Wednesday, March 10, 2021

From Where Will the 2024 Delegate Rules Changes Come?

A few weeks back FHQ pulled back the curtain on the baseline set of rules the Republican National Committee has to work from as the 2024 presidential nomination cycle continues to evolve. But with that hanging out there and a report on the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination process due by the end of the month, it is fair to ask from where future rules changes will emanate. 

Among the most basic layers here is to consider the parties that typically tinker with their rules as a new nomination process approaches. Despite all the rumblings about Democratic rules changes that may stem from the national party's upcoming autopsy, it tends to be parties out of the White House that maneuver within their rules as a means of attempting to recapture the presidency. Now, it is debatable just how effective that is, but out-parties routinely make rules changes that it hopes will streamline the process and/or produce a nominee well-positioned to take on an incumbent in the opposition party. Although they were not rules changes, per se, the 2013 Growth and Opportunity Project report the Republican Party produced made broad recommendations about the direction of the party but also included a section on rules changes aimed at shrinking the window in which primaries and caucuses could occur on the calendar among other things. Many of those rules recommendations were instituted by the Republican National Committee while the party went the other way in the lead up to and after the 2016 election on a number of the other recommendations. 

By that measure, then, 2024 starts somewhat off-kilter. Again, it is early, but the rumblings about delegate selection rules changes are on the in-party side of the equation. Discussions about replacing Iowa and/or New Hampshire at the front fo the 2024 presidential primary calendar or completely replacing caucuses with primaries abound among the broader Democratic Party coalition and within the commentariat. 

But much of that difference -- the in-party versus out-party dynamic -- early in the 2024 may largely be a function of the priorities of both parties. The wishlist for changes to the Democratic presidential nomination system is mostly a continuation -- an extension -- of the work completed ahead of the 2020 process. Through that lens, adding diversity to the beginning of the calendar or expanding participation by valuing primaries over caucuses is just finishing the work started in 2017-2018. 

Yet, that begs the question: what are the (out-party) Republicans up to? 

Thus far, it has been all quiet on the western front from the Grand Old Party. However, it should be repeated that the priorities there are different than for Democrats. Replacing Iowa and New Hampshire does not appear to be as important nor does the caucus to primary shift (despite some chatter in 2018 about an incentive structure to facilitate such a change). But what are the 2024 priorities for Republicans? If consensus can be built among decision makers in the national party about what type of nominee the party wants, then there may be some more extensive tinkering than there was during Trump's 2020 nomination defense. That consensus may not come or may not be easy to come by as candidates and their proxies in power within the Republican National Committee jockey for position during the 2024 invisible primary. 

And like the 2020 platform, the national rules on the Republican side may very well carry over as is (or with minor corrections to reflect the change in cycle) to the 2024 cycle. Of course, that does not mean that there will not be rules changes for 2024 for the Republican process. It just means that it may not be coming from the national party. Instead, it may be the states and state parties where those changes take shape under the guidance of the national party rules. Although it has waned during recent cycles, Republican state parties still have more latitude to craft their own delegate selection and allocation processes under national party rules than do their Democratic state party counterparts. There very simply are fewer mandates from the national level on Republican state parties. 

Even in that scenario, however, state parties are still limited in what they can do. State governments in primary states are responsible for altering the date of the contest, but state parties do have some discretion on how to allocate delegates to candidates based on the results of primaries and caucuses. And that could be where there is some movement on the Republican rules in 2023. Yet, if there is enough of a groundswell from the state parties up to the Republican National Committee to expand or revert those allocation rules to pre-2012 levels, then there could be some push to end the use of the proportionality window at the beginning of the calendar, requiring states to allocate delegates in a proportional manner during the first half of March. 

For now, however, all of this is speculative. The relative silence on the Republican side has made this all a mystery to this point in the cycle. The obvious "problem" areas once common across parties are not exactly problematic (or the perception of delegate selection rules problems is asymmetric across national parties) for Republicans. That may yet change as the cycle develops, but at this point bet on state-level changes over national-level rules changes until anything new bubbles up, something that also differs from how Democrats have handled things in their own rules change track up to now.





Follow FHQ on TwitterInstagram and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies.     

No comments: