The endless string of debates, presided over by the liberal press, also lays traps for Republican candidates and draws the campaign away from issues Republicans care about.
Anderson and Cost propose to scrap the system entirely in favor of a new nominating process. The proposal is detailed and carefully crafted, but the broad outlines are that Republicans nationwide would choose delegates to a nominating convention around Feb. 12 of an election year. Through a series of votes with a point system, five candidates would be chosen to compete for the nomination. The five would debate each week for the next month, with moderators chosen by the Republican Party. After the fourth debate, one-third of the states would hold a primary (the order of states would alternate every four years). Some candidates might then withdraw. A fifth debate would be held, followed by another primary of one third of the states and then a final debate followed by a primary of the remaining states. If no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the delegates, a run-off would be held in May.
The writers believe such a system would revitalize local Republican parties, marginalize the hostile press, permit strong candidates to emerge as the choice of the grassroots, eliminate the tremendous waste of money the long primary campaigns require freeing more funds for the general election (where Democrats have consistently outraised Republicans in recent years) and reduce the intra-party bloodletting that arguably damages the Republican image.
There's a great deal to chew on in the Anderson/Cost reform, only briefly summarized here. Their system would clearly repair some of the troubles Republicans have recently experienced and might inject some enthusiasm into the process. Whether it would succeed in overcoming the party's handicap connecting with a majority of voters is less clear. That depends entirely on gifted politicians framing issues. The authors believe these reforms would make it easier for such candidates to emerge -- and that's worth serious consideration.