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RNC Looks at Shorter, Wider and Less Activist Driven Presidential Primary

The 2016 Republican Presidential primary could end up shorter, more organized, and with a much larger electorate if some in the RNC get their way.

After their 2012 failure, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus created the Growth and Opportunity Project to try to figure out what went wrong and how it could be fixed. The group just issued their recommendations. While much of the report focuses on the party’s obviously serious demographic problems, some of the most interesting recommendations are about changing how the party selects its nominee.

To begin with the report recommends cutting the number of debates in half. Last election the party had 20 debates, that would be cut down to only 10 or 12.

They recommend also making big changes to how the primary elections are conducted to increase the number of regular people voting in the primary. They suggest a shorter primary session that uses a “regional primary system” instead of each state just randomly voting whenever they decide to. This would reduce the chance that the primary was decided after only a few states voted.

More significantly, they suggest eliminating most caucuses and conventions for selecting delegates. Instead, they want states to use actual primaries, which tend to have significantly more people taking part in.

While the official justification for these recommendations is the laudable goal of bringing more people into the party by using primaries as a recruitment tool, they would also have two other big unstated impacts. First, it would significantly weaken the power of the most diehard activist who tend to dominate caucuses. This would potentially make it easier for more moderate Republicans to run. Second, fewer debates and more people voting on a given election day would benefit better-funded candidates and those who already have high name recognition. This would make a grassroots driven insurgency candidacy less likely.

The net effect would be to reduce the power of hardcore conservative activists over the process. Of course adopting these change would require amending state laws and local party rules, which activists often have a lot of control over and I doubt many feel like giving up their influence.

Photo by NewsHour under Creative Commons license

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at