FHQ has been closely watching the meetings of the groups within both national parties reexamining the rules by which delegates will be allocated and presidential candidates nominated in the 2012 election. And we have done our part to bring the developments to our readers (click on the Democratic Change Commission and/or Temporary Delegate Selection Committee tags at the conclusion of the post for the full discussion). And while there has been a fair amount of individual analysis here, we have been lacking in attempts to reconcile what each party is doing with its counterparts across the aisle.
For all the talk about working together, there actually hasn't been any overt contact between the two parties other than a post at The Hill over the summer bringing the idea up. Of course, I've also tried to do my part here. Absolutely nothing revolutionary is going to get done on the presidential primary reform front unless the parties work together. And even then, FHQ is not necessarily of a mind that reform is acutely necessary. Democrats ended up with a winner in 2008 and Republicans, purity tests aside, got the candidate best positioned to actually beat any Democrat in a year that favored the party of Jefferson and Jackson. The weak links from the 2008 cycle are the ones being addressed now by both parties: what to do about caucuses (or the larger caucuses vs. primaries question), how can we stop frontloading, and for the Democrats, what should we do about those superdelegates? And though the Republican Party has items such as rotating regional primaries and instant runoffs on the table, FHQ is hesitant to take them seriously.
Well, those ideas are grand in scope and are going to take cooperation from Democrats to implement. And as of yet, there has been, again, no action taken on that front. In fact, those ideas aren't anywhere near the Democratic Change Commission's agenda. This isn't all the Democrats' fault either. For their part, the Change Commission is firmly committed to altering the timing of delegate selection events. No, the group isn't seemingly going to advance any radical recommendation, but they are intent on closing the window in which primaries and caucuses can be held; effectively starting the process in mid- to late February instead of at the beginning of the year as in 2008. [Non-exempt states -- everyone but Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada would be allowed to hold their delegate selection events on the first week in March or there after until the process comes to a close in June.]
This, however, does not necessarily jibe well with the goals of the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee. Indeed, this March starting point has not seemingly been on the Republican group's radar for their meetings to date. That isn't to say the GOP won't go along with the idea eventually, but their motivation is counter to the plan the Democrats are advancing. The Republican Party will be more interested in a quick nomination decision, a la 2004 for the Democrats, simply because they are going to be facing an incumbent president. [Plus opening up the Tea Party rift in 2012 will likely be suicidal for Republicans. The GOP just hasn't as of yet seemed willing to take a more pragmatic route in order to win. Democrats were at that point in 2008 -- and that isn't to suggest that they "settled" for Obama. The RNC is mindful of that and would likely opt for the status quo to maintain the quick selection mechanisms that are in place within the party's nominating apparatus.]
What that means is that the Republican Party's goals are not necessarily congruent with those of the Democratic Party. On top of that, time is running out. [For 2012? Yes, for 2012.] The Democratic Change Commission's recommendations are due to the party by the first of the year in 2010. The Rules and Bylaws Committee will then decide upon the rules for 2012 some time over the summer; roughly the same time period the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee is slated to finish up its work. That essentially leaves about nine months for the parties to put their heads together on the matter of primary reform. Sure, that's an eternity in politics, but when distractions like health care and midterm elections pop up, the task becomes even more difficult. Besides, a year has already passed since the 2008 election and the parties have not actively opened a dialog on this front.
They're going to fix that in nine months? Color FHQ bearish.
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