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RNC’s Proposed Changes in Primaries

July 6, 2010

The new rules are aimed at drawing out the nominating process and would push the beginning of the presidential nominating process back a month, to February, as part of a plan to prevent wealthy candidates from stealing the nomination. And, less branded candidates have a better chance through proportional allocation if any state front-loads their nominating process prior to April 1.

Hotline reports:

GOP caucuses and primaries would be held that month in the 4 early states — the rule codifies IA, NH, SC and NV as states allowed to hold contests in a “pre-window.” Every other state would be allowed to hold their nominating contests on or after the first Tuesday in March.

But there’s an important caveat, members of the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee said: Any state that holds its nominating contest before the first day of April — that is, any state that rushes to front-load their nominating process — will have to award their delegates on a proportional basis.

That’s a dramatic change from previous party rules; many states awarded delegates on a winner-take-all basis, setting up key dates on which candidates could win big chunks of delegates and shut out their rivals. In ’08, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) won all of FL’s delegates, even though he won just 36% of the vote. Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee won a combined 59% of the vote — and no delegates. Giuliani, who had viewed the state as a firewall, dropped out of the race that night.

The change is designed to eliminate a process that rewards wealthy candidates with high name recognition. Instead, candidates will have to campaign across the country and appeal to different audiences, something that could help the GOP pick a stronger nominee.

“By making the second phase of the nominating process proportional, you reduce the possibility that any candidate in any one primary in any one state can deliver a knockout blow that early in the process and end the process prematurely,” said John Ryder, TN’s RNC representative and a member of the committee. Ryder said the goal is to have a 10-12 week nominating process that finishes before it can divide the party, but continues long enough to ensure the party picks the right nominee.

The new rules are likely to be the longest-lasting legacy of chairman Michael Steele’s tenure. Altering the presidential calendar so much is something several chairmen have tried, without success. The last effort, in ’02, stalled when Karl Rove scuttled plans to help reduce NH’s influence on the process.

And this from HotAir:

However, it does have a couple of drawbacks, too.  It will mean that more candidates will raise funds in the primary for a longer period of time, which could impact the ability to raise funds for the general election, although Obama didn’t appear to have a problem despite fighting all the way to June before locking up the nomination.  Hard-fought primaries can damage candidates (although I’d say it almost always produces stronger ones), and the competition may prompt more negative infighting among Republicans for a longer period of time.  The states may simply refuse to play ball and schedule their primaries early anyway, despite the proportional representation required by the rule.

Ok so….

The NEW RULE doesn’t address the ‘most important issue which is “Close the Primaries.” When Democrats and Independents can crossover and vote in our Republican primaries, we get the candidate that the Democrats want Republicans to have. In 2008 it was McCain. In 2012 it will likely be Romney. As long as we keep letting non-republicans choose our nominee, states in which anyone can vote for our nominee guarantees another Bush, Dole, Bush, McCain, and now potentially Romney.

First, the GOP should close all their primaries so that only registered Republicans vote in them.  This is one change the national party should lean on the states to enact. GOP primaries should be closed to all but registered GOP members.

Second, the Iowa, New Hampshire dance is a relic from a past era and doesn’t serve us well. We need to stop letting liberal states like NH pick our candidates. The GOP should look at each presidential election and see what states went GOP by the highest proportion.  Those states with the highest proportion should get the early primaries. Either group the states together or very closely together. Work through the state primaries that way, having those states where Democrats won by the largest margins going last. The states that gave the highest percentage to the GOP should have their primary first. Otherwise, states get picked to go first in a lottery format.

Thirdly, If the above mentioned is not enacted, I’d move up the southern voting block states earlier.

Finally, I like a drawn out process that builds momentum into the GE. The front runner in January or February will not always be the best person the party should have run for the November election. I know some will say a longer primary process will beat up the candidates and drain money from the contributors so we are weak by November. But, I still like a primary fight that showcases the candidate who has guts, principles and can best advocate positions to the voters his or her issues and values. The proportional-rep provisions prolongs the suspense giving a “long shot” candidates a better chance.

It certainly makes Iowa, NH and SC far less important. Doesn’t it?

I think whoever wins IA, NH and SC is still guaranteed to get $100 million worth of free press. Whoever has a huge checkbook or is well known could overcome a loss in two of the three. But it would be more drawn out. If the primaries come in rapid succession, the nomination could be sewn up before the nominee is scrutinized. Yet, on the flip side, it keeps the potentially less-branded candidate, say, a tea party type to be in the hunt until they get to the states (deep south / western) where their more conservative voter base can push them ahead to the nomination. A candidate without the money needs a positive boost to compete with the mega wealthy candidate in say, California, for example.

Whats the downside?

One downside is that more money will get spent in the primaries so there will be less cash on hand for the general. But, a drawn out process could benefit the candidate with the most money. I suspect the intent of this change is to put a premium on money and organization and to take its toll on an outsider’s ability to raise enough money to stay in the race over a protracted time frame. But, an exciting candidate will attract money.

Clearly, more precious time and money will be spent on an intra-party fight rather than getting at the Dem’s. The MSM too will have extra time to pick out each and every foible of our candidates and cause the electorate to suffer from possible election fatigue. It also may benefit the media’s choice of candidate. We’ll see how it works out. I have reservations about any scheme cooked up by the GOP establishment. Anything conceived by the RNC-GOP establishment has to be first viewed as Rosemary’s Baby.

They still need to close the primaries, right?

That’s an issue that is decided by state law. They could, at least, get the closed-primary conservative states to move their primary dates up. The GOP won’t do this because it would disrupt their “progressive” shift. The state law is all that matters; any political party would be subject to a change in the state law. Therefore, the Democrats would not have to “agree” necessarily.  California recently voted for open primaries in Proposition 14 ‘except’ for the CA Presidential primary and even in Texas (open primary), I doubt you could get a bill to close the primary without some sort of agreement between the two parties. Bottom line: The state legislators would have to close the primaries, but I bet if the RNC set up a penalty of losing half the delegates or more for having an open primary, they would take notice. But the RNC-GOP Establishment won’t do that.

In Idaho, one of the most solidly conservative states, the Republican rank and file have been trying to close their primaries for several years; 95% of the delegates to their state convention want them closed, and still the Republican party leadership keeps blocking it by every means possible, including legal action. State Parties are problematic as Republicans have a long history of avoiding contested primaries too. In too many states, candidates are selected by the Party leadership, not by the Party members. The voters then tend to be uninterested.

The RNC is expected to give the rules final approval at an August meeting in Kansas City.

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