A 97-page Republican National Committee game plan for 2016 could cause a few arguments with tea party conservatives, after it recommends cutting back some grassroots efforts like caucuses, primaries, and debates.
The Growth & Opportunity Project report was issued Monday, amid much publicity and internal criticism among the GOP, by a group of five veteran Republican operatives.
The term “tea party” was used once in the entire report, in a reference to Dick Armey, a former House majority leader.
Currently, several GOP senators with tea party connections, like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, are playing high-profile roles in the latest legislative debates. But their viability as national candidates in 2016 could take a hit, some supporters fear, if the Republican party returns to an election system based in the Reagan and Bush eras.
In the 2012 election process, there were 20 primary debates, with the first debate in May 2011 and the final debate in February 2012. Two candidates without significant financial resources, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, took part in every debate and used the national platforms as low-cost ways to reach a wide audience.
The RNC wants to cut the number of primary debates by 50 percent and shorten the primary season.
Related Link: Growth & Opportunity Project report
And then there are the caucuses–in particular, the Iowa caucus.
“We also recommend broadening the base of the Party and inviting as many voters as possible into the Republican Party by discouraging conventions and caucuses for the purpose of allocating delegates to the national convention. Our party needs to grow its membership, and primaries seem to be a more effective way to do so,” the report says.
The moves would effectively move the first debate much closer to the Iowa caucus, or primary, or whatever the event would be called.
The 2012 Iowa caucus was an important platform for Santorum and Paul, where they finished first and third in voting (Santorum just edged out Mitt Romney).
Next are the controversial proposed changes to the primary season.
The plan does allow states with traditionally early primaries to keep their spot in the pecking order, but the remaining primaries would be grouped together into regional clusters, like a series of Super Tuesdays.
The rationale, says the RNC, is to finish primary season in May and hold the Republican National Convention much earlier, and in the case of 2016, before the Summer Olympics start in August 2016.
Those conditions, critics say, greatly favor candidates with large amounts of campaign financing who can blitz the “Super Cluster” states with television ads and campaign appearances.
Another other red flag in the RNC plan is immigration.
“We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only. We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all,” the report says.
The idea of immigration reform that offers a pathway to citizenship for currently illegal aliens is a lightning rod within the Republican party.
The report also says the Republican party needs to improve its standing in the gay community.
“There is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays—and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be,” the report says.
The report was also critical of Republicans serving in Congress and heaped praise on Republican governors.
“Republican governors are America’s reformers in chief. They continue to deliver on conservative promises of reducing the size of government while making people’s lives better,” the report said. “It is time for Republicans on the federal level to learn from successful Republicans on the state level.”
Of course, the report is a recommendation, and its goals would need to be approved by a full vote of the RNC at a national meeting.
But the initial reactions after the report’s release on Monday indicated that there wasn’t a consensus within the GOP.
The critics included commentators Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin, and one adviser to Rand Paul, who told the Washington Post that the “move away from caucuses and conventions will be highly controversial for the Paul world, tea partiers and social conservatives.”
John Brabender, a Santorum adviser, told Politico that the primary changes would favor the candidates with the most fundraising support.
“I am troubled by the possibility of a condensed presidential primary process which undoubtedly gives an advantage to establishment backed candidates and the wealthiest candidates,” said Brabender.
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