RNC Overhauls 2012 Presidential Primary Calendar

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Friday, August 06, 2010 at 3:25 pm

RNC Chairman Michael Steele. (Flickr, Republican Party of Shelby County)

Following an hour of contentious debate, the Republican National Committee voted this afternoon at their summer meeting in Kansas City to adopt changes to its 2012 presidential primary calendar. The measure received 103 votes out of the 144 members voting, just clearing the two-thirds majority threshold required for passage.

Under the new system, the traditional lead states – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — are permitted to hold their contests in February, but not in January, as they currently do. States holding contests in March would have to award delegate votes in some form of proportional system, rather than winner-takes-all.

I reported earlier in the week how adoption of the proposed changes, for a long time considered a done deal, was thrown into doubt in the lead up to the convention when RNC officials representing numerous states raised concerns with the selection of states permitted to hold their contests first, as well as with the implications the new calendar might have upon the outcome of the nominating contest in 2012.

“I’m going to ask you in the next 24 hours to set aside your agendas,” Steele implored RNC officials attending the summer meeting in Kansas City yesterday. “Take a chance that this will actually work.”

Enough members eventually did so today, but a number of concerns remain.

Some committee officials, who spoke on background in order to speak openly, worried that the new calendar would extend the length of time before deciding a Republican nominee, with negative consequences for the GOP’s chances in 2012.

“The Democrats have a president who is going to be nominated by their party at the convention,” pointed out one RNC official. “So the longer that our side has a fight, the more money we have to spend in the primary battling each other and not Obama. In my opinion and [that of] others, it’s to the Democrats’ advantage to elongate the nominating process.”

Others worried about whether states, nearly thirty of which will now have to change their state laws in order to avoid being out of compliance, would be able to do so. With Democrats controlling either the state legislature or the governor’s seat in many of them, Republicans openly worried about whether they’d be cooperative in changing the election laws.

“Ohio would have to ask the legislature and get everybody in line to change the date of the primary. These are always unpredictable requests,” Joanne Davidson, an RNC official for Ohio, told me earlier in the week.

Michigan, too, might face a bind if Democrats in the state legislature follow through on their threats to keep the state’s presidential primary date the same, another committee official had groused. And Georgia had made its worries open that, because it must preclear any changes to its elections rules with the Justice Department, it also might be inconvenienced by the new schedule.

“Chaos is the Democrats’ friend — makes no difference to them,” argued the committeeman who worried also about a longer GOP nominating cycle. “Chaos is going to cause confusion, money, and if you’re on the Democratic side, you’re all for it.”

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