We had plenty of warning that this was coming and the debate has been running around on the back burner the whole time, but the RNC has now moved almost unanimously to invoke a portion of the new rules they desired.
The new 2016 rules will make it much harder for states to cut in line in the nomination process and will help Republicans avoid a repeat of a drawn out, bloody primary many believe damaged Mitt Romney’s chances in 2012 of defeating President Obama…
The new rules will help protect early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — from others who want to rush up to the front, and allow the party to hold an earlier convention, as they look to unite and raise more money for the general election.
The four designated early states will be required to hold their contests in February. States that vote between March 1 and March 14 will be required to award their delegates proportionally, weakening their impact, while states with primaries after that will assign their delegates in a winner-take-all contest, making them much more consequential in the delegate count and adding an incentive to wait.
There were (and still are) a number of different issues under discussion, but apparently the only one that was on the table this week was the issue of primaries. It seems that at no point did anyone seriously bring up the question of why the same four states always have to go first, but I suppose that’s a battle for another day. But the changes they made are still going to have a big impact. They’ll use the power of the whip to ensure that the schedule is compressed and that none of the bigger states jump the line. There are several issues in play here, and Allahpundit was already breaking them down over a month ago.
Evidently the RNC is preparing harsh new rules to penalize a state if it defies the primary schedule and tries to move up its election. Florida typically does that, moving from March to February, which in turn forces Iowa and New Hampshire to move from February to January to retain their pride of place. Supposedly the RNC’s going to take away 90 percent of Florida’s delegates this time if they try that again. They also might dock delegates from any candidate who participates in a debate that’s not formally sanctioned by the RNC. Show of hands: Anyone think Reince Priebus and his team have the stones to declare Florida’s results effectively null and void just before a general election where that state might (again) decide the presidency?
Apparently we have the answer to that question now and it’s a yes. I’m not sure what the results will be, but if the RNC wipes out all but a handful of Florida’s votes (or those of any other large state) there’s going to be a lot of sound and fury at the convention. Is that a net plus when balanced against the fact that some less well funded candidates may wind up being rushed to the door by the shortened season? I can’t help but think there’s some trouble brewing on the horizon.
One other issue which was not voted on yesterday was the question of debates. Taking control of who will moderate them away from the major media organizations has some obvious benefits. But if you limit the number of them you at least partially cut the legs out from under candidates who lack the backing of the big, industrial size donors. They have to rely much more heavily on earned media, and the debates are their very best chance to strut their stuff in front of the entire country. Will the really penalize the delegate count of a candidate who takes part in a “non-approved” debate? Again, Allahpundit had some early observations on that one.
Anyone think they’re going to take away a third of, say, Ted Cruz’s delegates if he decides to participate in a debate sponsored by FreedomWorks? They’re paper tigers.
If they’re willing to shoot down states for jumping the line, they may just feel they can do precisely that to candidates. And in the hypothetical case AP posits above, the RNC may just find themselves with a full blown revolt on their hands. If people are upset enough to stay home in droves on election day in November 2016, the stated intent of these changes will backfire, but we won’t know about that one until the next meeting and vote.
The other rule that was passed involved the proportional vs winner take all rules. Proportional awarding of delegates looks like one of the least controversial items on the agenda because it seems to be the change which would provide a more level playing field. When there have only been a couple of debates and the only access candidates have to potential voters is paid media, the well funded “establishment” candidate (man, I hate that term) has a huge advantage, particularly in large, expensive media markets like Florida. Going with a plan that divides up the pie a bit can allow a less donor-heavy candidate to hang in there longer and get their message out.
So… what did you think of the changes? And when they vote on the rules regarding the debates, which way do you see it going? Personally I think the RNC will be a bit more timid on that one.