By Kylie Jacobsen
Today was the beginning of our second week here in D.C., and it is off to a great start. Right off the bat, we had the chance to listen to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus speak at The Washington Center this morning. Although he is a Packers fan (and as a native Minnesotan, I died a little inside when I heard this), I was still interested in what he had to say about the future of the Republican Party.
Priebus discussed a variety of changes that will be implemented during the next primary season for the 2016 presidential election. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect.
1. All of the primaries and caucuses will be condensed into a shorter time frame.
According to Priebus, the normal length of time it takes for all primaries and caucuses to be held is around 6 months. Instead of stretching out this process for such a long period of time, the first primaries will begin on February 1st, and will continue until early June. This cuts down the primary season by almost 2 months.
The main idea behind this concept is that by shortening the primary season, there is less time for candidates to bash each other, yet there is enough time for candidates to rally voters and get public support. Many Republicans also believe that the longer primary season hurt Mitt Romney’s chances in the general election.
One potential benefit is that candidates have more time to raise money for their campaigns. Priebus claims that this is particularly helpful for grassroots candidates.
While speaking to us today, Priebus mentioned that many voters become disillusioned with the entire primary process because it stretches over such a long period of time. Thus, voters are more likely to become frustrated with candidates.
Even though these changes do seem desirable, there are conservatives who are reluctant to change the system. They believe that less qualified, lightly-funded candidates could benefit from these changes and hurt the chances of well-established candidates. This has angered moderate Republicans, who believe long primaries could have led to previous losses and they want to restructure the primary system in order to ensure a Republican victory in 2016.
2. There will be fewer Republican debates.
The 2012 campaign gave us 20 Republican debates. 20. Is this really necessary?
While speaking to us today, Priebus said the main reason that there were so many debates in the last election cycle is that less popular candidates benefit from the attention. These less popular candidates don’t really have anything to lose by doing more debates – they can increase their popularity while more popular candidates have a greater likelihood of making a huge mistake and thus losing support.
The RNC has discussed cutting the number of debates in half. This would benefit front-runner candidates, who already have significant media exposure and don’t need an excessive number of debates to hurt them. Also, broadcast news companies would benefit because they would not spend as much money on debates that don’t have much viewership.
This idea has had little resistance among the Republican party. The RNC voted to reduce the number of debates by a vote of 152-7. However, the losers of this are the grassroots candidates. When their media exposure is removed, their already negligible chance of becoming the nominee shrinks even more.
Many Republicans believe that the increased number of debates hurt Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, and this is one potential way that Republicans can secure a presidential win in 2016.
3. There will be a different selection of moderators for the debates.
In the 2012 Republican debates, there was criticism of the moderators that were chosen. Many believe that the traditional formula of using journalists as moderators should be eradicated, and instead, strong conservatives should be used. The RNC thinks that journalists force the candidates to defend their positions. Conservative moderators, in theory, could facilitate a discussion where the ideas of conservatism are promoted to the viewers instead of debated. Priebus supports this idea.
This potential change has been the source of more criticism than any of the other changes. One flaw is that conservative moderators will already have strong opinions on the candidates, and this will be expressed during the debates. Another source of criticism is that the debates will appear rehearsed and will be turned into infomercials for the GOP.
4. The GOP Convention will be held in June.
In 2016, the Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland, Ohio. The main difference between past conventions? The date of the convention is being pushed back by about 2 months. Normally, the convention is held in late August or early September.
Priebus explained that the main reason for pushing it back is because of campaign finance laws. There are two different budgets used for campaigns – a primary and general election budget. The primary budget is used until the convention, and once the convention occurs, the general election budget may be used.
The main problem with this is that the conventions aren’t held until the end of the summer. Priebus described how in the 2012 election, Obama was able to attack Romney and get ahead because he didn’t have to worry about a primary budget, since he was the incumbent. Romney could not really do anything about it because he couldn’t tap in to the general election budget until the nomination was officially announced. During the summer of 2012, Romney had to take out a $20 million loan to help with funding. The RNC believes this problem can be avoided by pushing the convention up to June.