Michael Barone

I would argue that local and state parties were already on life support, which is why they were so easily brushed aside.

Still, their proposal is interesting and merits scrutiny. It is based on the conventions that, pursuant to the Constitution, ratified that document.

In the week of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, some 3,000 delegates selected by local parties and 300 designated Republican officeholders would meet in a national nominating convention and would nominate five finalist candidates. These candidates would debate six times (no mainstream media moderators, please).

There would be a series of regional direct-ballot elections, with the winner required to get 50 percent of the votes and win by a 10 percent margin. Otherwise there would be a runoff between the top two finishers.

The nominee would be determined by the end of April and could choose a VP candidate for formal acceptance in a summertime "made-for-TV convention." There are more details, but you get the idea.

There are some practical problems here. The Republican National Committee can change its nominating rules, but in many states the nominating process is controlled by state law, and Republicans don't control every legislature.

The courts have generally let parties set their own rules, but someone must pay for the nominating conventions and the regional elections.

"The new system would reinvigorate local and state party organizations," Anderson and Cost argue. It would certainly give conscientious Republicans an incentive to participate in local parties, which currently attract only political junkies.

But another possibility is that it will just give presidential candidates an incentive to pack local parties, starting long before the week of Lincoln's birthday. Ron Paul enthusiasts have already been doing this.

That might require scads of money, which means the influence of elite fundraisers would not be reduced.

Anderson and Cost make strong arguments that it would be "more efficient, more cost-effective, more deliberative, more consensus-based, more republican and more conducive to victory" than the current system. Let's think about it.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM