in a real battle, and Texas has Rick Perry and Ted Cruz facing off in March primaries.
That leaves North Carolina as the biggest primary prize in March without a hometown candidate in the race for the 72 delegates in a winner-take-all contest.
The two most frequent guests in North Carolina have been Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. The two have been jockeying behind the scenes for months to establish a North Carolina primary date that favors their preferred candidate. Both are hoping for good showing in other states will give them a leg up in North Carolina.
Here is the 2016 March GOP Presidential Primary schedule:
Tuesday, March 1: Arkansas, Colorado caucuses, Massachusetts; Oklahoma; Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and North Carolina.
Saturday, March 5: Louisiana
Tuesday, March 8: Alabama, Hawaii caucuses, Idaho, Mississippi and Michigan
Sunday, March 13: Puerto Rico (the last contest in 2016 required to be proportional.
Tuesday, March 15: Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio
Tuesday, March 22: Arizona, and the Utah caucuses