The Republican Party wants to do things both sooner and later in 2016.
Later comes in the form of what’s being billed as stronger enforcement mechanisms to keep states from pushing their presidential nominating caucuses and primaries earlier and earlier in the cycle. Sooner comes by way of plans to move the party’s national convention up to late June or early July, roughly two months earlier than usual.
During the final day of its three-day winter conclave in Washington, the Republican National Committee approved those changes and others that the party leadership thinks will make their presidential nominee more competitive in 2016 by shortening the primary process.
The measure approved by the committee also locks into place the coveted early primary spots held in the calendar by Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Those states alone will be allowed to hold their voting and caucuses in February 2016 and more severe penalties will be in place for states that might be tempted to skip ahead, as Florida did in 2012.
The nation’s remaining states and territories would be allowed to schedule their voting from March through mid-May, with convention delegates awarded in a way partially tied to the timing of those contests.
Republican leaders say the 2012 primary season dragged on too long and cost too much, ultimately hurting the party’s nominee, Mitt Romney. An earlier convention would allow the party’s nominee to access general election dollars sooner.
Today’s vote comes roughly a year ahead of when presidential campaigning will begin in earnest, even as Republican candidates have started to make the rounds to states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
Four cities competing to win the 2016 national convention have been campaigning for slot throughout the RNC gathering, handing out gifts such as T-shirts, bags of popcorn and bottles of beer. The competitors are Las Vegas, Denver, Kansas City and Columbus. A decision isn’t expected until this summer, at the earliest.
Later this year, the RNC will consider rules about its presidential debates with an eye toward reducing the total held.
In 2011 and 2012, the party’s White House contenders participated in more than 20 debates and candidate forums before and during the primary-election season. Some Republicans say the process weakened Romney by pushing him to take positions that, while rallying the party’s core supporters, hurt him among independent voters in the general election.
In March, the RNC released a post-election review that called for a shorter primary season and no more than a dozen debates, with the first no earlier than Sept. 1, 2015. The first Republican debate in the lead-up to the 2012 election took place on May 5, 2011. The party is considering penalizing candidates through the loss of convention delegates, if they don’t abide by an approved debate structure.