Home/Daniel Larison/The RNC Primary Schedule Change and 2016

The RNC Primary Schedule Change and 2016

The RNC has voted to change its primary schedule and move the party’s convention to June:

The Republican National Committee on Friday voted to significantly compress its presidential nominating calendar and to move its nominating convention earlier in the summer of 2016.

The full committee voted at its annual winter meeting to approve a new rules package that would allow the four regular early states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — to hold their nominating contests in February 2016 and penalize other states that might try to move their contests earlier than March 1.

Jonathan Bernstein views this as an overreaction to the 2012 cycle:

One interesting question is whether compressing the calendar is actually a good idea. Indeed, some observers see this as a case of fighting the last war. The 2012 cycle, the theory goes, just went on too long, with eventual nominee Mitt Romney taking too many shots from other candidates.

My feeling, however, is that the hits Romney took almost certainly didn’t matter for the fall campaign. The real lesson of 2012 that Republicans should worry about is that virtually any crank, no matter how little qualified for president, can have a very good two weeks.

The party’s leaders can’t seem to make up their minds whether they want a short and quick nominating process (2008), or a drawn-out one that permits insurgent candidates more opportunities to compete and gives more states a chance to play a more important part in the process (2012). When McCain was able to wrap up the nomination by the first week of February, many conservatives were horrified because they didn’t want McCain, and so there was a great desire to find a way to keep that from happening again. The 2012 schedule was designed in part to do just that, but that process was just a longer version with the same result: the original front-runner won anyway. Now that they are going back to a more compressed schedule, that greatly improves the chances of whoever fills that front-runner role ahead of the voting. This makes it much more likely that what could potentially be the most wide-open, competitive Republican nomination contest on record will be turned into a rapid coronation of whoever happens to be in the lead at the start. That will probably mean that the party will once again choose another relative moderate distrusted by large numbers of conservatives, and who will suffer from the same lack of enthusiasm that afflicted McCain and Romney.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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