The Republican National Committee voted on Friday to drastically compress its presidential nomination process in hopes of avoiding a drawn-out and expensive fight that weakens the GOP's eventual standard-bearer in 2016. The changes include protecting the rights of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to early votes in February and making it far more punitive for other states -- Florida, we are looking at you -- to move up their primaries. The party's national convention will also move from late summer/early fall to no later than the end of July.
This is a major change from the more haphazard processes of 2008 and 2012 that produced long battles for the nomination and nominees that began the general election underfunded and momentum-less. Such a major change warrants us dusting off our winners and losers column. Below we lay out our picks. Who did we miss?
* Rand Paul: The compression of the calendar and the likelihood that Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada will have February all to themselves makes coming out of those four states with some momentum all important. No potential candidate -- up to and including Jeb Bush -- is better positioned, at least at the moment, to run strong in all four states. Today, Paul has to be considered the favorite in Iowa -- thanks to the attention he has lavished on the state and his father's existing political network there. In New Hampshire, his libertarian-leaning message should find footing. South Carolina could be Paul's hardest sell -- his foreign policy views will cause him trouble with the GOP electorate -- but Nevada is a place where Ron Paul ran well (he took 18 percent of the vote in 2012 and 8 delegates) and, if the state decides to hold a caucus (no decision has been made), that would be even better news for Paul.
* Reince Priebus: The RNC Chairman pushed hard to reconfigure the primary calendar/convention dates. On Friday, he won -- with very little drama attached to the final vote. (The measure passed the full committee 153-9.) Whether or not that was the right move -- a compressed calendar puts a premium on momentum and makes it hard to stop a candidate with momentum even if it's not the candidate the establishment wants -- remains to be seen, but Priebus has now left a major mark on how the party will pick its next presidential nominee. It may wind up being hid lasting legacy at the head of the party.
* Nevada: While Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have always had their shot at a day in the national sun, Nevada really hasn't. In 2012, Florida moved its primary up to Jan. 31 -- ten days after South Carolina but five days before the Nevada caucuses. In 2008, Michigan moved its primary four days in front of Nevada's caucuses. And, South Carolina's primary was on the same day (Jan. 19) -- and drew the lion's share of attention from candidates and the media. Assuming the changes approved on Friday hold, Nevada will (finally) get its own moment. That coupled with the very real possibility that the 2016 convention could be held in Las Vegas means the Gem State has had a very nice week. (More handicapping on the GOP convention sites soon in the space.)
* Holiday plans: While The Fix loves Iowa, spending Dec. 26 through Jan. 2 in the Hawkeye State was a little much. The calendar change means that the holidays should be off limits for any voting. That's a good thing for candidates, voters, staff and reporters. Also, for America.
* Chris Christie: Of the four states now ensured of voting first in February, Christie has only one -- New Hampshire -- where he starts off in first (or close to it). Without a Florida or a Michigan busting up the calendar -- and they still might although the penalties are far more severe than in years past -- New Hampshire becomes a state that Christie absolutely must win to continue in the race as a serious candidate. Any time you have a "one or done" situation, that's not great news.
* Marco Rubio: While Rubio's situation in the first four states is less high stakes than Christie's, the Florida Senator would have loved to have his home state in the very-early-state mix to ensure a win. Plus, even if Florida moves its primary up to March 1 (it's a Tuesday) it will have to award its delegates on a proportional -- rather than winner-take-all -- basis, meaning that Rubio couldn't count on a big delegate win even if he lasts that long in the race.
* Public financing: In truth, the public financing system is already dead -- Mitt Romney and Barack Obama opting out of public cash for the general election in 2012 did that. But, in case there was even the slightest possibility of the Republican nominee staying within the public financing system in 2016, that ended on Friday. Moving the convention up as much as two months means that there is no feasible way for a candidate/party to rely on the publicly-provided money to compete over an extended general election.
* Big States: Florida and Michigan have been the biggest agitators to shake up the calendar and give a larger population state with a more diverse electorate a chance to exert more say in the identity of the nominee. While both states could still move up into February if they so chose, it would be with massive penalties and the risk that -- like Florida for Democrats in 2008 -- the candidates will ignore them.
* Fix birthday: It's February 20. And that is going to be right in the heart of primary/caucus season. Also, it will be the year I turn 40. [sobs quietly]