The Republican National Committee is taking steps at its winter meeting this week to try condensing the 2016 presidential nominating calendar, with the goal of starting later and ending earlier than in 2012.
Chairman Reince Priebus wants the party’s 2016 convention to happen between June 27 and July 18 – compared to the week of August 27 in 2012. The official date will be announced this spring, and the location will be selected at a summer meeting.
The party’s rules committee approved a handful of significant changes Thursday, which are likely to be adopted by the full 168-member governing body on Friday.
Among them: Stiffer penalties for states that schedule primaries before March 1; a requirement that states award delegates proportionally, rather than on a winner-take-all basis, before March 15; and a rule that delegates be selected 45 days before the national convention, as opposed to the current 35 days, to encourage states to wrap up as earlier.
Only four “early states” are allowed to hold elections before March 1: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. At the convention in Tampa, the committee voted to award just 12 delegates to any states that ignore this rule. The committee voted Thursday to make the penalty even stricter for smaller states, to dissuade them from attempting to move up.
Republican leaders in the four earliest-voting states express confidence they will now be able to hold off on voting until February of 2016, compared to January in 2012.
During the 2012 cycle, every state that voted in March awarded delegates proportionally based on the share of the vote each candidate received. That extended the nominating fight into late April and frustrated Mitt Romney’s campaign. So, at the convention, rules were changed to allow a “winner-take-all” system, in which any state could award every one of its delegates to whoever won the primary.
This generated fear among states with later primaries that a stampede of others would schedule winner-take-all contests immediately after March 1. They worry about a Super Tuesday on steroids, with the best-funded candidate who can afford to buy television ads across the map – or whoever has momentum at that moment – would run up his delegate count and effectively end the nominating contest.
To prevent this from happening, the rules committee voted Thursday to require that any state with a primary during the first two weeks of March must award its delegates proportionally based on the percentage of the vote each candidate receives. Any state party with a contest after March 14 can choose whether to award delegates proportionally or winner-take-all.