RNC adopts new 2012 presidential primary schedule

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 6, 2010; 2:35 PM

KANSAS CITY, MO. -- The Republican National Committee adopted a new schedule for the 2012 presidential primaries Friday, agreeing to a plan worked out in concert with Democrats and designed to delay the start of the campaign season.

The proposal, drafted by a special RNC panel, gained approval from more than the necessary two-thirds of the committee's 168 members.

Party leaders hailed the vote as a historic change in the presidential selection process, one that would avoid the development of a single national primary in which states choose to hold their nominating contests on the same day.

The new schedule is designed to make it difficult for a candidate to rack up an insurmountable number of delegates early in the process, forcing candidates to campaign across the country.

Under the new schedule, no state would hold a primary or caucus before the first Tuesday in February 2012, in attempt to avoid a repetition of 2008, when the Iowa caucuses were held Jan. 3.

Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their status as the nation's first contests, held in February, joined by South Carolina and Nevada.

Other contests would generally be held in April or later, although states would have the option of holding votes in March, provided convention delegates chosen at those elections were awarded to candidates in proportion to the percentage of the vote they received, rather than in a winner-take-all system.

A number of delegates expressed a variety of concerns with the proposal. Some resented that the new schedule codified first-in-the-nation status for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Others didn't like the proportional-award rules.

And some said they feared extending the primary season would hurt Republicans in 2012, when President Obama is unlikely to face a Democratic challenger for the nomination and Republicans would be left fighting with one another for months.

Ultimately, enough committee members were persuaded that the new schedule would be an improvement over recent cycles. The new schedule will go into effect only if the Democratic National Committee adopts similar primary rules before the end of the year.

(More on Republican schedule concerns)

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