Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Few Notes on the RNC Meeting and the 2016 Rules

FHQ feels somewhat compelled to weigh in -- belatedly -- on the RNC meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona last week. This is especially true in view of the fact that the members present continued the consideration of the party's 2016 delegate selection rules. Look, both Zeke Miller and James Hohmann more than adequately covered the bases on what transpired/what was on the table at the meeting, so I'll take a step back and attempt to put all of this in context.

The news out of Scottsdale was more about what didn't change than it was about what might. There were amendments raised that would have recommended essentially reverting the overarching delegate rules structure to what it was in 2008 and before:
At a meeting here of the R.N.C.’s rules committee, members debated whether to abandon the proportional voting that gave Mitt Romney’s rivals the ability to try and accumulate delegates even as they failed to win the nominating contests. 
Sue Everhart, a committee member from Georgia, proposed the change, citing concerns about the length of the competition. She suggested changes that would have allowed states to hold winner-take-all contests in 2016, potentially bringing the contest to a close more quickly. 
But several members spoke in opposition to her proposal, saying the current process gives more voters an opportunity to participate in the nomination by creating a lengthier process.
...or that would have constrained the pool of candidates for RNC chair to just RNC members:
Indiana Republican Committeeman Jim Bopp introduced an amendment, nicknamed the Steele rule by at least one member of the committee, to require future chair people to be current members of the party’s governing body — a move opposed by many loyalists of Mitt Romney, who argued it would limit a president’s flexibility in appointing a political head of the party. 
The vote amendment was too close to call in a voice vote, and was rejected narrowly as members made their choices known by standing.
The take home from all of this is that nothing really changed.  Of course, nothing binding was going to come out of Scottsdale anyway -- No, not even that Romney pledge list. -- because all of this amendment proposing and voting was in the interest of formulating recommendations to be voted on by the entire convention in Tampa in August. After all it was four years ago that a similar meeting produced a recommendation for a rather sweeping revision to the Republican presidential nomination process: the Ohio Plan. That obviously did not pass muster at the St. Paul convention in 2008 and is a nice coda to what happened last week in Arizona. What happens in April doesn't always translate into fundamental change in August or September. However, big proposed changes in April can be thrown by the wayside while movement in the opposite direction -- no big changes from the RNC to a convention-led effort to change the process -- are much less likely. Presumptive nominees and the party typically sweep those sorts of things under the rug in an effort at party unity during the convention (see McCain/Ohio Plan in 2008 and Bush/Delaware Plan in 2000.).

There is a long way to go on the formation of the 2016 delegate selection rules. The RNC sent some signals last week, but that really is the extent of what Scottsdale meant. Change is unlikely unless it originates at these types of meetings, but it does not mean that it cannot or will not happen at the convention.

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