New RNC Rules Move Up 2016 Convention

New RNC Rules Move Up 2016 Convention
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The Republican National Committee on Friday passed sweeping rule changes designed to tighten its control over the GOP presidential nominating process and provide the party’s 2016 standard-bearer a leg up in the general election.

The new rules will increase the penalties against states that hold their primary or caucus date before the period designated by the RNC and will move the Republican convention from the late summer to early summer, allowing the eventual nominee more time to spend general election funds.

“This is a historic day for our party,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said after committee members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the changes.

After months of behind-the-scenes debate among committee members, the new system was designed, in part, as a compromise to assuage the concerns of states and GOP factions that have competing interests.

Though Thursday’s Rules Committee meeting featured some vocal dissent, the changes passed overwhelmingly on Friday by a vote of 153-9.

According to the new rules, the four so-called “carve-out states” -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada -- will maintain their traditional early status but must hold their voting contests no earlier than Feb. 1.

No other states will be allowed to hold primaries or caucuses in the month of February.

Any of the 46 states that decide to host their contests from March 1 to March 14 will be compelled to award their delegates proportionally -- a statute designed to weaken the overall impact of a victory for any one candidate in the second phase of the nominating cycle and allow less well-funded contenders an opportunity to continue to build momentum and compete nationally.

After March 14, states will be allowed to award their delegates in a winner-take-all system, thereby increasing the incentive for candidates to compete intensely to win these later contests.

If any states decide to break the rules, as has happened in the last two election cycles, they will face stiffer penalties than were levied in the past, with their delegates to the convention decreased significantly.

The rules changes are also intended to prevent the carve-out states from having to move their voting contests to January, perilously close to the holiday season, which they did in 2008 and 2012 to avoid being leap-frogged by other states.

Republicans now expect the next nominating calendar to be wrapped up in May of 2016 with a June convention likely, allowing the nominee more time to campaign and spend money defining whoever becomes the Democratic nominee.

“It really is about winning the White House,” an RNC official said. “We’re tired of being out of the White House.”

The RNC is expected to vote later this year on an initiative to increase the national party’s control over who moderates the primary debates that are sponsored and hosted by media outlets.

The host city of the 2016 Republican National Convention is still to be determined. Finalists include Las Vegas, Phoenix, Kansas City, Denver and Columbus, Ohio.

On the final day of its annual winter meeting on Friday, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott was the featured luncheon speaker.

Scott, who was appointed to his seat last year by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, earned a standing ovation following his controversy-free speech a day after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee drew a strong reaction for his comments about women’s health care.

“2014 is the year the Republican Party takes back the United States Senate,” Scott said. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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