Showing posts with label Temporary Delegate Selection Committee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Temporary Delegate Selection Committee. Show all posts

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Don't Hold Your Breath: Caucus States Aren't Going Anywhere

Subtitle: The post in which FHQ takes out its scalpel and carves up a story overstating the likelihood of reform. I do not agree with Reid Wilson's piece up at the National Journal today.

...and there is a lot with which to disagree. What that article needs most, however, is context.

Look, FHQ doesn't have a dog in this fight. Unlike many others (mainly in the punditry), I don't engage in the normative arguments about the plusses and minuses of caucuses versus primaries. The simple fact of the matter is that it is up to the parties to decide. And throughout the post-reform era (1972-present), the national parties have deferred to the state parties on this issue of which mode of delegate allocation to utilize. The intention of the McGovern-Fraser reforms that took effect on the Democratic side in 1972 was actually to create more caucuses; to allow some participation of rank-and-file members of the party as a means of growing the party up from the grassroots. But state-level convenience overrode that unwritten intention. In reaction to the DNC's new mandate -- about binding delegates -- most states simply added presidential preference votes to their preexisting primary elections (assuming they fell roughly between a March-June window). Other states either immediately created separate presidential primary elections or gradually added them over time. It was the creation of those separate contests and in some cases the switch over from state party-funded caucuses to state-funded primaries also that most caused the frontloading of presidential nomination contests in the period between 1980-2008. [And don't hold your breath that that is over just because of what happened in the lead up to 2012.]

The point is that caucuses have largely disappeared as a part of that process. Yet, some states continue to use that mode of delegate allocation. And, again, that is something with which the national parties have been more than glad to go along. One of the pieces of political science research that FHQ cites most frequently on this front is the Meinke et al (2006) piece that makes quite clear the reason that some state parties prefer a caucus to a primary: It allows the state party more control over the process. The basic finding is that states where there is a lack of ideological convergence between the state party and the rank-and-file members of the party in the state are states where a closed caucus system is most often found (...closed primaries, too).

Now, again, pin whatever normative argument you please to that, but that is the way that it has been and the national parties have been fine with that. It would be completely out of character for the RNC to begin dictating to states what they can and can't do in terms of delegate allocation. The party has put in place some minimal restrictions on timing of primaries and caucuses over the years. It added rules that minimally changed the method of delegate allocation for 2012 -- curbing winner-take-all contests prior to April 1. And while FHQ has long argued that that latter change was a big step for the RNC, the change is not nearly as big as most have thought. Very plainly, the RNC is mostly hands off when it comes to this stuff.

The DNC, on the other hand, is not. The Democratic Party routinely tweaks its delegate selection rules from cycle to cycle and has over the years switched from a hands off entity on delegate selection to more hands on. The party since the 1980s, for instance, has required the proportional allocation of delegates to its national convention based either on a primary or the first step of a caucus/convention process.  During the intervening period between the 2008 and 2012 cycles, both the Democratic Change Commission and then the Rules and Bylaws Committee, acting on the former's recommendations, looked into the caucus process in the wake of the benefits the Obama campaign reaped from the caucus process during the 2008 Democratic nomination race. And result was not to tear down the caucus process. Instead, the result was to honor "the spirit of caucuses as an institution and an in-person party building tool." The commission recommended developing a set of "best practices" for caucuses with the goal of making the caucus process more uniform across states. [It should be noted that those recommendations led to no noticeable changes to the DNC delegate selection rules in 2012 relative to 2008.]

FHQ doesn't know what will happen specifically with Iowa and Nevada on the Republican side in the future, but there likely won't be anything more that emerges from the 2016 rules than a set of best practices for caucus states generally from either party.1 Those best practices may include some way of dealing with the vote counting issue. [Is it just FHQ or is anyone else of the opinion that the length of the count in Nevada was a direct response to the counting issues in Iowa? Knowing the process was messed up in 2008, the Nevada Republican Party erred on the side of caution and made sure they had the count right. Of course, that doesn't explain the closed door policy surrounding the count, but that's a different issue.] As I have said repeatedly -- and perhaps you've ascertained as much by now as well -- this quadrennial dance whereby the national parties set rules and states and state parties respond is a messy one.  Each of those entities -- national parties, state parties and states -- has a vested interest in the process, and getting them all on the same page across 50 states and additional territories is no small task.   Iowa and New Hampshire and a handful of other states realize this and have exploited the extant tensions between various combinations of those groups to maintain or force their way into privileged positions on the calendar. Iowa's parties band together. Nevada's don't. And that may be the downfall latter's Republicans if they can't stand up for their position or demonstrate that there will be changes in place for future cycles.

Regular readers will know that FHQ is extremely skeptical of any broad, sweeping reform to the presidential nomination system. Again, I don't have a dog in the fight. Change or no change, it provides me with a research agenda either way. But the above reasons are why it is unlikely. What we are likely to see -- or should logically see perhaps -- is the parties go one step beyond the informal coordination they had in formulating a calendar and basic rules for 2012 and coordinate uniform penalties across the parties for states in violation of the rules. Otherwise the state parties and states will continue to pit the national parties against each other to game the system. Regardless, none of the changes are going to come anywhere close to ending the presence of caucuses in the process.

Some other items in Wilson's piece that need some response:
1) "Thanks to movements inside both the Republican and Democratic national committees, 2012 may mark the end of this presidential nominating system."
Movements? What movements? Are there people in both parties that would like to see a change to the system? Yes. Is there a consensus on doing anything or in terms of what to do? No. Are we close to that? Well, the RNC passed the Ohio plan in 2008 which would have fundamentally rewritten the presidential nomination process, but it was quashed at the St. Paul convention and was never really a seriously discussed alternative at the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee meetings that recommended changes to the Republican Party's delegate selection rules. 
2) "The sticks established in 2010—namely, halving a state’s convention delegation and giving them lousy hotel rooms—weren’t enough."
The sticks on the Republican side were not enough. But it bears repeating that the Democrats, both in 2008 and now in 2012, have a penalty in place to strip any candidate of their delegates from any state in violation of the party's rules if the candidate campaigns in that violating state. The rationale: Penalties keep the candidates away and in the process keeps the media away. States that desire an early slot want that attention. If said attention is not forthcoming, the motivation to move up is removed. In isolation -- used by only one party as the Democrats found out in 2008 with Florida and Michigan -- that is perhaps an ineffective tool; particularly if Republicans control the strings that set the date of a primary or caucus in a state. However, across both parties -- with both enforcing it -- that is likely a fairly adequate deterrent. 
3) "Because Iowa and Nevada don’t actually allocate delegates until much later, they thrive only on media attention."
Wilson also raises the notion of delegates being allocated at district and state conventions in caucus states, and that the precinct vote is nothing but a straw poll. True. Nevada is an exception and that is not made clear in his piece. The allocation and binding of the Nevada Republican delegates is based on the proportion of the vote each candidate received in the caucuses on February 4.
And while we're on the subject, it should be noted that all states allocate their delegates "later". Yes, even in primary states where there is a parallel process whereby delegates are selected. That allocation, however, is binding based on the results of the primary or caucus (in the case of Nevada.) 
4) "Reform is coming soon..."
Perhaps, but don't hold your breath that it will fundamentally change the current system. The national parties are plenty satisfied to incrementally chip away at reform whenever it becomes necessary.
1 I don't know what will happen but I have my doubts that either -- Iowa or Nevada -- is going anywhere.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Myth of Republican Presidential Primary Proportionality Revisited

It was opportune that Stuart Rothenberg opted to pen an item in Roll Call today about the Republican National Committee rules changes for the 2012 presidential nomination process. FHQ had a revised look at the rules changes in the queue and Rothenberg's piece just adds fuel to the fire. It is another example of the media and commentators getting this wrong. And I couldn't disagree more with Rothenberg's interpretation. He essentially calls the new winner-take-all "restrictions" built into the RNC delegate selection rules a small change with a potential big impact. FHQ has just the opposite reaction:

The rules change is big and the impact potentially small. That the RNC created a panel -- the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee -- to look at and possibly tweak the presidential selection rules was huge in and of itself. But the fact that the TDSC actually altered the rules and curbed the freedom it has in the past allowed states in terms of setting their own delegate selection plans is, in FHQ's view, fairly monumental.

The back end of this is the impact the rules changes will have on the 2012 Republican presidential nomination process. As FHQ has stated previously, the rules across the two national parties have been wrongly interpreted in black and white terms: the Democrats have proportionality rules and the Republicans have winner-take-all rules. If any gradience has been added to the RNC rules, it has been to allow for the fact that Republican state parties could have in the past used proportional allocation methods if they so chose. But that misses -- and perhaps rightly so because you can get down in the weeds of this pretty quickly -- the true nature of the Republican rules both past and present. Those interpretations fail to closely examine the differences in allocation across the so-called winner-take-all states.

Again, as I stated previously, the tendency is to think of it in binary terms. It isn't either winner-take-all or proportional in the Republican Party. In fact, there are only a handful of states where the allocation method is truly winner-take-all (The candidate who wins the most votes receives the all of the delegates.). No, instead the winner-take-all states are divided into two main groups: straight winner-take-all states and hybrid winner-take-all states. In 2008, there were 10 truly winner-take-all states and 14 hybrids that divided delegate allocation between the statewide vote and the congressional district vote or provided for some vote percentage threshold (typically 50%) that would trigger the winner-take-all allocation. In other words, under certain conditions, a candidate might or might not win all of the delegates in those hybrid states.

This can get terribly complicated, so let me illustrate this in a different way. Basically, any state Republican Party with a straight winner-take-all system will have to make some alteration to their rules in 2012 if the party is planning on holding a primary before April 1. To reiterate, that is only a handful of states. Of the 24 Republican primary states in 2008 that had some form of winner-take-all allocation (whether straight or hybrid), only seven are currently scheduled or are likely to be scheduled at dates prior to April 1 that also need to make changes to their rules. For the straight winner-take-all states like Arizona or Vermont that could mean any number of changes. The path of least resistance is to split the allocation into statewide and congressional district votes. Only the statewide delegates are required to be proportionally allocated. The congressional district delegates can still be allocated using winner-take-all rules. [More on this in a moment] Another possible route is to create a threshold rule. If one candidate clears the 50% mark in the contest, for instance, that candidate receives all of the delegates. If the majority barrier is not cleared, the rules require a proportional allocation method.

In reality, most states can maintain winner-take-all rules under certain conditions; even before April 1. The proportionality requirement in the new rules only applies to a state's at-large, statewide delegates. Let's parse this out by looking at the breakdown of the delegates at stake in the primary states scheduled or likely to be schedule for pre-April 1 dates.

2012 Republican Delegate Apportionment (Early States)
StateTotal DelegatesDistrict DelegatesBase DelegatesBonus DelegatesAutomatic Delegates%Proportional
1 States already have proportional allocation of all delegates.
2 States have either/or allocation rules. If a candidate receives a majority of the vote in either the statewide vote or congressional district vote, that candidate nets all the delegates from that unit. If a majority is not won by any candidate, the delegates for each unit are allocated proportionally.

Source: The Green Papers

Again, in looking at this apportionment, the Base and Bonus delegates are the ones that are required to be allocated proportionally in a contest prior to April 1. A threshold can be included in the state parties' delegate selection plans, but if that is not met by one of the candidates, the least amount of change is to simply allocate the those two types of delegates -- the ones allocated based on statewide results -- proportionally and maintain winner-take-all rules for the congressional district delegates. There are a couple of things going on here that bear some mention. First of all, the more loyally Republican a state's voting history has been, the more bonus delegates it receives. That, in turn, means that there are more potential delegates at stake proportionally in that state relative to a more Democratic state. Secondly, smaller states are more disproportionately hit by this restriction because of the 10 base delegates that all states have. In other words, there are fewer district delegates that can be allocated winner-take-all. This is pointed out in the far right column. That accounts for the percentage of the state's total delegates that are open to proportional allocation due to the Republican National Committee's rules change.

[Note also that each state also has three automatic delegates. These are delegates within the Republican Party similar to the Democrats' superdelegates. They are free agents in some states and not in others. Each state has three: one for the state party chair, one for the national committeeman and one more for the national committeewoman.]

The bottom line is that the rules changes will force an alteration of the rules in all true winner-take-all states and some more minor changes to state party delegate selection plans in some of the hybrid winner-take-all systems. The impact of the switch varies based on the two factors discussed above. In 2008, many of the hybrid winner-take-all states looked as if they were true winner-take-all states. Candidates, whether McCain, or Romney or Huckabee were able to do well across the board in a state and win, if not all, then most of a state's delegates. [The hybrid systems I've discussed here are often referred to as winner-take-most states.]

In some ways, then, this is where we have to balance the changes to the rules and the impact that may have with the dynamics of the 2012 race. The rules changes matter, though not to as great a degree as Rothenberg and others have described, but the dynamics are of consequence as well. If the race develops into a two-person Perry-Romney fight, then we could see this play out in any number of ways. The two candidates, on the one hand, could do well in particular areas of the country or among particular demographics that are prevalent in various state -- like the Obama-Clinton race in 2008 -- or we could witness a competitive battle everywhere on the map between those two. In the former instance, the new rules may matter very little. Perry, say, could do very well in the South; to the point that they appear to have been straight winner-take-all contests. Romney could likewise do well in western states or states with high LDS populations and the same would be true in terms of the delegate allocation. But if Perry and Romney end up, on the opposite end of this spectrum, battling evenly everywhere, then the rules changes -- the proportionality requirement becomes more consequential.

In truth, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. One candidate may do well in some states or group of states and minimize the rules change while simultaneously running even with the other in other states, causing the proportionality requirement to be of greater influence.

But one thing is for sure, this rules change is not a complete abolition of winner-take-all allocation in the 2012 Republican presidential nomination race. It just isn't.

[NOTE: For the record, FHQ probably should not get so frustrated with the media and analysts when this comes up. At some point the RNC needs to take some heat for not having properly educated the public, and particularly its primary voters, on this matter.]

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Myth of Republican Presidential Primary Proportionality

The one thing that gets FHQ all hot and bothered these days -- to the point that we really want to go all Joe Wilson on people -- is to hear or read pundits talking about what a game changer the Republican National Committee's new rules on delegate allocation will have on the 2012 nomination race. Look, the RNC and the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee made big steps toward not only allowing delegate selection rules changes outside of the Republican convention but in actually altering the rules in a way that curbs to some extent the latitude states have had in the past in determining their own method of allocation.

However, the most underreported aspect of the 2012 Republican nomination race -- something FHQ has said before but since there are so many people hanging around here post-Ames bears repeating -- is that the rules change will not fundamentally alter the accrual of delegates by candidates next year. The pre-April winner-take-all restrictions are being given way more weight than they deserve. And nothing epitomizes that more than Dana Houle's hypothetical run through a Romney-Perry nomination race where complete winner-take-all restrictions prior to April are imposed by the RNC.1

The only problem is that it is a myth.

Many are looking on the 2012 Republican nomination race as a repeat of the 2008 Democratic race. The 2012 Republican race may yet be a dragged out affair that stretches into May or June, and that may be because of the rules changes. But it will be more about the changes to the scheduling of primaries -- a more even dispersion of contests -- than it is about the shift in delegate allocation rules. Again, the impact is being exaggerated.

Part of the problem here is that the Republican National Committee has done a poor job at educating the public -- much less members of its own party or the media -- about the changes. People hear, "States can't have winner-take-all delegate allocation prior to April 1," and automatically flashback to the Democrats in 2008. That is the wrong mindset and highlights the poor job that both the national party and the media have done on this issue. It demonstrates the misunderstanding of the basic rules differences between the two parties. Seemingly the differences in delegate allocation are often portrayed as black and white -- proportional and winner-take-all -- when in reality the difference is between black and gray. The Republicans have allowed the states to set their own mode of allocation and many in the past -- without "restrictions" -- have opted for straight winner-take-all, hybrid systems or proportional allocation.

FHQ won't rehash the arguments we have made in the past. This time we will offer up an example of what the rules changes might entail. Let's look at Michigan. The Michigan Republican Party's State Policy Committee recently recommended that the Great Lakes state presidential primary be held sometime during a February 28-March 6 window next year. Those recommendations were passed this past weekend by the full State Committee and included a consensus (on the State Policy Committee) to repeat the delegate allocation rules from 2008. Those rules in 2008 yielded an allocation of 23 delegates for Mitt Romney, 6 for John McCain and 1 for Mike Huckabee. Romney captured just under 39% of the vote in the January 15 Michigan primary, but ended up with 77% of the delegates from the state. No, that isn't directly winner-take-all, but it does provide one candidate with a healthy margin in the delegate count coming out of the state.

And Michigan is going to use the same method in 2012: allocating its three delegates per each congressional district on a winner-take-all basis and the remaining at-large delegates proportionally. Candidates would have to win 15% of the vote to win any delegates; something that could be set as high as 20% according to the rules. So, for the record, 42 of the 59 delegates (79% of the state's delegate total) are still allocated on a winner-take-all basis. And seven three of the remaining delegates are the Republicans' version of superdelegates: They are free to endorse who they please. That leaves just the ten at-large delegates -- each state has ten -- plus the four bonus delegates to be allocated proportionally.2

Instead of proving to be a drag on Perry's chances, this may, in fact, help him out if other states follow Michigan's lead. Perry would not have jumped into the race if he didn't see a path and that path -- best case scenario -- sees victory in Iowa, a least second in New Hampshire, a win in South Carolina, being in the top two in Florida. That omits Nevada, Arizona and Michigan. Throw them to Romney if you will, but after those potential contests comes a southern swing on Super Tuesday and the following week (March 6-13). There is a reason the Romney campaign was pushing for an earlier Utah primary for Super Tuesday. It wasn't to ward off of Huntsman, it was to provide some delegates for the former Massachusetts governor in an otherwise tough couple of weeks for the Romney campaign from a delegates perspective. Does that bring out the death knell for the Romney campaign. Perhaps. He will have plenty of money, but often the writing can be on the wall with as few as 30% of the total national delegates allocated -- depending on the scenario. Regardless, that southern swing would at the worst -- assuming the Perry candidacy takes off -- give Perry the upper hand and the momentum when the contests turn elsewhere.

Look, Perry may fall flat in the next few weeks and he may not. But he will not fail if he makes it to 2012 because of the incorrect perception of the RNC rules regarding delegate allocation. The perception that the GOP has adopted Democratic-style, straight proportional allocation for any contest occurring before April 1 is a figment of everyone's imagination.

UPDATE: Regular FHQ reader, Matt Seyfang (@mseyfang), points out that Michigan is only one state and may not represent the true tenor of the rules changes. Too true. In order to avoid any cherrypicking charges, let's look at this from a slightly different angle. Compared to the 2008 rules, which states will have to make changes to their Republican delegate allocation? As of now, given the information we have, there are 16 pre-April primary states.3 Of those 16 states, seven will have to make some changes to their delegate allocation rules. Four -- South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma -- already have rules accounting for allocating both congressional district delegates and statewide, at-large delegates. In other words, these states weren't and aren't straight winner-take-all states. Those four states have to change the mode in which the statewide, at-large delegates are allocated. Recall, that the at-large delegates are only a sliver of any state's overall delegate total. When and if these states alter their rules to comply with the RNC mandates, it won't represent all that fundamental a change to the accumulation of delegates relative to 2008. The remaining three states -- Vermont, Virginia and Arizona -- all have straight winner-take-all allocation rules and have a slightly greater chance of seeing a difference in 2012 allocation versus 2008. But again, the requirement does not call for a huge change. Those states, as the ones above, will only have to alter the way in which those at-large, statewide delegates are allocated.

FHQ should also note that, we won't have a firm grasp on the plans in each state until after the October 1 RNC deadline for informing the RNC of state-level plans for delegate allocation. That said, the expectation here is that state Republican Parties will take the easiest route toward compliance on these delegate allocation rules. State parties won't, then, fundamentally rewrite their past rules, but only tweak them to meet the new guidelines.

And that will yield a change from 2008 potentially, but not nearly the type of change in delegate allocation that is being implied by pundits and others.

NOTE: Delegate allocation rules come via The Green Papers.

1 Or David Chalian citing the impact of the new winner-take-all restrictions in a segment on the GOP race on The PBS NewsHour this evening. He repeats the mistake here.

2 The "bonus" delegates, according to Rule 13.5 of the 2008 Rules of the Republican Party, are those added to a state's total for a state having voted for the Republican presidential candidate in the previous cycle, having Republican governors, having Republican majorities in the state legislature, etc. Those additional delegates are added to a state's at-large total and are allocated proportionally prior to April 1 and at the state's discretion thereafter.

3 Caucus states are harder to deal with. Most don't typically allocate any delegates at the precinct caucus stage. The Nevada GOP has decided to do so in 2012 and to allocated those delegates proportionally.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reconciling the 2012 Work of the Democratic Change Commission and the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee

FHQ has been closely watching the meetings of the groups within both national parties reexamining the rules by which delegates will be allocated and presidential candidates nominated in the 2012 election. And we have done our part to bring the developments to our readers (click on the Democratic Change Commission and/or Temporary Delegate Selection Committee tags at the conclusion of the post for the full discussion). And while there has been a fair amount of individual analysis here, we have been lacking in attempts to reconcile what each party is doing with its counterparts across the aisle.

For all the talk about working together, there actually hasn't been any overt contact between the two parties other than a post at The Hill over the summer bringing the idea up. Of course, I've also tried to do my part here. Absolutely nothing revolutionary is going to get done on the presidential primary reform front unless the parties work together. And even then, FHQ is not necessarily of a mind that reform is acutely necessary. Democrats ended up with a winner in 2008 and Republicans, purity tests aside, got the candidate best positioned to actually beat any Democrat in a year that favored the party of Jefferson and Jackson. The weak links from the 2008 cycle are the ones being addressed now by both parties: what to do about caucuses (or the larger caucuses vs. primaries question), how can we stop frontloading, and for the Democrats, what should we do about those superdelegates? And though the Republican Party has items such as rotating regional primaries and instant runoffs on the table, FHQ is hesitant to take them seriously.


Well, those ideas are grand in scope and are going to take cooperation from Democrats to implement. And as of yet, there has been, again, no action taken on that front. In fact, those ideas aren't anywhere near the Democratic Change Commission's agenda. This isn't all the Democrats' fault either. For their part, the Change Commission is firmly committed to altering the timing of delegate selection events. No, the group isn't seemingly going to advance any radical recommendation, but they are intent on closing the window in which primaries and caucuses can be held; effectively starting the process in mid- to late February instead of at the beginning of the year as in 2008. [Non-exempt states -- everyone but Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada would be allowed to hold their delegate selection events on the first week in March or there after until the process comes to a close in June.]

This, however, does not necessarily jibe well with the goals of the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee. Indeed, this March starting point has not seemingly been on the Republican group's radar for their meetings to date. That isn't to say the GOP won't go along with the idea eventually, but their motivation is counter to the plan the Democrats are advancing. The Republican Party will be more interested in a quick nomination decision, a la 2004 for the Democrats, simply because they are going to be facing an incumbent president. [Plus opening up the Tea Party rift in 2012 will likely be suicidal for Republicans. The GOP just hasn't as of yet seemed willing to take a more pragmatic route in order to win. Democrats were at that point in 2008 -- and that isn't to suggest that they "settled" for Obama. The RNC is mindful of that and would likely opt for the status quo to maintain the quick selection mechanisms that are in place within the party's nominating apparatus.]

What that means is that the Republican Party's goals are not necessarily congruent with those of the Democratic Party. On top of that, time is running out. [For 2012? Yes, for 2012.] The Democratic Change Commission's recommendations are due to the party by the first of the year in 2010. The Rules and Bylaws Committee will then decide upon the rules for 2012 some time over the summer; roughly the same time period the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee is slated to finish up its work. That essentially leaves about nine months for the parties to put their heads together on the matter of primary reform. Sure, that's an eternity in politics, but when distractions like health care and midterm elections pop up, the task becomes even more difficult. Besides, a year has already passed since the 2008 election and the parties have not actively opened a dialog on this front.

They're going to fix that in nine months? Color FHQ bearish.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Update on GOP Temporary Delegate Selection Committee Meeting

[UPDATE: Here's a rundown from CNN of the day that was at the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee meeting. There are some interesting tidbits there. FHQ will have a broader comment on the piece later on.]

As has been the case with other Temporary Delegate Selection Committee meetings, news from within the event (yesterday's meeting in Washington) took a bit of time to surface. Just as a refresher, the TDSC is the 15 member group that is charged with examining the rules under which the 2012 Republican presidential nomination will be governed. The group has met before, but very little has come out in terms of what they have been considering. Sure, there's been talk of regional primaries and perhaps even an instant runoff system, but the information that has come out of these handful of meetings has paled in comparison to the cornucopial plethora of news that has emerged from the two Democratic Change Commission meetings. Now granted, it always helps when there are people on the inside who are willing to share (Suzi LeVine and Frank Leone to a name a couple.) publicly.

But did anything groundbreaking come out of the meeting yesterday? It depends on what you mean by groundbreaking. Nothing was released that in any way fundamentally reshaped the way in which Republican presidential nominees are selected. But that won't come until the group settles in on a decision to do so (...if then). What we do have are a couple of inside accounts. The first comes from TDSC member and former Michigan Republican Party chair, Saul Anuzis. The meeting was a late-day affair, so his tweets of the events didn't start appearing until 5pm. Here are a few of Anuzis' observations (via Twitter):
1. RNC 2012 Rules underway Huckabee, Giuliani managers have testified. SOS from WA now testifying.

2. RNC 2012 hearing options on timing, rotational options, primary vs caucus systems.

3. RNC 2012 has strong contingency from NH, IA and SC:)

4. RNC 2012 update, this will be the last public hearing with lots of ideas coming forward. Detailed proposals coming at December mtg.

5. RT @dcseth: @sanuzis Any talk of closed primaries? // no...that is up to states.
Let's put the pieces together:

The group heard from Chip Saltsman (Huckabee's former campaign manager) and, I'd guess, Michael DuHaime (from the Giuliani campaign in 2008). I can verify the former (Anuzis and Saltsman shared a call and response on Twitter following the meeting.), but the latter is, as I said, a guess. DuHaime is a part of the Christ Christie gubernatorial transition team in New Jersey (not that that has anything to do with this). [Ah, here's confirmation that DuHaime spoke before the TDSC.]

Also speaking before the committee was Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed. FHQ has discussed Reed in the past. Earlier in the year, he was urging RNC chair, Michael Steele, to fill out the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee with other secretaries of state. [There are none.] For his part, Reed toed the company line: He pushed for the National Association of Secretaries of State's rotating regional primary plan. But he also added that voters would prefer a later start to the process and that "There is a growing call for a process that is logical, orderly and fair."

Anuzis' second tweet seems to have been borne out of some of Reed's comments or at least a discussion stemming from it. [We've heard about the rotating regional primaries before, so I asked him about the timing aspect in relation to what the Democrats are planning on. I'm still waiting to hear back.]

Are you surprised that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina had large contingents in attendance? No, I wasn't either. The last two points were more worthwhile anyway. Firstly, the next TDSC meeting will be in December when they will hear "detailed proposals." Again, the RNC isn't slated to vote on anything coming out of these meetings until next summer. Still, the GOP will have something on the table by the end of the year, the point at which the Democratic Change Commission will make their recommendations to the DNC.

Finally, we also see that the neither the TDSC nor RNC are on the offensive to enact closed primaries (see recent FHQ discussion here). I briefly thought about a mass Republican switch to caucuses when I saw the "primaries vs. caucus systems" comment above, since caucuses are, on the whole, closed to independents and Democrats (from the Republican perspective). But Anuzis shoots that idea and the idea of the RNC forcing states to close their primaries (They can't.) down.

Now, what did we learn from all this? There won't be anymore closed primaries than there already are unless the state governments make a change or state parties opt out in favor of a party-funded caucus. [Yeah, you knew that already.] We also learned that there is another Temporary Delegate Selection Committee meeting next month.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

GOP Temporary Delegate Selection Committee Meeting Today

Either the Republican Party is quieter about their efforts at tinkering with their presidential nomination rules for 2012 or FHQ just doesn't have the right connections. We do have one that is consistently good, however. According to former Michigan Republican Party chair and TDSC member, Saul Anuzis, the group is meeting today in Washington. The group last met at the end of September. Very little information has emerged from any of the meetings thus far. Iowa and New Hampshire are safe in their first-in-the-nation status and there has been at least some discussion of regional primaries, and separately, a potential instant runoff system.

FHQ will update as news of the meeting surfaces. In the meantime, both Anuzi's Twitter account and blog are good places to check if you're impatient ( FHQ).

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why the Democratic Change Commission's March 1 Mandate Will Be a Tough Sell Without a Bipartisan Primary Reform Plan

One thing that was made clear at this past weekend's Democratic Change Commission meeting was that the group's final recommendation to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee would heed the call of the convention provision that created the group in the first place. Namely, in regards to the timing of presidential primaries in 2012, the DCC is committed to closing the window on February delegate selection events (with the exception of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina).

But the March 1 mandate is problematic for the very same reasons that make reforming the presidential process difficult: that the lack of a bipartisan approach hampers the entire effort at reform. And without bipartisan action to confront the reform process, there could potentially be several classes of states.
  • The first distinction to be made is between states that have to move the date on which their delegate selection events are held and those that don't have to do anything to reach compliance. Well, there were a lot of February states in 2008.
  • Secondly, there is a line that separates caucus states and primary states on this as well. The dates on which caucuses are held are determined by the state parties more often than not, while state governments (state legislatures and governors) set primary dates. State party compliance is easier to come by than state legislative compliance (see here for more on this point.).
  • On a level that is more troublesome, however, is where the March 1 mandate intersects with state governmental action. In states where the Democratic Party is in control of the state government, there may be some difficulty getting legislation altering the date on which any state's primary is held, but it would likely be minor compared to the potential resistance faced in states where the Republican Party controls both the executive and legislative branches.
Again, all this assumes that the GOP does nothing to significantly alter the rules governing their delegate selection process. Yes, the party took the unprecedented step of creating a group (the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee) to look at those rules outside of the convention for the first time. Now, the party could opt to stick with the frontloaded system as a means of settling the 2012 nomination quickly in order to prepare for a long general election campaign against Obama. They could also radically alter the primary process in a way that exceeds what the Democratic Change Commission is charged with examining. In either scenario, a go-it-alone strategy by either party likely nets them both a situation where there is a partisan discrepancy in some states. In other words, some states may have no incentive to go along with one of the parties' rules.

That's how we get back to the battle lines outlined above. Let's key in on that last one for the moment because that is where this gets Florida/Michigan messy. For the moment, let's assume that there are only minor changes to the Republican rules, that the Democrats go forward with this March 1 mandate for all non-exempt states, and that the GOP continues to allow February primaries and caucuses (Keep in mind Hawaii Republicans have already staked a claim to February 21, 2012 as the date for their caucus.). How many states have or will potentially have unified Republican control of the state government and could completely ignore Democratic rules (in the way that the Florida state government did a year ago)?

There are elections to be held that could change this before the 2012 delegate selection rules are adopted by both parties sometime next year. However, there are only three states that would not be in compliance with Democratic Party rules (a March 1 mandate assumed) given the current shape of the 2012 presidential primary calendar: Arizona, Florida and Georgia. Well, that's not that many. No, it isn't and that doesn't even include the caveat that Arizona's governor can use the power of proclamation to move the primary date to a more competitive date. [Traditionally, that has meant that the late February primary date that is on the books has been moved to early February. There is no language that I know of in the gubernatorial proclamation law that could allow the governor to move the primary back. That would be a test of the law. That point may be moot if Jan Brewer or another Republican is elected in Arizona next year. They wouldn't be motivated to move the date back to comply with the Democratic Party's rules for delegate selection anyway.]

Three isn't that many. Again, it isn't, but what's missing is states where there is a unified Republican legislature and a Democratic governor. The governor in those states can't make the state legislature pass a law just to comply with another party's rules. That adds three more states: Missouri, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Of course, those latter two may very well have Republican governors after the 2010 elections. Democrats in Tennessee and Oklahoma have very little depth on the bench behind either Bredesen in Tennessee or Henry in Oklahoma.

Now, we've already potentially tripled the Florida and Michigan problem from 2008. But what about early states with legislatures that have two chambers split between the two parties. One chamber (the Democratic one) may want to push a bill through that would bring the state's primary within the Democratic delegate selection rules, but the other chamber may find some better use of their legislative time. Well, that nets us two more states, Michigan and Virginia.

That would present the Democratic Party with a real dilemma. Eight states would potentially be in violation of the party's 2012 rules (specifically the March 1 mandate) through no fault of their own. Either legislative gridlock or unified Republican control of the state government could prevent compliance. How do you penalize states in that scenario? Would the state parties be forced to foot the bill for a party-run primary or caucus?

It is just this sort of exercise that the Democratic Change Commission should be considering. There have been a number of questions in both meetings thus far along the lines of "is coordination with the RNC possible?" that give a sense of detachment. Both parties are set to nail down the 2012 rules next year and yet there is no apparent effort at coordination taking place (at least not at the level of the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee or the Change Commission) despite the very real possibility that problems like those described above could take place.

Food for thought.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

More on the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee: Iowa and Instant Runoffs?

Iowa seems safe for 2012; at least its presidential caucuses are in the eyes of one Iowan on the Republican Party's Temporary Delegate Selection Committee.
"The focus of the discussion has moved beyond Iowa to what comes after it, [Temporary Delegate Selection Committee member Brian]Kennedy said after Monday's meeting in Washington."
In other words, the bigger fight ahead of the 2012 nomination cycle from both parties' perspectives is not who is first (or among the first) but preventing an early logjam similar to 2008's Super Tuesday again instead. Iowa and New Hampshire are simply better able to make a move to early January or even December of the year prior to the election year than are other states.
"Everyone has their parochial issues, but I think they've decided it's a fight not worth waging," Kennedy said. "There's a recognition you have to have a broad consensus to get a two-thirds vote of the RNC. If you do something as dramatic as changing Iowa and New Hampshire, that might make it difficult to achieve the two-thirds."
But what's under consideration by the 15 members of the Republican panel is what is the most interesting.
"We've probably looked at every proposition made over the last decade," Kennedy said, including holding a series of primaries or regional primaries or a national primary where Republicans would vote for their top three choices to narrow the field. Nothing has been ruled out, but he senses little interest in upsetting the Iowa-New Hampshire-South Carolina apple cart.
Regional primaries are nothing new, but this idea of a national primary with a top three vote is a new twist. I don't know if what the Republicans have in mind is an instant runoff system. That would certainly add a new element to the selection of presidential nominees.

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Update on Temporary Delegate Selection Committee Meeting

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Update on Temporary Delegate Selection Committee Meeting

It has been quiet today on the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee (TDSC) front, and as I said yesterday, FHQ was not bullish on any groundbreaking news coming out of this meeting. Again, they aren't set to have the rules for 2012 in place until next summer. However, not content to just say there was a meeting and leave it at that, I had a back and forth with former Michigan GOP chair, Saul Anuzis.

My question? "Is there any consensus on the TDSC to work with the Democratic Party to bring about meaningful presidential primary reform?"

There was a report that James Roosevelt (former head of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee) and Bill Bennett (former head of the GOP equivalent) talked up the need for coordination on this issue over the summer, but remained skeptical about how widespread that was within the parties. Now, all Anuzis said when he responded was, "Yes, in progress." This is still more evidence that both parties recognize the need to coordinate their efforts if they are going to change the system in any significant way.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee Meeting Today

This is just a reminder that the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee is meeting today in Washington. There are a couple of members of the Committee who have Twitter accounts that you can follow:

Saul Anuzis: @sanuzis
Fredi Simpson: @fredi_simpson

I sent Anuzis (the former Michigan GOP chair and nominee for the national position this past January) a tweet last week asking him what was on the agenda and he playfully responded, "Everything." His twitter feed will be a good place to look for quick information on the proceedings, though. He updates with feverish regularity (Simpson's pace is far slower.).

Regardless, these are the places to check first for Temporary Delegate Selection Committee news. We'll likely get information here before it trickles down to the actual news.

UPDATE: FHQ should probably also note that no final decisions on 2012 presidential primary reform are due out of this meeting today. We are hoping for a progress report, though.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

GOP Temporary Delegate Selection Committee to Meet on Sept. 28

According to John DiStaso, writing for the New Hampshire Union-Leader, the Republican Party's Temporary Delegate Selection Committee is slated to meet on September 28 to continue discussing the order of 2012 presidential primaries and caucuses. Overall, the group is charged with setting the rules that will govern the entire delegate selection process for the next presidential election cycle. The committee is historic in that it the first time in the modern era that the Republican Party has set its rules for the next cycle in a forum other than the preceding national nominating convention.

Here's the full excerpt from DiStaso:

RATH ON THE COMMITTEE. A bit of presidential primary news here.

Former state RNC member Tom Rath is now a member of the national party's Temporary Delegate Selection Committee, which is trying to figure out a way to alleviate "front-loading" in the 2012 primary/caucus schedule.

Rath said the next meeting is Sept. 28. He also said that the committee's charge is to focus on the order of delegate selection events after New Hampshire's primary.

The party rule that created the delegate selection committee guarantees New Hampshire and South Carolina spots ahead of the pack. It does not address Iowa since its caucus-goers do not directly select delegates. That is done later through a complex process.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Republicans and Democrats to Work Together to Prevent Frontloading/National Primary?

With the Republican Temporary Delegate Selection Committee slated to meet next week to begin its discussions on altering the presidential primary calendar for 2012, The Hill is reporting that a new ally in the effort has emerged. New Hampshire Democrat and Democratic Change Commission member, James Roosevelt has been in contact with several members of the Republican committee about ways in which the two parties can work together to head off the problems with the perceived inevitability of a national primary (de facto or not) in 2012 and/or beyond.

And this appears to come through in some of the comments from the story:
“If we don’t try to coordinate, [the primary process] just keeps leapfrogging into the previous year,” Roosevelt added.
“If we don’t do it now, we’re not going to get another chance,” Bennett warned.
One thing we can glean from this is that way the 2008 calendar played out added a sense of urgency to the issue of frontloading; enough of a sense that the parties have realized that time is short and that they are potentially willing to work together to avoid the worst case scenario. And that's a fairly significant step.

Oh, and a hat tip to Don Means over at the National Presidential Caucus for the link to The Hill article.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

GOP Temporary Delegate Selection Committee in Place

Here's the press release:


WASHINGTON – Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele today announced the appointment of Ohio National Committeeman Bob Bennett, Wisconsin National Committeeman Steve King, Florida National Committeeman Paul Senft, former Maryland Secretary of State Mary Kane, former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, former Office of Personnel Management Director Kay James, former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Brian Kennedy, former White House Spanish media spokesperson Mercy Schlapp, and former New Hampshire Attorney General Tom Rath to the RNC Temporary Delegate Selection Committee.

“I am proud to announce the appointments of this impressive group of people to the RNC Temporary Delegate Selection Committee. They are all exceptionally qualified people and I look forward to working with them in the future,” said Chairman Steele.

The RNC Temporary Delegate Selection Committee serves to review the timing of the election, selection, allocation, or binding of delegate and alternate delegates to the Republican National Convention. In accordance with The Rules of the Republican Party, the RNC Chairman appoints three RNC members and six non-members to the RNC Temporary Delegate Selection Committee, which is already comprised of four elected RNC members.

1) Was the GOP trying to keep this quiet? By releasing this on a Friday -- the Friday before a holiday weekend no less -- this news was bound to receive less coverage than if it had been broken on almost any other day. That certainly seems to have been the case. The Democratic Change Commission's announcement garnered more coverage than its Republican counterpart. Granted, I'm on the road and wasn't as on top of things today as I usually am, but still, I had to search for mentions of this announcement. Color me perplexed.

2) Take a look at the new members of the committee. All nine are from blue states. Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Iowa, Florida, Michigan and Maryland are all represented as are Virginia (Kay James) and Florida again (Mercy Schlapp). Most importantly -- to them at least -- Iowa and New Hampshire have a seat at the table, but so do upstarts Florida and Michigan. Ohio GOP chair, Bob Bennett has been pushing the Ohio Plan for a while now (see here for more). But where are Texas and South Carolina, or for that matter, any southern state? This provides at least some indication of the direction Michael Steele will take the party. It is a nod to the need to expand the party outside of the South. But to have no southern states represented? That's certainly a break from the past.

The full committee is due to issue a report with recommendations on the rules of the 2012 primary season next summer and FHQ will have an eye on the progress between now and then.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

GOP Temporary Delegate Selection Committee for 2012

I had a link to a full version of the Republican National Committee rules (2009-2012) come into my inbox this morning and thought I would cut and paste the relevant language concerning delegate selection for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination here. Additionally, the full text of those rules is appended at the bottom of the post.

The section, Rule 10(d) follows [See page 17 of rules below.]:
(d) There shall be a temporary committee to review the timing of the election, selection, allocation, or binding of delegate and alternate delegates pursuant to Rule No. 15(b) of these rules to the 2012 Republican National Convention. The Temporary Delegate Selection Committee shall be composed of fifteen (15) members, which shall include one (1) member of the Republican National Committee from each of the four (4) regions described in Rule No. 5, elected by the members of the Republican National Committee from each region at the 2009 Republican National Committee Winter Meeting; further, the chairman of the Republican National Committee will appoint three (3) additional members of the Republican National Committee and six (6) Republicans who are not members of the Republican National Committee. The chairman and general counsel of the Republican National Committee shall serve as ex-officio voting members. The chairman of the Republican National Committee shall convene the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee as soon as practicable after the 2009 Republican National Committee Winter Meeting. The Temporary Delegate Selection Committee shall make any recommendations it deems appropriate concerning additions to Rule No. 15(b) of these rules, provided that such additions shall preserve the provisions of Rule No. 15(b) adopted by the 2008 Republican National Convention, which shall be voted upon without amendment by the Republican National Committee at the 2010 Republican National Committee Summer Meeting and which shall require a two-thirds (2/3) vote to be adopted. Any action adopted would take effect sixty (60) days after passage. The Temporary Delegate Selection Committee shall disband following the 2010 Republican National Committee Summer Meeting.
Thus far, the membership of the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee (TDSC) has been scrutinized to some extent (see here and here), but not fully and the other related rules have been ignored as well. An important question emerges:
  • How much power does the newly-instated Chairman Michael Steele actually have in this process?
At the outset, Steele has an immense amount of power over the membership of the committee. The very same meeting where Steele was elected also elected four RNC members to serve on the TDSC. Additionally, Steele, himself, and the RNC's general counsel (To be a Steele appointee according to Rule 5(c) [See page 8 in the rules below], though I can't find any documentation that current counsel, Blake Hall, was among those let go by Steele in the February wave of staff resignations/firings.*) both serve as members of the committee. Steele also has nine other appointments; six from among the members of the RNC and three from outside those ranks. If reform is the desired outcome then, Steele can choose among those within and outside of the RNC that really value a change, significant or otherwise.

The membership aspects have been discussed, but what is lost in this is the fact that two-thirds of the RNC still has to vote in favor of any change. Now, the committee already voted in favor of the Ohio Plan, but had that derailed by the McCain campaign at last year's St. Paul convention. Hypothetically then, this could be pushed through again without the same obstruction. Whether that comes to pass or not depends on the changes made at the state level for each state's member(s). Then again, these are the folks that elected Steele in the first place.

In other words, this situation is a bit fluid. And with chatter ramping up the last couple of weeks that Steele may be out of a job, the formation of the committee is even more up in the air. If you are betting on when the TDSC will be up and running, I'd opt for later rather than sooner if I were you.

Republican National Committee Rules, Adopted 2008

*Incidentally, when I was searching for news about Blake Hall, I came across this podcast where he addresses presidential primary reform; specifically the Ohio Plan, which at that point -- summer 2008 -- had been passed by the RNC to be voted on at the national convention. The vote failed, but did lead to the crafting of the rule creating the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee. There were some interesting notes in this interview. Number one, Hall, whether he is retained as general counsel and is on the TDSC or not, supports primary reform of some sort. He indicated that the RNC penalty for violating a hypothetical Ohio Plan would be the same as it was in 2008 (a loss of 50% of a state's delegates). However, he also indicated that there had been discussion about increasing that penalty. Hall closed by discussing the tradeoff there, citing the Democratic problems in 2008. Namely, if a party is going to have a severe delegate penalty, said penalty has to be enforced.
[Original link to podcast here.]

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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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