The long and bruising primary contest -- which is far, far from over -- has the Republican National Committee rethinking the process for choosing a nominee. Fears that the eventual GOP candidate for the presidency will be greatly weakened by the convention apparently have been driving the conversation at official party meetings:
The problems with the current system were discussed at length at both the most recent Republican National Committee meeting and at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last month. Top RNC committeemen plan to reconsider the rules at the next RNC meeting, slotted for late spring in Phoenix.
Many acknowledge privately that they worry a long primary is forcing all of the GOP candidates to spend more than they want and that the candidates' negative attacks against each other are hurting the eventual nominee's chances against President Obama.
“I think it comes up at almost every major Republican meeting across the country,” said one senior Republican, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone’s talking about how we can do this better, how can we fix it. I think it’s going to be a big discussion.”
The blame for the arduous slog to the convention in August appears to lie with Florida; by jumping the gun and scheduling its primary for late January, it forced the rest to move their dates up, too. Hence, the January 3rd Iowa primary.
The RNC adopted a new rules system in 2011 in order to try to control the mad scramble for early primary dates that had occurred in years past, partly because of the view that John McCain locked up the nomination too quickly and that a longer process would have helped the GOP find a stronger candidate.
The new system created a rigid calendar and strong penalties for states that moved their contest's date up, including the loss of half a state’s delegates and a proportional rather than winner-take-all system for states that voted before April.
The two goals were to keep the primary season out of the holidays and to prolong the system so lesser known candidates would have more of a chance.
Florida’s decision to break the new rules and vote early anyway set off a calendar scramble that pushed Iowa’s caucuses to Jan. 3. Many Republicans are now worried that the second goal has worked too well, and that the long primary is hurting the candidates.
The next goal? Stop states from breaking the rules and moving their primaries up too far. No answer yet on what that plan might look like, but it looks like the RNC's going back to the drawing board.
Whatever the plan, I just hope it caps the number of debates.