There were some rules changes at the RNC Winter Meeting back in January, which can be summarized thus (a longer description is below):
- Allowing the convention to start earlier (mid-July instead of late August)
- Imposing some form of proportional delegate allocation for any contests held before March 15th, with the provision that a state may set a minimum threshold (not higher than 20%) below which a candidate may receive no delegates, and with a provision allowing proportional states to be winner-take-all if a candidate receives an absolute majority (50% or greater). Any state violating this rule is penalized 50% of their delegation (discarding all fractions).
- Allowing only the four “carve out” primary states (Iowa, Hew Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada) to hold their primaries in February; everyone else cannot start before March 1st. If a state tries to jump in early, then their delegates will be limited to 9, if they have 30 or more delegates, or 6, if they have 29 or less. (This could potentially harm Michigan, as MCL Section 168.641 requires us to conduct our presidential primary either on “the fourth Tuesday in February,” or on “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.”)
- All delegates and alternate delegates shall be elected or selected not later than forty-five (45) days before the date of the meeting of the national convention (changed from the previous rule, which had a cutoff of 35 days prior to convention. There are some states that by law require delegates to be chosen after that date, and there is a waiver provision for those states.
- Since the nominee will be selected earlier, there was also a move to limit the amount of debates as well as debate moderation by liberal media moderators.
According to James Bopp, the biggest objection by some is that the convention is moved to before July 18, rather than late August, and having the delegate selection process completed 45 days prior to the convention, instead of 35 days prior. The opposition to an earlier convention has merit. However, since there are limits on what money can be given to a primary vs. a general election, it makes some sense to allow candidates more time to use their donations prior to the general and after the primary. A candidate cannot spend general election money during the primary. Too many candidates spent most of their time and money during the primary with little time to focus and spend on the general.
According to Morton Blackwell, there is no good evidence that condensing the process will help produce a better quality nominee, let alone victor in November. But there is every reason to believe that a rush to judgment will leave grassroots activists feeling as if they had no voice in the process, while perhaps producing a nominee who hasn’t proved his mettle. Starting earlier would prevent last minute grassroots candidates from having a chance to enter in. Under the existing rules Reagan might not have won. Some see this as a power grab from top down, rather than a better chance of our nominee being better able to have adequate time to spend winning the general. It also gives the opposition more time to concentrate on our nominee because he is decided much earlier.
According to Quin Hillyer: “There’s still time for the Republican National Committee to reverse the primary-process mistake it made last week. If it doesn’t do so, Hillary Clinton will surely be smiling.”
Personally, I do think that some of last month’s changes need to be reversed, but we need to think things through very carefully before we do so.