The Republican National Committee on Thursday began the process of making changes to its nomination process that will lead to a shorter primary season for selecting a presidential nominee in 2016 and a national convention earlier in the summer.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said the new rules "will allow enough opportunity for candidates to make the case to voters at primaries and state conventions, but not enough time for them to slice and dice each other."
"I can't always control people's mouths," Priebus said. "But I can take responsible steps to keep people from killing each other."
As the 168 RNC members gathered at its Washington meeting, many told Newsmax that the vote to pass the measure was a certainty, saying the historic overhaul of the nomination rules should easily obtain approval of the 56-member Rules Committee.
Under party by-laws, it will then take 75 percent of the full RNC — the state chairs and two national committee members from each of the states and the six territories — to adopt the changes.
In convincing his members at their meeting last summer to make the first step toward the change they will vote on later on Thursday evening, Priebus argued that the timing of the states holding primaries and conventions, the late national convention after Labor Day, and the 20-plus televised debates, contributed to Mitt Romney's narrow loss to Barack Obama in 2012.
The issue of limiting debates is not on the RNC agenda at its meeting in Washington, D.C., today, but will be addressed at its spring meeting in Memphis, Tenn.
California Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steele, a member of the Rules Committee, told Newsmax that "Reince is by far the most persuasive chairman I've ever seen, and I was a Teenage Republican for Barry Goldwater in 1964."
Under the new rules, the nomination process will begin Feb. 1 and there will be a "carve-out" period for the historic "first-in-the-nation" nomination sites: the Iowa caucuses, and the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.
Under a timetable approved by the RNC, a few states will hold primaries or conventions on select dates leading up to a national convention in June or possibly early July — the earliest a national convention has been held since Thomas Dewey was nominated for president in 1948.
"And there will be stiffer penalties for state parties that try to 'front-load' the process and go earlier," RNC member John Ryder of Tennessee, general counsel to the committee, told Newsmax. "But it's a well-crafted group of dates that ensures the process is open and fair."
Ryder added that the two-week and sometimes four-week gaps between dates of the primary contests "works to the benefit of grass-roots candidates who do well in one state but don't have the major funding to go on to the next" — a not-so-subtle reference to Mike Huckabee, who handily won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 but lacked resources to compete effectively in New Hampshire days later.
As is usually the case when it comes to RNC Rules Committee meetings, not everyone is in agreement.
Curly Hoagland, North Dakota Committeeman and Rules Committee member, told Newsmax, "I'm going to do something novel at the meeting today. I'm going to propose we follow the rules we already have, which includes a rule that delegates cannot be bound to results of primaries. The decision should be made at the convention." It was not clear how far Hoagland's proposal would go.
As has been the case when a calendar for the nomination was proposed at the RNC in past years, there is a question over whether state legislatures will acquiesce and move the dates of tax-funded primaries to accommodate the new schedule.
Many RNC members, however, told Newsmax that the large number of states with Republican governors and Republican-run state legislatures would probably go along.
When Newsmax asked Priebus how he proposed to get support for the new calendar in the states, he replied: "Elbow grease!"
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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