WASHINGTON -- The Republican Party is sick of losing presidential elections, so they are changing the structure of their primary to better position their 2016 nominee to compete.
"It really is about taking back the White House. We're tired of being out of the White House," Henry Barbour, Republican National Committee member from Mississippi, said of rule changes approved on Friday at the RNC winter meeting.
The GOP's goal is to shorten their primary process to avoid a long, drawn-out fight within the party that bloodies their eventual nominee, like the one that left Mitt Romney bruised and financially disadvantaged in 2012.
Scheduling the first four primary contests for February 2016, so that those states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada) don't hold their contests any earlier in January or December.
Holding their convention earlier, at some point between late June and mid-July. Campaign finance laws forbid nominees from spending funds raised for the general election until after the convention. Moving the convention forward allows the nominee to spend those funds much sooner, so he or she is not defenseless against attack ads through much of the summer, as Romney was in 2012.
They also want to avoid having a primary that is decided in one day or even a few weeks. If the primary is too short, it gives an advantage to candidates with more money and name recognition, and does not vet the party's nominee as thoroughly.
Penalizing heavily any state that holds its primary before March 1, by taking away most of its delegates to the convention. Loss of delegates means that candidates don't have an incentive to come to your state. It's also likely your delegation to the convention ends up in a hotel located farther away from the convention hall, and with the worst seats inside the hall.
Exempting the first four states from those penalties to prevent any mutually assured destruction affect. For example, without exemptions for the first four states, another state like Florida could try to leap-frog ahead of them on the calendar, knowing that any penalty it might face would be negated when the first four jump back ahead. Without the exemption, the penalties are far less meaningful.
Requiring any state that holds its primary between March 1 and March 15 to award its delegates to candidates proportionally, according to the percentage of the vote won rather than awarding all of them to the winner. This allows candidates running second or third after the first four states to stay in the game and in the delegate hunt.
For more details, James Hohmann at Politico has taken a closer look at the rules changes, as well as looking at when the RNC will decide which city gets the 2016 convention.
Several cities are competing to play host, among them Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, as well as Columbus, Ohio, and Kansas City. Las Vegas was the clear winner at the RNC's winter meeting, hosting an open bar inside its area. Denver had good schwag. Phoenix had cowgirls. All of that means probably nothing.