The Campaign Spot

The RNC Chair Race’s Impact on the 2012 Primary Schedule

One of the lingering concerns of RNC members as they contemplate their choice for chair in late January is whether any of the candidates are stalking horses or unannounced allies of potential GOP presidential candidates in 2012.

While any new RNC Chair would probably be officially neutral, the RNC chairman will have a great deal of influence over setting the primary calendar. A little noticed development earlier this year:

The Republican National Convention has voted to create a commission that could revive the proposed reforms in the 2012 primary calendar that were killed over the weekend.

The action, taken without debate or publicity, was included in the package of party rules approved by the convention at its opening session on Monday. Those rules say no primaries can be held in 2012 before the first Tuesday in February but grant exemptions to allow New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries in January, along with the caucuses in Iowa and Nevada.

The proposed commission, whose creation was contained in another section of the rules, marks the first time a GOP convention has opened the way to allow the Republican National Committee to tinker with the primary calendar. That’s significant because the RNC has equal representation for every state, meaning big states like Texas have a lot less power to influence the outcome than in the convention.

“It’s just a huge breakthrough,” said David Norcross, who chairs the RNC Rules Committee. He added that it will enable the party to look at major changes in the system that were blocked at the convention and “will allow us an opportunity to confer with our Democratic counterparts” who also want to make changes.

Mr. Norcross made clear that all issues would be on the table for the 15-member panel, which will be named by the next Republican chairman and consist of seven RNC members and other Republicans. Any proposals developed by the panel would have to be approved by the full RNC in 2010.

As I understand it, the new RNC Chairman would name 11 of the 15 members. So if an RNC Chair’s preferred candidate was strong in a particular region, they could put forth a revised calendar that allowed  states in that region to have a prominent role.

I am told not to underestimate the role geography may play in the dynamics of the RNC race. Republican party leaders in northeastern and midwestern states believe President Bush’s Texan style has so dominated the party’s image that the new wave of GOP leaders need to make clear that the Republican party not just for Southerners. (Notice the five state GOP chairs who endorsed Michigan GOP Chair Saul Anuzis are from Connecticut, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, and the Virgin Islands.) That would, on paper, be challenging news for South Carolina state GOP chair Katon Dawson and former Tennessee chair Chip Saltsman. On the other hand, if you think one figure is the best manager and best future leader of the party, do you vote against the guy because of his accent or where he’s from?

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