The financial imbalance, as difficult as it was, hurt Mitt Romney much less than the epigastric circus of the primary season itself. For months, every new debate produced a new front-runner. Occasionally, manifestly unqualified Republicans were held up as the possible nominee: Michelle Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota, being among them, along with (alleged) serial sexual harasser Herman Cain, the pizza company mogul. The party’s own effort to incorporate and harness the energy of the Tea Party movement created the noose that hung the nominee when he eventually had to face the rest of the electorate. The GOP looked crazy and unserious. And Romney had to pander to keep up.

So the new process does several things:

1. It takes power away from state parties, many of which, including the all-important Iowa Republican Party, are controlled by Tea Party activists. It centralizes power in the Republican National Committee. States that want to jump ahead will face serious penalties. (Of course, the nominee could always move to restore the delegates taken away from the penalized states at the convention.)