Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus spoke before the California Republican Party on Friday. During his speech, he discussed a number of topics. However, one hot-button topic that he wanted to hit on and emphasize was regarding the party’s Presidential nominating process. He pointed out that the party has planned changes that will greatly reduce the number of primary debates as well as move the Republican National Convention up earlier in the year.
In the 2012 election cycle, the GOP had 27 primary debates between the candidates. Priebus said that the plan is to pare that down to 10. He also stated that the RNC will be responsible for choosing moderators, rather than letting networks or other committees decide. The convention will be moved up to June. His stated reason is so they can have the nominee in place and give the American public a greater chance to get to know the candidate ahead of the election. The last 3 conventions have been held in late August or early September.
Priebus reassured the audience that this wasn’t an ‘establishment’ takeover of the party and an attempt to squelch independent voices within the GOP. However, that is exactly what this is. The Republican brass saw what a train-wreck the 2012 nominating process was for the party and they do not want to give the crazies another potential chance to completely destroy any electoral chances they may have ahead of Election Day. By drastically cutting down the number of debates and having complete say over the moderators, the GOP can control and limit the possible opportunities for embarrassing flubs (looking at you, Rick Perry) or cringeworthy moments (like audience members wanting uninsured people to die.)
This goes hand in hand with the party moving up the convention and nominating process. Instead of GOP candidates campaigning against each other through the spring and summer in an effort to capture the nomination, this completely cuts it off at the end of spring and allows the Republican Party to have a nominee established and in place months ahead of Election Day. Once again, this is an all-out effort by Priebus and the RNC to get a handle on the fringe element of the party in an attempt to keep them out of sight.
Priebus and other GOP leaders see the huge hole they’re in now and are looking for a way to get out of it. While it is still more than 2 years before the 2016 Presidential election, the GOP field looks awful and has the potential for lots of troublesome situations and confrontations. With Tea Partiers like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio looking to get involved, along with the religious right warriors like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, the potential for alienating large swaths of the American electorate is high. That is a very scary proposition right now for the Republican Party.
It is obvious that the powers that be feel that Mitt Romney was hurt as a national candidate by the long primary season of 2012. While Romney was the presumptive favorite heading into the election cycle, the unreasonably high number of debates and lengthy campaigning allowed other pretenders to rise up in the polls. In the GOP’s mind, this inevitably hurt Romney, as he had to take a far-right turn during the GOP debates to compete with all of the non-contenders trying to prove their conservative credentials. This came back to bite him after he grabbed the nomination when he tried to do an ‘Etch-A-Sketch’ and run a more moderate message, as it made him seem insincere and opportunistic.
So now that the GOP has taken steps to stifle the Tea Party in 2016, who will they get behind? With Chris Christie falling by the wayside, which ‘establishment’ Republican will get the full backing of the party? Will it be Jeb Bush? Maybe Bobby Jindal? Perhaps even Scott Walker? What happens if Cruz or Paul take advantage of the small number of debates and short campaign season and end up grabbing the nomination over the more appealing national candidate? What then?
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).