Remember 2011-12, when the Republicans had a village of presidential candidates who went through what seemed like a basketball season’s worth of debates and state contests before they finally settled on the guy they were going to settle on all along, Mitt Romney?
Yeah. Some of us are still recovering.
The Republican National Committee apparently learned a lesson from that, so it decided Friday to truncate the 2016 nominating schedule, with an eye toward holding the national convention in June or July instead of late August, as in the last cycle.
According to the Hill, the changes “will make it much harder for states to cut in line in the nomination process and will help Republicans avoid a repeat of a drawn-out, bloody primary many believe damaged Mitt Romney’s chances in 2012 of defeating President Obama.”
Now the early four states will be protected from other states trying to jump the line, the scenario that led to the 2011 start of the nominating contests last time around. As an incentive to concentrate the calendar, states holding contests in the first two weeks of March must award delegates proportionally, giving them less influence on the final decision. Later contests will be winner-take-all, which means the calendar likely will be heavy in the latter part of March and April.
The drawn-out 2012 primaries and caucuses were corrosive for Romney as his Republican rivals politically gutted him before the Democrats even got a chance to start. Although Romney went on to do well in the first presidential debate, he never really recovered from the pummeling he received at the hands of fellow Republicans.
Next time will be different, the GOP hopes. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada will be allowed to hold contests before March 1, most likely in February (last time they began in December). According to Politico:
“The idea is to prevent a candidate with momentum coming out of the first four states from wrapping up the nomination on March 1 if a bunch of big states schedule winner-take-all primaries on that Tuesday. Proportional contests mean that a grassroots candidate without the money for a massive national advertising campaign could continue to compete through those two weeks.”
That also makes it easier for the nominee to turns his or her attention to raising cash during the summer doldrums.
So 2012’s knock-down, drag-out 12-round heavyweight fight (what is it with sports metaphors in politics?) for the Republican presidential nomination will, in 2016, be more like a six-rounder. Not as much fun for political junkies, but a relief for the rest of us.
Follow Scott Martelle on Twitter @smartelle