Opinion: Columnists

Reince Priebus takes aim at Republican nominating process

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Opinion,Hugh Hewitt,Columnists,Republican Party,2014 Elections,2016 Elections,Campaigns,Reince Priebus

Reince Priebus is in the process of joining that short list of chairmen of the Republican National Committee -- Haley Barbour, Ed Gillespie and Ken Mehlman to name three -- who matter beyond their tenures in the office and do so for what they did for the long term good of the GOP and not just a particular nominee or themselves.

Here's a link to a transcript of my interview with Priebus last week, which Time's Zeke Miller and others heard or saw as containing some unusually candid talk about what the RNC is doing this year to prepare for the next two.

And here is a link to a wide-ranging assessment in National Affairs of what ails the GOP nominating process and how it might be changed by two of the Beltway's smartest analysts of political matters -- The Weekly Standard's Jay Cost and Project 2017's Jeffrey Anderson.

What Cost and Anderson review, and what Priebus and his colleagues at the RNC are wrestling with, is the historical accident of the nominating process the GOP has inherited. It was in fact largely designed by left-wing activists and populist insurgents for the Democratic Party but spilled over into the Republican, evolving further in response to the needs of a Manhattan-Beltway media elite and the quite understandable self-interest of the early states, who gain dollars and attention from the bizarre caucus and primary calendar that has survived the natural selection pressures of American history.

But the strange, distorted and all-to-easily manipulated procedures that exist today are not written in stone or even on a teleprompter. They can be changed, and many of the smartest folk believe they must if those very procedures do not again cripple the GOP as they did in both 2008 and 2012.

Priebus et al have already all but announced that the convention in 2016 will be brought far forward -- to June perhaps, or at latest, early July; and that is a major and very important reform for the "out-of-power" party. (Now if they would just name Cleveland and get on with the planning process. Think Napoleon's dictum re Vienna and apply it to Ohio: If you must win the Buckeye State to win the presidency, then win the Buckeye State, and begin that effort in its most significant city. Yes, Columbus is larger but denting the Democratic edge in Cuyahoga County and Cleveland is the key to winning the state in 2016.)

Priebus is resolved to take control of the debate process so it doesn't again become a traveling circus that serves the left and even-farther-left bosses of the mainstream media, and have it serve the GOP grassroots.

The hardest challenge is the caucus/primary calendar, though, and the toughest nut to crack is Iowa. Iowa is of course a key general election state, but its caucus process is a terribly malformed set of bizarre and excluding rules, a mixture of "olly olly oxen free" and who-can-get-off-Tuesday night absurdities that cries out for transformation if not outright deletion. If the GOP needs Colorado, Ohio and Virginia, then find a way to test the field there as well as Florida early on.

"You wanna know how to get Capone?" Sean Connery's Jim Malone says to Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness in "The Untouchables." "They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way! And that's how you get Capone."

Does the RNC really want to win in '16? Then it gets very serious in 2014 about the 2016 convention, debates, and yes, the calendar, no matter who screams or how loud.

"Hugh Hewitt is a nationally syndicated talk radio host, law professor at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law, and author, most recently of The Happiest Life. He posts daily at HughHewitt.com and is on Twitter @hughhewitt."
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