If the question being posed entering the three day confab in Boston is "Will the RNC put in place rules for 2016 that reflect the initiatives called for in the Growth and Opportunity Project Report?", then the likely output -- as in January in Charlotte or April in LA -- will underwhelm. However, just because the GOP Report is not going to be imminently implemented does not mean the Republican meeting in the Bay state will be a wash.
What should we be on the look out for and what should we expect out of Boston 2016 rules-wise over the next few days?
One big question that FHQ has asked RNC members recently is whether they were of the opinion that Virginia committeeman, Morton C. Blackwell, would once again propose the same laundry list of changes to the entire body of the RNC delegate selection rules as at the LA meeting? The answer I have gotten has been a number of I don't knows. But the best indication of Blackwell's intentions came a little over a week ago when he posted on RedState a letter/rules proposal that he was sending to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.1
The laundry list has been pared to down to probably the most minimal (yet fairly significant) rules change possible. And close FHQ readers should be familiar by now with the "may/shall" issue in Rule16(c)(2). This is something FHQ has been pointing out since we first got a hold of the RNC rules back in January, and is something that some higher ups I spoke with at the Charlotte meeting around the same time were aware of and assured me would be changed.
As a quick refresher, Rule 16(c)(2) lays out the proportionality requirement for states that hold primaries or caucuses prior to April 1 in a presidential election year. For 2012, the rule read that states with contests before that point "shall" allocate delegates to the convention in a proportional manner. It was a mandate (...but one that provided great latitude for states to achieve proportionality). But at the RNC convention in Tampa last year that shall -- as Blackwell mentions in his letter -- became a "may", making the mandate more of a toothless suggestion. It also rendered (actually, it still renders in the present tense) the penalty for violating the suggestion in Rule 17 meaningless.
In lieu of the sweeping return to the the bulk of the pre-convention rules that he and others fought for in LA, Blackwell is taking a more pragmatic approach in Boston by addressing the proportionality issue alone.
This seems like a rare bit of common ground between the Blackwell camp and some in the establishment of the RNC over delegate selection rules. But will we actually see that change made this week?
Maybe, maybe not.
And here's why: The "may/shall" switch may be quietly made and the Rules Committee and RNC move on to other issues. That could happen, but the party could also wait to make that change. The other thing that FHQ has heard is being considered and may come out of this meeting -- or more specifically the Rules Committee deliberations and then the RNC -- is a study committee to examine the whole set of rules that can be altered between conventions according to Rule 12. In other words, Rules 1-11 and Rules 13-25; everything but the convention-specific rules. The "may/shall" issue may be thrown into that group's work as one of several things to address (...later) about the nomination process.
The "may/shall" thing is actually quite significant as it serves as one of multiple rules-based barriers to states moving to earlier dates on the primary calendar and/or threatening the carve-out states' positions. It, then, is a big change if it occurs. And the study committee idea is not without merit either. It just isn't a significant a change. It does potentially provide a medium through which those not happy with the rules can air grievances about the rules, a byproduct of which may be more streamlined Rules Committee meetings at future seasonal RNC meetings. The context of my question to RNC members about the list of Blackwell amendments from LA coming up again, was/is that that had the potential to hijack the Rules Committee meeting at future meetings, making it harder to get any work -- Blackwell's, the party's or otherwise -- done.
But that is what everyone with an eye toward the rules governing the 2016 nomination process should be on the look out for this week out of Boston.
Well, you might also see some stern warnings from some over North Carolina's recent primary move. It will certainly be a topic of discussion, but there will not be any solution to the problem now.
1 This is part of the protocol of Rule 12. That any proposed change to the RNC rules must be submitted and circulated in advance (10 days) of any meeting where said amendment will be considered.