26 Mar 2013
March 26, 2013

The RNC 2016 Rules Recommendations

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Last week, the Republican National Committee released its 97 page post-election “Growth and Opportunity Project” party evaluation that the RNC Chair embarrassingly referred to as an “autopsy.”  (Copy below)   Among the Recommendations for the Presidential nomination process (pp. 72-73) are:

  1. Holding the National Convention as early as late June 2016 allowing more time to “begin the general election phase”;
  2. Moving the primary calender forward, with the last primary as early as April 30, 2016;
  3. Taking no position on whether contests should be winner-take-all or proportional;
  4. Recommending a regional primary system;
  5. Allowing pre-window states (e.g., New Hampshire) to continue to go first;
  6. Encouraging primaries rather than caucus/convention systems to broaden the party’s appeal.

In 2008, the Democratic Party had the longest nominating process in memory as the campaigns of President Obama and Secretary Clinton battled it out across the country.  The nomination wasn’t decided until after the last primary.  After the nomination, of course, the Party came together to win the election.  And after the election, the DNC appointed a broad-based Change Commission that held public meetings and made recommendations on party rules, which were considered and implemented (more or less) by the DNC.  Republicans followed a different course.  In 2012, their process dragged on for a while, featured bizarre debates, and Americans got to see just how bad their candidates were.  The lesson the RNC has drawn from this process, is not let’s get better candidates and a better message – it’s lets reduce the number of debates and shorten the process, so we can nominate a candidate, get rid of the freaks, and get more post-nomination money — sooner.  Moreover, that solution was drafted, promptly, by a small group, and I strongly suspect without rank and file (i.e. Tea Party) buy-in.  In 2008, the DNC and RNC coordinated the primary calender (more or less).  Coordination is still a good path because the national parties have very limited control over the calendar in any case – state legislatures have the final vote in state-run primaries.  At present, however, it isn’t clear if the RNC will even adopt the RNC proposals, much less what positions the DNC will take on some of these issues.

Some additional thoughts:  Regarding early conventions, the National Parties have sought to discourage “front-loading,” but the RNC seems to be encouraging it in these proposals.  There are benefits in having a nominee sooner – it helps in getting the candidate known, building organization, and you have more time to raise general election money.  But the result may not be a shortened process as much as a frontloaded process, with contests starting in 2015.  Regional primaries are a great idea, and in 2012 the DNC awarded bonus delegates for states which formed regional clusters.  National parties can’t do much more than that.  Allowing pre-window states to proceed is a given – no one is going to move NH and IA, and now SC and NV, I assume.  The question is whether FL and/or MI and/or others will push their way ahead of the line.

The winner take all vs. proportional representation issue is one that Democrats long ago resolved for our party – everyone’s voice is heard and every candidate (who gets over a threshold number) will have proportional representation.  The GOP allows winner take all, but in 2008, provided for some proportional representation.  It seems to me that winner take all more likely benefits the establishment candidate, but who knows – maybe if Michele Bachmann had been able to build on her Ames Straw Poll win . . .  The primary/caucus issue is a real fault line in the GOP, as was evident from the Republican Party of Virginia’s change from a primary to a caucus when the TeaCoochPublicans took over.  It’s interesting that the Democratic Party activists have usually fought for primaries – which indeed provide for broader participation, while the Republican Party activists are dedicated to closed convention nomination processes that make their party more isolated and out of the mainstream. 

  RNC "Growth & Opportunity Project" (816.6 KiB, 134 hits)