by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center suggests in a National Review Online column that new rules for the Republican Party’s next presidential nomination process could mean bad news for conservatives in 2016.
Conservatives often lament their inability to nominate one of their own for president. Almost unnoticed, the RNC made some changes to the party rules that could make it even harder in 2016. One change in particular could make it virtually impossible for a movement candidate to become the 2016 nominee.
That change is known as the “proportionality window.” It requires all state contests, whether caucuses or primaries, held between March 1 and March 14 to allocate the delegates available statewide proportionally. (The states can still allocate delegates available at the congressional-district level by a winner-take-all method.) Only four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada) are permitted to hold their contests before March 1 without incurring draconian penalties, including reducing a state’s delegation to as few as nine. Thus, the combination of these two rules means that the nominee will very likely be whoever wins the contests held after March 14, since it will be impossible to run up a sizeable delegate lead in the early phase of the race when many candidates are competing.
This is a potential death sentence for the conservative candidate. Most of the highly conservative southern states traditionally hold their primaries inside of the March 1–14 window. If that occurs again in 2016, a conservative candidate will probably not gain many delegates over the establishment choice by winning the states in his base. Even if a southern state in the window allocates, as many non-southern states do, three delegates to each congressional district on a winner-take-all basis, the proportional allocation of the statewide delegates will place a conservative statewide winner at a severe disadvantage. He or she will then have to compete in less hospitable states that have the freedom to select all of their delegates by winner-take-all methods.