BOSTON -- Republican Party leaders made it clear last week they intend to limit the number of presidential debates among GOP candidates and spread out the primaries and state conventions that choose delegates to avoid the "front-loading" that has led to abbreviated nomination contests.
The limiting of debates and the overhauling of the nomination calendar in 2016 -- along with the possibility of rolling back the date of the national convention to June for the first time since 1948 -- were the topics that dominated discussion at the summer meeting of the Republican National Convention at Boston's Westin Waterfront Hotel.
Although no action was taken on any of the proposed changes, the 168-member RNC unanimously passed a strongly worded resolution warning CNN and NBC they might be excluded from the nomination debates unless they canceled proposed programs on the life of prospective Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton.
Most committee members who spoke to Newsmax strongly seconded National Chairman Reince Priebus' characterization of the record number of televised debates among Republicans in 2012 as "a traveling circus that has to stop."
"We have to limit the amount of debates," RNC Co-chairman Sharon Day told Newsmax, recalling that there were 22 debates before Mitt Romney wrapped up the nomination in 2012. "Debates should be of substance and not include panelists and moderators who are out to 'slice and dice' us."
South Carolina State Chairman Matt Moore suggested that the GOP would benefit with "nine and perhaps a few more debates." He pointed out "that our state has scheduled two debates and Iowa and New Hampshire usually have two each. Three other debates as the nomination process moves along would be fine, but not too many more."
Party leaders were not as specific as to how to change the present nomination system, which Priebus has called "a disaster."
In recent presidential years, a growing number of state legislatures have moved the dates of the presidential primaries closer to the beginning of the presidential year to attain national attention for their states. This has led to a process that political operatives call "front-loaded" -- with many major contests lumped together early on and thus working to the advantage of the best-known and best-funded candidate.
"That all needs to be worked out and there needs to be a coordinated nomination process," Delaware State Chairman Charles Copeland told Newsmax. "But we always have to remember that there are a lot of details involved, and the devil is always in the details."
Since 1996, there has been support for a nomination calendar with the traditional "Early Three" -- the Iowa caucuses, and New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries -- still being the first held but all other states agreeing to go on selected weeks -- the Northeast one week, the South another -- until right up to June.
Known as the "Delaware Plan," this procedure had very strong support at the 2000 convention, but -- reportedly at the urgings of nominee George W. Bush's campaign quarterback Karl Rove -- the convention did not deal with it because the Bush team did not want a possible debate and vote over rules to distract from their man's nomination.
Now, similar concepts for a protracted and orderly process among the states to choose delegates is being discussed again.
"The concept of regional primaries is appealing if the states go along with it," said Ohio State Chairman Bob Bennett, who has been a delegate to national conventions since 1964. "The problem you have here is that many of the state legislatures very likely will not let [the RNC] tell them when to hold their primaries and could just vote to hold primaries when they want, regardless of any plan we agree on."
Other RNC members recalled that the secretaries of state of all 50 states once agreed upon a proposal of regional primaries similar to the Delaware Plan and that legislatures might go along with such a plan if they were urged to do so by secretaries of state.
How the Republican Party deals with its nomination calendar and procedure for 2016 is uncertain now, with the details to be worked out at its national committee's winter meeting in January and its following meeting in the summer of 2014.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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