Wednesday, September 03, 2008

GOP Calendar Plan Quietly Passes

GOP Calendar Plan Quietly Passes

A 2012 nomination calendar that could help keep Iowa first in the nation was one of the few items that quietly passed during Monday's abbreviated session of the Republican National Convention.

Iowa's role is not directly addressed under the Republican rules adopted Monday, since the caucuses are a non-binding straw poll.

Like the Democrats, Republicans appointed a commission to study calendar reform. This is the first time Republicans have deferred final calendar decisions to a post-convention body. The big difference is that the GOP has required its commission to keep New Hampshire and South Carolina first in the primary calendar. The Democrats have given their commission a clean slate.

Another difference from the Democrats: The Republicans made their rules stick, enforcing the 50 percent delegate penalty that it imposed on Michigan and Florida for jumping ahead in the schedule. Democrats initially punished those states by taking away all their delegates, but first gave back half, then all, the delegates.

Republicans also punished New Hampshire and South Carolina for jumping ahead. Democrats in those states changed their dates, too, but only in order to keep their place in line.

The GOP commission "pushes back the calendar and it slows it down — and that's a big gift for us," Tom Rath, a New Hampshire delegate and member of the convention's Credentials Committee, told the Associated Press.

Republicans had hoped to push the process back even more and put New Hampshire and South Carolina in late February 2012 with other states starting in March. But the McCain campaign chose not to fight that fight, and it's now expected that the early states, including Iowa, will vote in January 2012.

That might have a ripple effect into the Iowa Democratic caucuses, as historically the Iowa parties have prioritized keeping the caucuses on the same night. In late 2007, Iowa Democrats seemed to be leaning toward a Jan. 5 caucus until the Republicans trumped them with a Jan. 3 date. The Democrats then quickly followed suit.

Michael Barone reports that the bipartisan effort is now happening on the national level, with Republican National Chairman Mike Duncan and Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean talking on the issue.

The calendar process will likely be driven by the party that loses the presidential election, since it's likely that the incumbent president will face a smooth, low turnout renomination.

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