RNC 'primary reform' aimed at the base
The Republican National Committee is looking to reform the presidential primary process, and in so doing, weaken the influence of the party's conservative base.
Is this a feature? Or a bug?
More like a marriage of convenience. The length and bitterness of the 2012 primary season weakened Mit Romney going into the general election. All those silly debates did nothing to enlighten the American people and only served as a point of contention between candidates.
So while compressing the primary season may be a sound political strategy, it has the side effect of diluting the conservative vote.
The push to shorten the presidential nominating process and have an early summer convention is an effort to give the eventual nominee time to raise money, unite the GOP, and hopefully avoid excessive infighting in the party. Many Republicans believe the lengthy nominating process in 2012 hurt Mitt Romney's chances.
Virginia Committeeman Morton Blackwell and a half-dozen RNC members from state parties where the party's libertarian wing has wrested control fought hard against a series of changes to stretch the primary process out. Their fear is that a shorter primary season stymies the possibility a lightly funded movement conservative could win the nomination and unfairly benefits cash-flush, establishment candidates.
Dozens of other RNC members on the committee, including former senior advisers to Romney and Newt Gingrich, back the efforts to abbreviate the primary calendar though, which they see as necessary for the health of the party.
The changes passed the rules committee on Thursday - the first step before its likely passage during Friday's session of the RNC's winter meeting. But the meeting to move it out of committee certainly had plenty of fireworks.
"This proposal is essentially a sham because it makes no great difference," Blackwell fired off about one proposed compromise. The meeting grew more heated as he raised repeated objections, growing visibly agitated.
"We do what practical people do in a legislative process, we compromised, and the deal that we struck was two weeks," said Republican National Committee general counsel John Ryder of Tennessee after repeated objections from Blackwell, before taking a shot at the Virginian.
"I don't know where they buy their bread in Virginia, but in Tennessee we figure half a loaf is better than none."
A few minutes later, Blackwell took a seeming shot at Massachusetts committeeman Ron Kaufman, charging the former Romney adviser would prefer a one-day national primary so the richest candidates could lock up the nomination.
Arizona committeeman Bruce Ash, chairing the hearing, grew irritated and warned Blackwell about making "snide comments."
"Mr. Blackwell, we are not going to allow any personal attacks," Ash shot back.
The process will put a premium on candidates making an early announcement and raising gobs of cash before 2016. It virtually precludes any comebacks for a candidate who makes a serious gaffe and encourages candidates to shoot their wad early.
These changes will also have unintended consequences - like conservatives may coalesce around one candidate early. That will be difficult but if successful, it could be curtains for the establishment candidate. The last two election cycles, McCain and Romney were successful because it took months for candidate attrition to lead to a one on one match up with a conservative. While the right was fighting it out among themselves, McCain and Romney kept piling up the delegates until they had a prohibitive lead. Imagine if the right were to choose one candidate to support before the primaries even begin?
The new rules are expected to pass overwhelmingly.