National Republicans meeting in Washington, D.C. this week are ready to ratify an accelerated primary and caucus selection system for 2016, a move that would give the GOP nominee an extra two months to focus on the general election.Under the plan, the GOP nomination battle would also start later than it did in 2012 or 2008—February, instead of January, and even then, outside of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, no state could hold a binding contest until March. That means almost all primaries and caucus would take place from March to May, shaving two months off the 2012 calendar.
The plan before the Rules Committee of the national GOP would set the Republican National Convention in either late June or early July of 2016, which would be the earliest GOP gathering since 1948.
Please read below the fold for more on the GOP's new calendar strategy.
The goal here seems to be to correct the perceived flaws of the GOP's 2012 primary process, including the fact that holding an earlier convention would allow the nominee to start raising general election money earlier in the year. Combined with the GOP's plan to limit primary debates to friendly media outlets like Fox News, a shorter calendar also aims to limit the nation's exposure the clownshow that the Republican presidential nomination has become, especially if there's not a competitive Democratic primary.
But as I wrote last month, I'm skeptical that these sorts of process changes will yield the results party leaders desire. First and foremost, the GOP's problem is that the reason it comes off like a freakshow is that it is a freakshow. Yes, Mitt Romney won the party's nomination, but he only won it after selling his soul to the GOP's right. In the end, that's really what his problem was.
In fact, as damaging as the debates were to the GOP brand in 2012, and as bad as it may have been for them to have a drawn-out nomination process, I don't think it's clear that Romney would have won a short battle with fewer debates. For Romney, the debates were a curse and a blessing: They allowed his rivals to soar, one-by-one, but just as methodically, Romney used the debates to destroy his opponents after they took flight. If there had been fewer debates and a shorter schedule, Romney might not have had the opportunity to dismantle his rivals and the GOP could have ended up with a Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich as its nominee. And as bad a candidate as Romney was, he was still the GOP's best bet.
Ultimately, however, it probably doesn't matter what the GOP does—except insofar as the GOP nomination process really does make for great political theater. If the GOP wants to be competitive in presidential elections, it's going to need to do a lot more than simply change its nomination process. It's going to need to change what it stands for. And there's no sign of that happening.