Monday, February 2, 2009

Chairman Steele and the 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

Marc Ambinder has within the last week written some interesting stuff about the choice in the RNC chair race and the ramifications that may have on the presidential primary calendar for 2012 (see here and here). Let me put it this way: Michael Steele's selection was not greeted happily by Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee or any other social conservative thinking about throwing their name in the ring for a run at the White House in 2012.


Well, as the National Review mentioned in December, the new chairman is charged with some new powers that haven't been granted RNC chairs in the past. These new powers originated with the decision at last September's convention in Minneapolis to allow for the rules governing the 2012 nomination process to be altered outside of the bounds of the convention. In the past the GOP has simply crafted the rules for four years down the road at the preceding convention. As a part of opening that process up, the chair of the national party was given the ability to name nearly 80% of the members of this commission, or drafting committee, as Ambinder calls it.

Does this mean that significant change is on the way?

Not necessarily, but with Steele in place as the new chair of the RNC, it is more likely that a significant re-write of the rules will be undertaken than if one of the more conservative candidates for the position had won enough votes last Friday.

Here's the thing, though: I don't see the nomination process being turned upside down. [FAMOUS LAST WORDS!] What I do see is an effort to make some more moderate Republican (perhaps even Democratic) states a part of the exempt group of states at the beginning of the process (See the Democratic Party in 2006 with the exemption of South Carolina and Nevada.). No Republican since 1980 has won the party's nomination without winning South Carolina's primary first. Water down the impact of the Palmetto state's contest on the process with some less conservative states and the dynamics of nominee selection could be changed dramatically.

That is a far easier way of creating a path to the nomination for a more moderate Republican. It doesn't involve a complete overhaul of the system -- needed though it may be in the eyes of some -- and totally circumvents the possibility that there are multiple states that cannot comply with Republican Party rules, thus having to face holding a less representative caucus instead of a primary.

Again, nothing is written in stone at this point. But Steele's position at the top of the Republican Party makes it more likely than any of the other five candidates, save former Michigan GOP chair, Saul Anuzis, that there will be some significant changes to the 2012 presidential primary calendar.

[NOTE(S): Speaking of primary calendars, I'll be posting the dates of the contests from 1976-2008 to go along with the maps I posted last week. When that process is complete, all those maps in the left sidebar will be "click to enlarge" ready. I realize that is one major drawback to their presence there now, but the slideshow is still basically at the top of the front page. Also, I'll have a bit more on reform as the week goes on. I'm busily plowing through the symposium on presidential primary reform in the latest issue of PS as well as the Dan Lowenstein chapter on the possibility of federal intervention. Good stuff and it is all comment-worthy. Finally, thanks for your patience. I was on the road last week at a job interview and was busy, busy, busy while I was there and exhausted when I got back. That's why posting has been light since I put the maps up last week. However, with state legislatures back in session and me putting the finishing touches on my dissertation, relevant posts should be increasing in number as we head into spring.]

Recent Posts:
Presidential Primary and Caucus Dates Over Time

Presidential Primary and Caucus Dates Over Time (Take 1)

New Jersey in 2012

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