Stateline Story

GOP Sticks With Prez Primary Rules

  • September 06, 2008
  • By Pamela Prah

For all the complaining about the 2008 presidential primary season starting too early, the GOP has done little to change the 2012 contest schedule.

The 2008 Republican National Convention opted to essentially stick to the same plan as the 2008 cycle, rather than overhaul the primary schedule for the next round.

During an opening day Monday (Sept. 1) abbreviated by concerns over Hurricane Gustav, delegates here agreed to prohibit all but New Hampshire and South Carolina from holding their primaries before the first Tuesday in February. Iowa would be allowed to keep its non-binding caucuses and its first-in-the-nation status, under the Republican rules.

Both New Hampshire and South Carolina were given the early slots in 2008, but broke the party rules by having their contests earlier than the GOP-sanctioned Feb. 5. New Hampshire held its primary Jan. 8 and South Carolina Jan. 19. Iowa kicked off the run for the White House with its Jan. 3 caucus.

GOP party rules required delegates to approve changes to the presidential primary system for 2012 during their Sept. 1- 4 convention here, but they also decided to form a commission to study the issue further. The Democratic Party allows members to act long after their convention that concluded last week in Denver.

"We were hopeful that they would come up with a rotating, series of primaries that would have put the states in different groups and then every four years, one group would go ahead of the other," Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning said. "It's something we will continue to advocate for."

Florida was one of six five states that the Republican Party sanctioned for moved their primaries before Feb. 5 (Michigan, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Wyoming were the others). These states were allowed to bring only half of their delegations to the convention.

At their convention, Democrats approved nominee Barack Obama's call to give Florida and Michigan delegates full voting rights. The party had initially stripped these two states of all their delegates because they moved their primaries before Feb. 5. The delegates were reinstated, but were told each would have only a half-vote at the convention.

States upended the 2008 presidential primary system with the intent of giving their voters a greater say in choosing candidates. A record 28 states rushed to either move up their primaries or caucuses or decided to have one after not holding one in 2004. By the end of February, voters in 39 states had expressed their presidential preferences, compared to 19 in 2004.

Many, however, were concerned that the 2008 cycle's very early start was unfair to candidates and state officials who actually administer the primary contests - and in the end, to voters.