The Republican National Committee is taking steps to prevent another drawn-out primary fight when the party picks its next White House nominee in 2016.
RNC members huddled in Washington this week are set to adopt a package of rule changes on Friday that would ensure a more condensed primary, in an attempt to avoid the nasty nominating contest that played out in 2012.
The new rules stiffen penalties for any states that try to leapfrog the four early nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. In total, the changes have the net effect of shrinking the nominating calendar by giving states a smaller window to schedule contests and making the results more binding. The four early contests will be held in February, with other primaries and caucuses beginning in March and running until 45 days before the eventual convention, which would be in mid-May or early June, depending on the convention date.
Republicans are eager to avoid a replay of 2012 when the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, didn’t clinch the nomination until mid-April, after his top rival bowed out, and didn’t secure enough delegates to lock up the nomination until May.
Randy Evans, an RNC member from Georgia who helped craft the new rules, said the goal was to limit “the amount of time our candidates are slicing and dicing each other.”
Other changes include a requirement that contests held between March 1-14 will divide delegates proportionally based on each candidate’s vote totals; all contests afterward can be winner-take-all; and states must choose their actual delegates for the convention two weeks earlier than usual.
State parties, of course, have a history of ignoring the rules. But the RNC plans to enforce them by drastically reducing the number of delegates from states that break the rules.
The package was approved Thursday by the RNC’s rules committee and builds off of earlier changes adopted at the last national convention in 2012 in Tampa, Fla.
The move to an expedited nominating process is not without its detractors. Morton Blackwell, an RNC member from Virginia, led the charge against the latest changes, arguing that a longer process would benefit the party and the nominee by giving more voters a chance to determine the winner and giving the candidate more time to adjust to the rigors of a high-profile campaign.
“I think we are going too far in shortening this process,” Mr. Blackwell said. “We need an adequate amount of time in order for presidential candidates to be tested.”