Fixing the GOP Primaries

by Sal on December 15, 2008

in Election 2012

One of the tasks facing the next chairman of the Republican National Committee is the drafting of new rules to govern the primary process for 2012.  Looking at the primaries in 2008, it is apparent that several factors led to John McCain’s victory.  The primary process has been broken for a long time.  It is stacked against Conservative candidates because of its early focus on Iowa and New Hampshire, the winner-take-all strategy, and the concept of “open-primaries” where Democrats can cross over and choose our candidate for us.  The primary process needs to be revisited, as it is likely that the next time around we will see yet another moderate if the current primary process remains in place.  Below are some thoughts on what should be done to fix the process.

  • Abolish Open Primaries: This is the largest of the changes that should occur, but probably won’t.  The Open Primary system allows people who do not have the Republican Party’s interest at heart to vote Republican.  From a PR standpoint, this may be problematic, but we always run the risk of nominating another McCain if the Open Primary system stays in place.  The RNC should abolish the Open-Primary system, and mandate that all primaries be limited to registered Republicans only.  While this will not prevent Democrats from registering as Republicans, it will make it a bit harder for them to do so.
  • Reform “Winner-Take-All”: I see problems both with the Republican “Winner-Take-All” system and the Democrat “Proportional” system.  I don’t know if this is the right move or not, and could be swayed either way, but I think a combination of the two (proportional system for most of the delegates, and a winner-take-all portion of delegates) is one reasonable solution to the problem.  The other big problem with the current delegate system in the Republican primary process, is the disparity in the systems in the various states.  Some states, such as Michigan are proportional, while others such as South Carolina are winner-take-all.  That places a larger importance of winning South Carolina (aside from it’s calendar placement)than it does on winning Michigan, even though Michigan has more delegates than South Carolina.  Whatever system is decided on, at a minimum the RNC should enforce the uniformity of delegate allocation among the various states.
  • Restructure the Primary Calendar: Rather than the trickling of primaries and caucuses that occur now, primaries and caucuses should be grouped into several election days.  Currently, the Ohio Plan adapted by the RNC will provide for the initial early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada) followed by a single-day of “small-state” primaries in March, with the larger states being spread out after the small states have cast their vote.  While I think this structure is better (it gives a more national emphasis to the primary), I would prefer a more regional approach to the primaries.  The early primaries and caucus’ could be retained, with an additional representative from other geographic regions for a total of six early states.  This should be followed by six regional primary dates, chosen at random, for each geographic region of the country.  Alternatively, the primary dates should be diffused and states chosen from a diverse geographic makeup, but with an equal number of delegates up for grabs on each primary date.
  • Less Early Debates: The 2008 debate calendar had me in debate-overload by the summer of 2007.  The debate schedule was a bit overdone and made the later debates less important.  Please, don’t start debating regularly until September, 2011 (an early debate or two is fine, but keep it at that).

The current primary process has a habit of selecting the “next in line” rather than the best candidate.  A reform in the process by the RNC, especially ridding the party of Democrat-crossovers, would potentially lead to more conservative candidates who can have a coherant, conservative vision to present to the country.  While the ideas above may not be perfect and may in fact cause other unforseen problems, something needs to be done to shake up the current system, because as-is it is a broken one.

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