Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WA-SoS Urges Steele to Back a Regional Primary System

Well, indirectly...

The other day I was pleased, though not surprised, to see that Washington Secretary of State, Sam Reed was calling on newly-elected RNC chair Michael Steele to appoint secretaries of state to the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee that will shape the Republican primary system/calendar for 2012. [Pleased because any news on this front makes for more discussion here at FHQ. And not surprised because Reed, as a secretary of state and former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, wasn't really going out on a limb to endorse a system that he and other secretaries of state have constructed and backed.]

However, as David Ammons, Secretary Reed's communications director, alludes to, Secretary Reed is getting out in front of a process that will take place between now and the summer of 2010 to craft the system for the 2012 nomination -- a system that will right the frontloading wrongs highlighted by the 2008 calendar. For my part, I'm less concerned with the specific reform in this case and more interested in the means by which Reed envisions it coming to pass.

Ammons was kind enough to share the secretary's letter to Steele with me and in it, Reed identifies the need to...
"...appoint Secretaries of State to this committee. It only makes sense to have people that are knowledgeable about the process and election procedures participating in creating the solutions to these problems."
Recall that the 15 person Temporary Delegate Selection Committee is comprised of 4 elected memebers from the RNC (one of those four, Fredi Simpson, happens to be from Reed's home state of Washington) and eleven members chosen by Steele himself. Of course, Reed then goes on to offer up both his and Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson's (also current president of the National Association of Secretaries of State) services to be two of those eleven chair-selected members.

So, what we are starting to see is the obvious.
  1. Steele has quite a bit of power over this process.
  2. Who those 11 members are matters.
To that second point, secretaries of state are going to be predisposed to supporting the NASS rotating regional primary plan. But that may not be the direction in which Steele wants to steer this process (...if Steele even hangs on to the position). Outside of occupation/elected office, though, what can we look at in terms of the future members' characteristics to get a sense of what the ultimate plan will be? As I've already stated, if the primary calendar remains unchanged in 2012, Mitt Romney is in a prime position to capture the GOP nomination. Much of that depends on Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee not only entering the race but splitting the vital social conservative vote in both Iowa and South Carolina. And that conclusion is not out of line with the results of the recent straw poll at the CPAC conference. Those two things (CPAC straw poll and Iowa/South Carolina nominating contests) don't necessarily equate to each other, but the same sort of dynamic could be at play. Regardless, support for Romney is essentially a proxy for support for the status quo in terms of the nomination system. Support for other candidates, then, could mean support of some measure of reform. [And that isn't to say that Romney supporters can't also support primary reform, but it won't happen unless the system is seen as something advantageous to the former Massachusetts governor.]

With that in mind, one thing I've already looked into is the FEC reports on contributions from the four elected members of the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee. This is something we can look at for the other 11 members when they are named as well. Here are those four members (via TheNextRight):

Region Member Defeated
Northeast David Norcross (NJ) Ron Kaufman (MA)
South John Ryder (TN) Morton Blackwell (VA)
Midwest Pete Ricketts (NE) Bob Bennett (OH)
West Fredi Simpson (WA) Ron Nehring (CA)

Norcross, for example, gave $2300 to Mitt Romey's campaign in early 2007. The other three, however, didn't appear to have national-level contribution activity other than to the RNC. Those three focused much of their donations on state parties and local senate candidates. As the other members are named, we may be able to draw similar conclusions.

But for now we're just playing the waiting game.

[UPDATE: The letter cited above is now posted in full on the Washington Secretary of State's web site now.]

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