by Charles Lemos, Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 07:49:34 PM EDT
Meeting in Kansas City, the Republican National Committee adopted a new schedule for the 2012 presidential primaries on Friday. The new plan pushes back the start of the first contests to the first Tuesday in February. Under the new schedule, no state would hold a primary or caucus before February 6, 2012. Iowa and New Hampshire retain their status as the nation's first contests while South Carolina and Nevada are also allowed to hold February events.
Other states would begin holding their primaries or caucuses in March though most contests would come in April or May. The new schedule will go into effect only if the Democratic National Committee adopts similar primary rules before the end of the year.
The RNC also voted to retain its proportional awarding of delegates rather switch to a winner take all system. From the Washington Post:
The proposal, drafted by a special RNC panel, gained approval from more than the necessary two-thirds of the committee's 168 members.
Party leaders hailed the vote as a historic change in the presidential selection process, one that would avoid the development of a single national primary in which states choose to hold their nominating contests on the same day.
The new schedule is designed to make it difficult for a candidate to rack up an insurmountable number of delegates early in the process, forcing candidates to campaign across the country.
Under the new schedule, no state would hold a primary or caucus before the first Tuesday in February 2012, in attempt to avoid a repetition of 2008, when the Iowa caucuses were held Jan. 3.
Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their status as the nation's first contests, held in February, joined by South Carolina and Nevada.
Other contests would generally be held in April or later, although states would have the option of holding votes in March, provided convention delegates chosen at those elections were awarded to candidates in proportion to the percentage of the vote they received, rather than in a winner-take-all system.
The use of primaries to select presidential candidates is rare outside the United States. In parliamentary systems political parties, of course, choose their leaders in a intra-party vote. In many countries, the selection of the presidential candidate is hand-picked by party leaders or a party directorate. In Brazil, it was outgoing President Ignácio Lula da Silva who picked his top aide Dilma Rousseff to be the candidate of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), the Workers' Party.
To my knowledge only Argentina, Chile, Colombia, México and South Africa have some sort of presidential primary to choose candidates of the various respective political parties. In each of these cases, a national primary is held on the same day. And only Colombia allows non-party members to vote in the primaries of a political party. The Chilean left, however, has generally held a primary to choose a single candidate from the various parties that form the La Concertación, a grouping that includes Marxist to Christian Democratic parties. In Argentina, only registered Peronists can vote in the Peronist primary just as in México, the PRI primary is limited to members of the PRI.
The idea of a national primary has been a progressive goal since the Taft Administration and next year will mark the centennial of the first legislative proposal, that of Alabama Congressman Richard Hobson, to hold a national primary. Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson both supported the idea.
It's striking that GOP leaders are hailing this new schedule because it avoids the development of a single national primary. By holding the first contests in smaller, rural and generally some of the more conservative states, they can weed out the more moderate and liberal candidates. Not since 1984 has the most liberal candidate in either party won the nomination. And that is largely due to the outsized influence that Iowa and New Hampshire have. It's not that the winner of these contests necessarily go on to win the nomination but rather that those who fare poorly are forced to drop out before the rest of the country gets to pass judgment.