One thing that's really terrible about any presidential election process is nearly everything about the presidential election process.
There's a lot of silly drama when states try to move up in the primary calendar, there are far too many debates, and the whole thing is just absurdly long. It shouldn't be this hard to nominate and elect a president -- why can't this just take a couple of months? This is America! -- and it's high time we killed the whole thing with fire.
Well, the precious footfalls of baby steps are at least pattering in the distance. CNN's Peter Hamby reports that "handpicked members of the Republican National Committee," who have met in "a series of closed-door meetings since August," have proposed a "sweeping plan" to lessen the obvious awfulness of the GOP primary process, in the hopes that maybe the 2016 election won't be so excruciating for their nominee.
And that is the primary driver of these reforms. According to Hamby, lingering memories of the GOP primary debates, in which Mitt Romney had to "stake out a number of conservative positions that came back to haunt him in the general election," loom large in the party's motivation.
Go read the whole thing, but here are the back-of-the-cereal-box details.
Order will be restored to the primary calendar: One thing that we all worry about ahead of any presidential primary process is whether this will be the election cycle in which interloping states -- hoping to grab some of the cachet of traditionally early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, in a rabid game of brinksmanship -- finally push things so far back on the calendar that the 2016 nominating process gets rolling around Halloween 2015.
This time around, the RNC plans to dole out heavy penalties. The working group proposes that any state not named Iowa or New Hampshire or Nevada or South Carolina that "attempts to hold its nominating contest before March 1 would have their number of delegates to the convention slashed to just nine people or, in the case of smaller states, one-third of their delegation -- whichever number is smaller." (The big loser here would be serial primary calendar scofflaw Florida.)
Also, to lessen the influence of early primaries, any state that stages its nominating contest before the second week of March must award its delegates proportionally. (After that date, states are allowed to be all #YOLO about how they award delegates.)
Early conventions: "The Republican National Convention will be held either in late June or early July, though ideally on a date before the July 4 holiday." Yes. Let's do this. Why did anyone have to stomp around Tampa, Fla., in the hottest and swampiest days of August?
The perceived advantage here is that a candidate can only spend funds raised for the general election after he or she is officially nominated, so the sooner that gets settled, the better. Romney was widely perceived to have been hamstrung by this rule in 2012.
Limiting the number of debates: Oh, sweet, sassy molassey, let it be true! As Hamby notes, "the 2012 campaign saw an eye-popping 20 Republican debates," each more jaw-droppingly worthless than the one before it. If there's one way the primary process has threatened to destroy America, it's when two parties with open primaries combine for 40 debates and pulverize everyone's will to go on living.
These RNC reformers note the weird way in which the 2012 debate season played out allowed obvious losers like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann the chance to be the perceived frontrunner, drawing time and attention away from more viable candidates. (One exception: Rick Santorum definitely used shrewd debating skills to demonstrate his viability. He wasn't one of the flash-in-the-pan candidates, he was a pugilist who blazed a survivor's path from single digits to second place.)
Of course, your next step in divining the ins and outs of these changes is to pop on over to Frontloading HQ, where procedural sherpa Josh Putnam offers his typical super-detailed take on the finer points of these proposals. His bottom line? "Will it work? Time will tell."
Let's hope it does, because no one wants to see 40 debates in 2016, except possibly Satan himself.
READ THE WHOLE THING:
Republicans moving to overhaul 2016 primary process [CNN]
A Closer Look at What the RNC Subcommittee on 2016 Delegate Selection Rules Has Been Up To [Frontloading HQ]
This story appears in Issue 80 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, available Friday, Dec. 20in the iTunes App store.
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