Fixing the presidential primary schedule
The Republican National Committee will be meeting next week in New Mexico and the most important item on our agenda will be discussing proposed rules changes that will govern the timeline for the GOP's nomination process in 2012 and beyond.
The reason we're having this debate is to address the problem of "front loading", which results from so many states getting jealous of the spotlight that usually falls on the states which have their primaries (or caucuses) earlier in the process. As a result, many moved their dates closer to the beginning of the year...which meant the states that were near the beginning of the year moved their dates even further up. The result was a mega-primary, (that some called "Super-duper-Tuesday") with over twenty states voting on February 5th...and several other states following close behind.
It seems that those states should have learned a few key things from this experience. First, that when everyone moves up, the attention gets spread too thin. There are only so many presidential candidates and television news crews to go around. Second, looking at things on the Democrat's side of the aisle, the states that went late this time, (such as Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, etc.), have turned out to be some of the most critical states.
There are other problems with the current situation. By having so many states clustered up so early in the process, (especially big states, with big, expensive media markets), it effectively prices many candidates out of the process. It doesn't allow time for potentially good candidates who may not be as well known to get out there and test their message and build a following, meaning the rest of the country is probably missing out on some good potential candidates.
So now the RNC is attempting to bring a little sanity back to the process.
The proposal that's getting the most attention, (and seems to make the most sense vs. the others), is known as "the Ohio Plan", which divides all the states into five groups.
Group one consists of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. These states are allowed to hold their contests as early as January 8th. Group two consists of all the other states with five or fewer electoral votes. They can start as early as January 29th. The idea with these two groups is to preserve some traditional "retail politics", (in less expensive states), allowing people to hopefully get a better look at more candidates.
The next three groups are comprised of states with small, medium and large numbers of electoral votes...each group having about one-hundred and fifty total votes. The idea here is that these groups will rotate in the third, fourth and fifth group position in each presidential cycle, (so each group would rotate into the third position one out of every three presidential elections). The first group could start by February 19th, the second by March 11th and the third by April 1st.
Although it's not necessarily ideal, and all state legislatures may not cooperate, it's far better than what we've got now. And it does preserve South Carolina's role as the first in the South.
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