Monday, March 9, 2015

Republican Party of Virginia Chair Favors Conventions Over Primaries

FHQ touched on this convention or primary debate within the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) last week. The complaint then was that there was nothing in the reporting from the side of those in support of the convention format for determining presidential preference (and selecting/allocating delegates to the national convention). That has not really changed all that much in a week.

But there is some internal nuance that can be added to the picture now. Newly elected RPV chairman, John C. Whitbeck, hovered above the convention or primary fray in Saturday's Richmond Times-Dispatch story from Markus Schmidt, but offered his own personal preferences:
The state party has not yet landed on a format — the deadline for making a decision is October — and Whitbeck said he won’t rule out either process but made clear that he leans toward a convention. 
“I generally don’t favor state-run primaries,” he said. 
He added: “I don’t think the party of fiscal responsibility should be costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands or potentially millions of dollars. And until we have party registration, we can’t prevent Democrats from causing trouble in our primaries.”
Now, that last bit is not an uncommon refrain from state Republican Party organizations across the country over the last few years (or the national party for that matter). Part of it rightly or wrongly gets lumped into the establishment versus tea party narrative. Yet, with Democratic voters perceived to be on the sidelines without a competitive presidential nomination race for a second consecutive cycle in 2016, there is concern -- real or imagined -- that Democrats are out to affect the Republican nomination race. That, in turn impacts tactical decisions like the mode of delegate selection on the state level. And that is something that can transcend the establishment versus tea party divide.

One way we can look at this is to see whether there is a growth or potential increase in Republican caucuses states for the 2016 cycle. At this point -- and it is early yet -- the changes from primaries to caucuses or caucuses to primaries relative to the mode used in 2012 is a wash.

Utah Republicans have already opted to switch from a primary in 2012 to a caucuses/convention system in 2016.

Kentucky Republicans look to be headed in the same direction.

The change is apparently still an open question among Republicans in Virginia.

But for every Utah, Kentucky and Virginia there is an Idaho or Missouri or Washington.

Idaho Republicans, after a cycle with a caucuses system, seem to be on their way toward switching back to a primary; a hard-fought, court-won closed primary. [The party's 2012 switch to caucuses was more about having an earlier date for a delegate selection event.]

Missouri Republicans will also have access to a state-funded primary in 2016 whereas all the party had in 2012 was a non-compliant primary, forcing them into caucuses.

And in Washington state, legislative Republicans are pushing a bill to move the primary up in order to allocate at least a portion of their national convention delegates based on the results. The state canceled the primary in 2012. Interestingly, it is Washington Democrats who prefer the caucuses format in the Evergreen state.

The more one looks at it, the more it becomes clear that it is idiosyncrasies and not necessarily ideological purism that is driving these moves whether to or from a caucuses/convention system. That may play a role, but it has not been the deciding factor. least not in the way that it is being discussed in this Virginia case.

Hat tip to the New York Times' Jonathan Martin for the link to the Times-Dispatch story.

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