Democratic National Chairman John C. White indicated yesterday that the White house is no longer pushing for some of the changes in the party's delegate-selection rules that critics says would make it more difficult to challenge President Carter's renomination in 1980.
White told reporters that Carter has "no particular interest" in the rules changes "except if there were some way to shorten the process" of delegate selection.
The party chairman said he thinks changes in filling deadlines and delegate allocation formulas - pushed by administration loyalists through a party rules commission in January would probably be dropped or compromised.
He commented as the party's executive committee listened to advocates and opponents debate the rules changes at the Sheraton-Park Hotel. The executive committee will vote today on what changes, if any, to recommend to the full Democratic National Committee, which will meet on the rules in June.
In January, the commission on presidential nomination and party structure, headed by Michigan Democratic Chairman Morley A. Winograd, recommended a series of rules changes which opponents charged were designed to impede any "outsider" from successfully opposing Carter in 1980.
Proponents denied that was the motive, saying the changes were intended to simplify the process and clear up problems discovered in 1976. But Mark Siegel, Carter's since-resigned political aide, was instrumental in mustering a majority in the Winograd commission for the changes.
Yesterday, White said he expects two of the changes to be dropped or altered.
One criticized change would set the filing deadline for 1980 primaries at least 55 days and no more than 75 days in advance of the voting. Minnesota Democratic Chairman Ric Scott, arguing against it yesterday, said these "arbitrary deadlines" would force at least 20 states to change their laws and would "weed out candidates" who might otherwise compete.
White said, "I suspect it will be changed" to allow filing deadlines anywhere from 30 to 90 days before the primary. That, he said, would require changes only by Vermont and Florida, which now have deadlines of 20 and 28 days respectively.
Another proposed change that has drawn criticism would raise the percentage of votes a candidate needs in order to win delegates in a caucus or primary.
The Winograd commission majority approved a Siegel proposal that the "floor" be 15 percent in the first month of primaries or caucuses, 20 percent in the second month and 25 percent in the final month.
"There is no doubt that will be substantially altered" to remove the calendar-related sliding floor, White said, although he was not certain what formula would be substituted.
Critics said the proposed rule would make it harder for challengers to win delegates in the final month, when many of the delegates are chosen.
White said he believed the executive committee would endorse two other rules changes which have drawn similar criticism of White House "rigging."
One would increase the convention size by 10 percent and give perference for those seats to governors, members of Congress and state party leaders.
Another would allow states to elect delegates from single-member districts.
White also predicted approval of a shortened 13-week primary and caucus season, with exemptions for Iowa and New Hampshire, which now hold the first caucus and primary in the country.