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January 27th, 2014

RNC Votes to Protect Iowa and the Frontrunner

If you didn’t know better, you would think that Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, was unfairly victimized by a set of arcane rules that favored long shot candidates in the Republican nomination process over more main stream candidates.

Yes, Romney won the 2012 Republican nomination, winning all but 13 states and one territory.  Yet, apparently the gauntlet that is our presidential nominating system that allowed him to amass 1,462 delegates compared to Rick Santorum’s 234 delegates or Ron Paul’s 154 delegates was unfair to the candidate who was considered the Republican frontrunner as soon as the 2008 presidential election was in books.

Why was it unfair you ask?  Because the nomination process as we knew it demanded that the candidates who sought the Republican nomination work for it.

The Republican National Committee gathered in Washington D.C. this past weekend to pass new rules and procedures for the upcoming presidential cycle.  Making changes to the way we nominate our presidential candidates is a worthwhile endeavor.  Times change.  Technology changes.  Lots of things change.   And while some of the changes that the RNC made over the weekend are needed changes, the majority the changes to how we nominate presidential candidates are designed to give the national frontrunner a major advantage over his or her competition.

Time Magazine’s Zeke Miller wrote last week, “On Thursday, the RNC’s Rules Committee, continued to ease the path for better-funded establishment candidates to avoid the type of ‘long slog’ against poorly-organized and under-funded candidates that Mitt Romney was subjected to.”  Miller’s observation about the goal of the RNC’s Rules Committee is spot on, but why are Republicans so hell bent on changing the rules to help candidates with every conceivable advantage in the book like high name ID, strong poll results, and ample financial resources?

Maybe instead of changing the rules regarding how we nominate candidates, we should instead examine the faults and failures of the Romney campaign.  Lets face it, not only did Romney lose the general election, but he failed to put up a fight.  We all remember his cowardness on the issue of Benghazi, and it’s not like he took it to the President on Obamacare or religious liberty issues either.

Now fourteen months later, the RNC is passing a set of rules that will make it easier for candidates like Romney to win the Republican nomination for president.  Is this what is in the best interest of the Republican Party?  In many ways, the nomination process as it was previously constructed was a gauntlet.  Only the strongest survived, and yes, the strongest even included guys like John McCain and Mitt Romney.

The Republican National Committee approved rules changes Friday by a vote of 153-9, which is designed to have the 2016 nomination begin the first week of February with the Iowa Caucuses.  All primaries and caucuses will conclude in mid-May.

Here are the rule changes:

Four Early Contests: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada

These contests are slated to begin with the Iowa Caucuses during the first week of February 2016.  The New Hampshire primary would follow a week after Iowa, with South Carolina and Nevada holding their contests later that month.  Major penalties are in place for states that move ahead of the four official states or hold winner-take-all contests before March 15th.

This is a much-needed reform.  In the past two presidential cycles, large states like Florida and Michigan have moved their primaries up in the calendar, which then caused the four early states to move their contests in front of them.  This is what caused the Iowa Caucuses to be held on January 3rd in 2008 and 2012.  Nobody likes it, it is difficult for the candidates to campaign around the holidays, and it makes the nomination process long and drawn out.

States that Award Proportional Delegates March 1-14

States that hold their primaries and caucuses between March 1st and March 14th will be required to award their delegates proportionally, which will ultimately weaken the impact of those contests.  The states can set a threshold as high as 20 percent for a candidate to obtain delegates.  States that hold their contests after March 14 can award their delegates winner-take-all.

Blackwell Amendment: Virginia National Committeeman Morton Blackwell offered an amendment that would have lengthened the proportional delegate window from the first two weeks to the entire month of March.  Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker told that he voted for this measure, as did National Committeewoman Tamara Scott.  Even though the amendment failed, Spiker noted that under the rules of the last national convention, states could have began winner-take-all-contests on March 1st.  The two-week proportional window allows for the race for the Republican nomination to slow down a bit before going into the winner-take-all phase.

Winner-Take-All Period – March 15 to May

States that decided to conduct their contest after March 15th can award delegates in a winner-take-all fashion.

Many expect a large number of states to hold their contests during this period. This is where the candidate with the most money will have a huge advantage over their opponents.

Spiker told that he has some issues with winner-take-all states, especially considering that the RNC is now requiring all states to bind its delegates to the results of its contest. “I’m fine with awarding all of a state’s delegates to one candidate so long as they get fifty plus one percent of the vote,” Spiker told  “On the other hand, I don’t think we are respecting the will of the delegates if we award all of the delegates to a candidate that got just 30 or 35 percent of the vote.”

What does it all mean?

Spiker voted in favor of the rules because, “It benefits the Iowa Caucuses, and thus it benefits the Republican Party of Iowa.”  Spiker said that everyone ended up giving up something in end, but having Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation caucuses protected, and having a guarantee that the caucuses will be held in early February and not early January is a big win.

The rules and calendar changes approved at this meeting are part of a larger effort to overhaul the nominating process in the Republican Party.  At an earlier meeting, the RNC passed rules that will require states like Iowa to bind its delegates based on the results of the caucuses.  The committee will meet again this spring to discuss creating rules to limit presidential debates.

While many of these rules and calendar changes are needed, condensing the nomination process will only make it more difficult for lesser-known candidates, most of which are conservatives, to have a shot at winning the nomination. The new calendar provides a huge advantage for candidates who can amass a campaign war chest that allows them to run ads and deploy staff in multiple states.  These same candidates are the ones who will also likely benefit from having a Super PAC attack their opponents as a state’s primary or caucus nears.

The impact that the changes will have on the 2016 nomination process are unknown.  Even though it appears as if the changes will help whoever is the Republican frontrunner in 2016, what if that frontrunner is a conservative and a more moderate challenger is shut out?  Nobody really knows what this will all mean in the long run, but anytime you condense the process, you are going to aid the person who enters the race as the frontrunner. 

Other Related Items

Spiker talked about how the new calendar would impact Iowa’s Caucus to Convention schedule.  All delegates to the national convention must be certified with the RNC 45 days before the national convention.  The earliest date being considered for the 2016 National Convention is the week of June 27th.  That means the latest the Iowa State Convention could be held is May 7th.  Spiker said it would be more likely that the state convention would be held sometime in April.

Spiker supported another Blackwell amendment that would have required all delegates to be certified 35 days before the National Convention.  Spiker said those extra ten days are a lot.

Here is a possible caucus to convention calendar for Iowa in 2016.

Iowa Caucuses: Monday, February 8th
County Convention: Saturday February 27th
District Convention: Saturday, March 19th *
State Convention: Saturday, April 23rd
* Easter is on March 27th 

Scheffler Elected to RNC Site Selection Committee

Steve Scheffler, Iowa’s National Committeeman will play an integral role in determining where the Republican Party will hold its 2016 National Convention.  The top contenders include, Kansas City, Columbus, Denver, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

The site selection committee will travel to each of the cities and make its recommendation to the Republican National Committee later this year.  Scheffler told, “I’ve attended seven national conventions, and there are a number things like accessibility, local support for the convention, quality and size of the venue, and the proximity of hotels to the convention center that will all play a roll in which city will be get the committee’s recommendation.”

How the Iowa Delegation Voted:

Chairman A.J. Spiker and National Committeeman Steve Scheffler voted in favor of the rule changes.  National Committeewoman Tamara Scott was one of nine votes against the new rules.


About the Author

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country.

Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.

A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states.

Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site,

Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing.

Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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