RNC Continues to Tinker with 2016 Presidential Primary Process

In a country and state that seems to be more divided and partisan than ever, it is refreshing that there is one issue one which Iowa Republicans and Democrats can find agreement – our First-in-the-Nation status.  Iowa’s prominent role in the selection process of each party’s presidential nominee isn’t just something about which we agreed, it is actually something that we work on together to protect and preserve.

Even though Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation status appears to be secure for 2016, there are always threats and challenges that must be dealt with.  If you want to see an Iowa political operative get nervous, just print a headline like the one we saw yesterday from CNN.  “RNC to Overhaul 2016 Primary Process,” the headline said.  It also doesn’t help matters that the RNC committee making these recommendations doesn’t include anyone from Iowa or South Carolina.

The article details the work of a special subcommittee that was appointed this fall and tasked with the job of reforming the nominating process.  The good news is that the committee protects the carve-out for the four-early contests – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.  The committee is also addressing what has caused volatility in the nominating calendar in recent cycles – large states that move up the date of their contests, which forces the four early states to move the dates of their caucuses or primaries even earlier.

To prevent this from happening, the committee is proposing any state that attempts to hold its nominating contests before March 1 be penalized.  The penalty would significantly reduce the number of delegates the state is awarded at the national convention.  States that violate the RNC nomination calendar would be stripped of all their delegates except for nine.   If a smaller state violates the rules, the number of delegates would be reduced to one-third the size of their original delegate allotment.  In all cases, no state would have more than nine delegates should they choose to violate the RNC’s nomination calendar.

This all sounds well and good, but as we have seen in the past, punishing a large state isn’t always that easy to do.  Florida violated the RNC calendar by moving up its 2012 presidential primary, but it also violated the RNC rules by awarding its delegates in a winner take all fashion.  Florida lost half of its delegates for messing with the nomination calendar, but it wasn’t penalized for how it awarded its delegates.

The idea to increase the punishment from 50 percent of delegates to all but nine delegates adds more teeth to the punishment, but penalizing a state like Florida is not easy for the GOP to do.  First, the RNC, the eventual nominee, and other national committees need to raise a lot of money in Florida.  Second, Florida is a key battle ground state.  So, while the RNC has been willing to penalize Florida, it would never want to make this important state too upset, which means states like Florida will still continue to throw their weight around in order to get what they want.

The committee’s work on the calendar issues is time well spent, but the other topics the group is looking into raise some concerns.

One of the main objectives of the committee is to condense the time it takes to nominate a candidate.  The RNC doesn’t wants primary contests to officially begin until February, but it wants it all concluded by the end of May.  The hope is that the Republican National Convention can be moved up to June or July, which would allow the nominee more time to spend general election dollars.

The schedule is even more condensed when you realize that all delegates to the national convention must be submitted to the RNC 35 days in advance of the convention.  If the national convention is held in late June, all delegates must be selected by late May.  That may sound reasonable, but it means in Iowa precinct caucuses, county conventions, district conventions, and the State convention all must occur in less than 120 days.  That’s a lot of activity is a short period of time.

The committee also wants the RNC to have control over the presidential debates.  If there is something that should make activists nervous, it’s this.  Were there too many presidential debates in 2012?  Yes, but letting the RNC control the debate process isn’t necessary the solution Republicans should be looking for because all of the changes the committee is contemplating give more advantages to whomever is the national frontrunner.

Limiting the number of debates helps the frontrunner for the nomination by not having to have to deal with his or her challengers.  Compressing the primary calendar also helps the frontrunner because it makes fundraising more important than organizing.  A condensed nomination calendar will make it more difficult for lesser-known candidates to raise money between contests.

The RNC committee has also suggested penalizing a candidate who participates in an unsanctioned debate. The frontrunner in the race already has a major advantage as far as debates are concerned.  As we have seen over the past couple of election cycles, the frontrunner gets plenty of questions and time to make their case in the debates, while the challengers only get mere seconds to speak.   Another advantage the frontrunner has is that if they choose not to participate in a particular debate, there is a good probability that it will get cancelled.

This happened in Iowa in advance of the 2008 caucuses.  Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani refused to participate in a primetime Fox News Debate in partnership with the Republican Party of Iowa, but instead, they chose to participate in the Des Moines Register’s Debate.  The Fox News debate was cancelled due to a lack of participation.

The RNC subcommittee also wants to regulate what networks hold the debate and which members of their news teams moderate the debates.  This seems a little heavy handed and appears to be an awful lot of regulating for Republicans.  Perhaps the best way to regulate the debates is to put a cap on the number of debates a network can conduct over the entire span of the primary process.  The RNC could also limit the number of debates allowed in a particular state.

This may reduce the number of debates in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, but it would also eliminate two different news networks conducting debates in the same state within days of each other.  For instance, in the 10 days between the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries in 2012, both Fox News and CNN held major debates in the Palmetto State.  Fox News also had an additional televised candidate forum in South Carolina during that timeframe.

The final sprint towards the finish line in South Carolina was dictated by debates and TV appearances, not campaign events.  That’s unfair to the candidates who actually want to go out and campaign for votes, or maybe even bypass a state altogether to focus on a different contest.  These back-to-back debates may go away if networks know in advance that they are going to be limited in how many debates they are allowed to conduct.

When it comes to debates, the first place that the RNC should put its foot down is on debates that will not be nationally televised in their entirety.  The RNC could also cut down on the debates held by lesser-known entities like Bloomberg or Univision.  Major networks and cable news channels should be allowed to conduct these events because more people will likely watch them.  That doesn’t prevent candidates from utilizing other networks to reach voters, but if push comes to shove, the candidates should be debating on the networks or major cable news networks like Fox News or CNN.

Making the nomination process run better is an admirable goal, but the RNC would be wise to focus the problems that it can control, like calendar issues, and not involve itself with who is and is not allowed to moderate a debate.  Putting a cap on the number of debates an organization can organize would be helpful, but the RNC must not do things that give the frontrunner for the nomination any more advantages than they already have.

Presidential debates have becomes an important part of the nominating process in America, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Letting the candidates duke it out on stage against their Republican opponents is really what voters want and need to see.

 

 

The RNC’s Power Grab

By Craig Robinson

On Monday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus provided the media with a blunt assessment of the committee’s 2012 campaign effort.  Priebus admitted, “Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; and our primary and debate process needed improvement.” In many respects, Priebus admitted that the organization that he was elected to steer to victory failed at every facet of the campaign except for fundraising.

In his remarks to the National Press Club, Priebus mentioned a number of areas where the Obama campaign simply out preformed Republicans.  The only problem is that President Obama didn’t run against Mr. Prebus and the RNC.  He ran against Mitt Romney.

Even though the RNC’s report didn’t come out and say that the Romney campaign was an utter disaster, it’s impossible conclude otherwise.  While there are many ideas put forward in the proposal that would be worthwhile programs for the RNC to pursue, Republicans would also be wise to call the Romney campaign for what is was, a failure.  It does the RNC no good accept total responsibility for every fault of the Romney campaign.

The RNC report offers more than 200 solutions to the problems that the GOP experienced in 2012, but in reality, Priebus is only offering Republicans one solution – a larger, more expensive, more controlling RNC in future campaigns.  The 100-page RNC missive seeks to regulate outside groups, have complete say over every detail of presidential debates, and it advocates for the presidential primary calendar to be condensed and its contest regionalized.

The Des Moines Register published an article on Monday that said the RNC proposal bodes well for Iowa’s First-in-the-Nation caucuses.  The proposal protects Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, by granting them a “carve out” and specifically stating, “[I]t remains important to have an ‘on ramp’ of small states that hold unique primary days before the primary season turns into a multi-state process with many states voting on one day.”

The RNC’s carve out for the four early states is indeed a good sign, but in the last two presidential cycles, Iowa’s preferential status was jeopardized when states like Michigan and Florida purposely violated RNC rules and moved their contest to earlier dates.  The compression of the nomination calendar in 2008 and 2012 forced Iowa to hold its caucuses on January 3rd.  While that date has worked, it is less than ideal because of its proximity to the holidays.  Compression of the calendar also makes it extremely difficult for the four early states to conduct their contests due to state laws that regulate the time between similar contests.

The RNC’s inability in recent cycles to create any sort of stability when it comes to its presidential nomination calendar makes its suggestion of regional primaries following the early states seem not only far fetched, but improbable.  Making any adjustment to the nominating calendar will invite chaos as large states like Florida, Michigan, Texas, and others all jockey for position.  Regional primaries are not necessarily a bad idea, but getting the states to agree to a plan is easier said than done.

Equally ambitious is the RNC’s move to have complete control over the presidential debates.  Reining in the number of debates and regulating the timing of them is an honorable goal, but how the RNC plans to force news agencies and candidates to comply with their wishes is anyone’s guess.

To understand this, one only needs to look at what happened in Iowa in 2007.  ABC News held a presidential debate in August against the wishes of the Republican Party of Iowa.  The candidates choose to participate and the debate was held at Drake University.  Later that year, a Republican Party of Iowa Debate with Fox News was canceled because the candidates didn’t want to participate, opting to instead participate in a new debate with the Des Moines Register.

The point is simple.  It is the presidential candidates, not state party committees, the RNC, or even the news organization hosting the debate who determine what debates will actually happen.  Campaigns will always do what’s best for their campaign, regardless of whether or not the debate is sanctioned by the RNC.

While the 20 debates held in the 2012 Republican primary went a bit overboard, it was the back-to-back debates that occurred in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida that were the big problems.  In New Hampshire, the debates were on back-to-back days.  In South Carolina and Florida, the debates were three days apart.  The problem is not the oversaturation of debates, it’s that the debates between contests were dictating a campaigns strategy.  Some said that Rick Santorum should have skipped New Hampshire, but how can he when he’s obligated to spend the two days following the Iowa caucuses debating in that state?

When it comes to compressing the nominating calendar and limiting the number of debates, the RNC should proceed with caution.  Who benefits from a compressed calendar the most?  The candidate with the most money.  Who benefits the most by not having so many debates?  The candidate with the most money, who is often the frontrunner.

Maybe instead of trying to lengthen the primary schedule like the RNC did after the 2008 race, or the effort now to compress the primary process, the RNC should attempt find a balance between the two.  Or better yet, the RNC should first attempt to provide states and candidates some sort of certainty as far as the nomination process is concerned.  That would go a long way in preventing the awkward spacing of the debates and contests.

Mr. Priebus and the RNC have their hands full with the responsibilities they already have.  Maybe before the bite off even more, they should perfect the areas of the process that they already control.

 

 

 

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Actions of States Like Iowa Brought About RNC Rule Change

By Craig Robinson

Even though Ron Paul finished a disappointing third place in the Iowa Caucuses back in January, his supporters made sure to become delegates to the county conventions that were held a few months later in March.

The Paul supporters were still fully engaged when the convention process began in Iowa, even though their candidate had yet to win a contest and had basically stopped campaigning.  While they were still engaged, Mitt Romney’s supporters were almost absent.

Romney’s absence allowed the Paul supporters to go on and dominate everything from State Central Committee elections, to the party platform, to the selection of the delegates to the national convention.  Even though many longtime activists didn’t like how the Paul supporters conducted themselves, the Paul supporters had operated within the rules that governed the process.

Paul’s Iowa supporters may have dominated the county, district, and state conventions in Iowa, but the caucus to convention process does not end at the state level.  The process concludes at the national convention, and that’s where the Paul domination ended.

The refresher on the Paul campaign’s emphasis on the caucus to convention strategy is necessary before weighing in on the rule changes that were adopted at the national convention on Tuesday.  Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker, a former paid Paul operative, and Iowa’s National Committeeman Steve Scheffler, a Paul enabler, are mad as hell at the Romney campaign for the rules changes.    What they fail to realize is that the rule changes came about as a response to how the Paul supporters conducted themselves post-caucus.

The first rule change addresses how delegates are selected in future Republican presidential primaries.  This new RNC rule basically requires that the delegates from a state reflect the outcome of the caucus or primary results.  The new rule also provides the RNC with an enforcement mechanism to ensure that this new rule is followed.

The rule as originally proposed was horrible, as it would basically allow the presumed nominee to select the delegates from a state, but the final version is a common sense measure.  The candidate who wins the most votes in a nominating contest should be rewarded with the most delegates from that state.  This was a necessary change because of the actions of the Ron Paul supporters in states like Iowa that showed no respect to the candidate who actually won.

It’s pretty hard to oppose a proposal that wants to ensure that the winner of a contest is actually earns an appropriate amount of delegates at the end of the process.

Rick Santorum won the caucuses, albeit a few weeks after the January 3rd caucuses, yet he was awarded with just two delegates to the national convention.  One, National Committeewoman Kim Lehmann, was already guaranteed to be a delegate due to her position on the RNC, the other one had enough friends in the right places to earn the Ron Paul seal of approval.

Mitt Romney, who finished a close second, was given no delegates unless you want to count Senator Grassley, Governor Branstad, and a couple others who would support whoever the presumed Republican nominee would be.   On the other hand, Ron Paul mopped up the rest, and on Tuesday, Iowa awarded 22 of 28 delegates to Paul at the national convention.

The Paul supporters operated within the bounds of the rules, but in doing so, provoked the Romney campaign to lobby for changes to those rules for future elections.  By the way, the Romney folks who pushed through the rule changes also operated within the existing rules.  I don’t like how either campaign operated, but the Paul supporters now know how unpleasant it is to have something they don’t like jammed down their throats.

The other rule change allows the RNC to modify the rules between national conventions so long as 75 percent of the RNC members approve.  This is a dangerous rule change that takes the power from convention delegates and gives it to a very small group of people.  This is especially dangerous when a Republican occupies the White House, as it means that a sitting president, who would have a lot of sway with RNC members, could change the nominating rules to his or her advantage.

The main reason to oppose this rule is that it increases uncertainty in the nominating process at a time when the committee should be looking to create certainty.  The nominating calendar is already a mess, and the new rule allows the RNC to completely overhaul the nominating calendar on a whim anytime between now and September 2014.

The RNC is already heavily influenced when a Republican president occupies the White House, but imagine if a sitting two-term president pressure RNC members to change the nominating structure in a way that favors a current Vice President who wants to run to carry on the work of the current administration.  Money and name ID already make it difficult for lesser known or long shot candidates to be successful.  This new rule would make it even tougher.

Spiker, Scheffler, and other Ron Paul supporters are livid about these rule changes, but had they shown some respect to the 120,000 people who voted in the caucuses, the first rule change wouldn’t be necessary, and its backers would have found it difficult to find support for it within the rules committee.

Chairman Spiker has been outspoken during the rules committee meeting this week.  Iowa Republicans also shouldn’t have any beef with how Scheffler, who serves on the rules committee, voted.  The problem is that, while this cast of characters are white hot about the rule changes, I don’t believe it has anything to do with protecting Iowa’s First in the Nation status.  Instead, they are trying to preserve their own source of power.

Had Spiker, Scheffler, and the others been concerned about defending Iowa’s First in the Nation status, Drew Ivers and the throng of Paul supporters who surrounded him wouldn’t have awarded Ron Paul 22 of Iowa’s 28 delegates during the roll call of states.  I’m sure that Ivers and his cohorts feel like they really accomplished something, but for the life of me, I don’t know what it is.  If anything, Ron Paul’s Iowa organizers proved that Iowa’s system contained flaws which needed to be addressed.

The caucus to convention process is now over.  What used to be a process where all the supporters of presidential candidates could ultimately come to a consensus was upended so that Ron Paul could receive 22 of our 28 delegates.  In the end, I guess that it can be said that Paul won Iowa, Nevada, and Minnesota.  That’s one more state than Newt Gingrich won.

What do these technical victories accomplish for Ron Paul?  Absolutely nothing.  Paul’s three state victory came at the moment when Romney secured 2061 delegates, or 917 more than he needed to secure the nomination.  However, the ramifications of Paul’s “victories” are significant.  The Iowa GOP is now dysfunctional and broken.  The RNC also passed new rules to make sure similar shenanigans don’t happen in the next cycle.

Hopefully in the future, Iowa Republicans will return to their commonsense ways and work together to build a delegate slate that is representative of Iowa Republicans, not just one candidate.  Maybe in the future, being a delegate will be a reward to an activist who has gone above and beyond in helping elect Republicans in the state.  Maybe someday, the Republican Party of Iowa will once again have leaders who put the good of the party above their own self-interest.

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Collins Began His RNC Chair Campaign A Week Before He Resigned His Post

Documents filed November 9, 2010, with the Iowa Secretary of State’s office show that former RNC Political Director, Gentry Collins, had prepared and submitted the necessary paperwork to create a 527 group to advance himself as a candidate for RNC chairman while he was still employed by the RNC and serving current RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

Collins made news last week when he resigned his position, and in doing so, he leaked a scathing rebuke of Steele to the Politico, which was dated and published November 16, 2010.  TheIowaRepublican.com called Collins’ behavior “self-serving and unnecessary,” since Collins took no responsibility in the shortcomings of the committee, and also spent the summer and fall singing the RNC’s praises, even in the area of fundraising, which was the focus of the criticism in his reproach of Steele.

Now that we can see that Collins had already made the decision to challenge Steele for the RNC chairmanship a more than a week before even resigning his position, his four-page diatribe can be analyzed differently.  Collins and his supporters want him to be portrayed as loyal employee who felt compelled to blow the whistle on the inner workings of the RNC.  In reality, Collins wasn’t sounding the alarm.  He was simply undermining the very person who was responsible for giving him his position with the RNC in the first place.

The remarks of former Iowa Speaker of the House Chris Rants also were prophetic.  Last week Rants said, “He [Collins] is a planner, and very methodical, so I have no doubt that he did not take this step lightly. When he sets his mind to something, he usually moves heaven and earth to make it happen.”

Little did we know that Brian Kennedy, a close confidant to Collins, had already incorporated “Collins for Chairman” back on November 9, 2010, well in advance of the November 16th resignation and Politico story.

Collins’ RNC Diatribe Is No Surprise

As an Iowan who has witnessed Gentry Collins’ rise in national politics, and as a former Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa who has worked closely with the talented operative only to see him ultimately call for my firing, I read Collins’ letter of resignation, which was leaked to Jonathan Martin of the Politico, with great interest.

Collins served as the Political Director of the Republican National Committee (RNC) for the 2010 election cycle.  While it is not uncommon for people in Collins’ position to resign following an election, his four-page letter of resignation, which is a scathing rebuke of RNC Chairman Michael Steele, is odd since Republicans made huge gains in the mid-term election.

Collins’ letter confirms what we already know or suspected of Steele’s term.  Steele has been a disaster as RNC chairman. His two-year term has been plagued by mishaps, scandals, and missed opportunities.

It began with Steele criticizing Rush Limbaugh in February of 2009.  It continued when he spent thousands of dollars to refurbish his office, held an RNC meeting in Hawaii, and even pondered purchasing a private jet for his RNC travel.

If that wasn’t enough, Steele’s RNC held a fundraiser at a risqué nightclub, and the committee’s own fundraising presentation mocked GOP donors by calling them “ego-driven people who can be tapped with offers of access and tchochkes.”  It’s no wonder the RNC wasn’t successful at attracting large donations.  One would have to be living under a rock for the past two years to be oblivious to the soap opera that the RNC has become.

On the surface, Collins’ letter stating the inadequacies of the RNC is accurate, but where is his shared responsibility for all of this as the committee’s Political Director?  Not only did Collins hold a position of tremendous influence, he also brought with him Derek Flowers and Susan Hepworth, two operatives who worked with him on Romney’s 2008 Iowa caucus campaign.

While he belittles Steele in his letter of resignation, Collins is the one who made the decision to go to work for Steele following the 2008 election.  He also made the decision to remain as Steele’s chief political operative through all of the scandals of the past two years.

As Collins bemoans the debt that the RNC racked up, it was Collins who the RNC trusted to spend those resources, not Steele.  His letter criticizes Steele’s inability to raise the type of money that was raised in the 2002 and 2006 cycles, and paints himself as some heroic figure who had to pick up Steele’s slack, but he ignores the impact that a sitting Republican President had in raising those funds in previous mid-term elections.

When asked about Collin’s rebuke of Steele at a book signing in Des Moines yesterday, Newt Gingrich said, “I think its unfortunate.  I have no idea what was going on behind the scenes.  I think there is an old rule generally speaking.  If you are that unhappy, you ought to leave.  If you stayed, then why are you that unhappy?”  The former Speaker’s perspective is interesting considering that he played a major role in the 1994 Republican revolution, to which 2010 is being compared.

Former Iowa Speaker of the House, Chris Rants called Collins a, “Hard charger.” Rants told TheIowaRepublican.com, “He is a planner, and very methodical, so I have no doubt that he did not take this step lightly. When he sets his mind to something, he usually moves heaven and earth to make it happen.”

“Based on everything I’ve heard – especially when I was down in Kansas City for the RNC meeting this summer, it would appear that Gentry’s criticisms are valid.  I would say it’s about time someone shown a spotlight into the RNC, and Gentry is in a position to know,” Rants added.

The timing of Collins’ rash resignation is also questionable.  While the RNC is a mess, the Republican gains this year exceeded the historic gains of the 1994.  Furthermore, just three weeks ago, Collins penned a memo touting the RNC’s improved absentee and early voting programs. ABC News also pointed out a long list of contradictions by Collins. Yet now that Collins wants to transition to a new job or has eyes for Steele’s job, as was reported in the Washington Post, he stabs Steele in the chest in full view of the public.

Collins’ decision to publically leak this information is as self-serving as it is unnecessary.  With the 2010 election cycle in the books, he could have quietly walked away from his post at the RNC.  It appears that his decision to turn on his boss was either a move to end the chances of Steele getting re-elected to a second term (those chances already appearing slim), or it was a move to help propel his own political career.

While Collins’ actions made waves in political circles across the country, Iowans have come to expect such behavior from him.  The scenario that Collins paints in his letter is very reminiscent of what occurred when he was the Executive Director of the Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) in 2004 when Chairman Chuck Larson, Jr.’s National Guard unit was dispatched to Iraq.

Instead of RPI’s co-chair assuming the responsibilities of the chairman, Collins eagerly assumed the roll with the blessing of the State Central Committee.  President George W. Bush narrowly won the state that year, a victory for which Collins took much of the credit, but Iowa Republicans lost control of the State Senate and almost lost control of the Iowa House.

If the results of the 2010 elections are unsatisfactory for Collins, then shouldn’t his tenure at RPI in 2004 also be considered unsuccessful?  He also was the Executive Director of the Republican Governor’s Association in the 2006 cycle.  The results during that cycle were disastrous for Republicans across the county.

Collins’ belief that Republicans could have made further gains had the RNC’s fundraising not been so paltry is also questionable.  I would agree that there were a number of congressional races that would have benefitted from financial support from the RNC.  There are three examples of this in Collins’ home state of Iowa.  However  having more money to spend doesn’t always translate into victories.

Collins should know this lesson well since Mike Huckabee beat the Collins-managed Romney campaign by almost ten points in the Iowa caucuses despite Romney being flush with funds in 2008.  Additionally, in responding to Collins’ letter, the RNC noted that it actually raised more money in the 2010 cycle than the DNC raised when it experienced its huge victories in 2006.

Nobody doubts that Gentry Collins is a talented Republican strategist, but his ego combined with his vengeful style is what the American people despise about politics.

As Political Director of RPI during the 2008 Iowa caucuses, I became well versed in the heavy-handed way in which Collins operates.  Collins was always quick to pick up the phone to encourage RPI to attack McCain, who he ultimately worked for in the general election campaign, or Rudy Giuliani for skipping the Ames Straw Poll or the caucuses as a whole.  When the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll was in jeopardy because of McCain and Giuliani refusing to participate, Collins, as manager of the Romney campaign, inquired as to how much money it would take for the event to be cancelled.  Essentially, he wanted to bribe the Republican Party of Iowa not to have the straw poll so that the Romney campaign wouldn’t have to bother organizing for it.  However, when RPI criticized Romney for not participating in its FOX News debate, Collins sought revenge.

Collins threatened Ray Hoffmann, who was RPI chairman after the Party disclosed that the debate was cancelled because of Romney’s refusal to debate.  He lobbied members of the Republican Party’s State Central Committee to fire the Executive Director and Political Director a month before the caucuses.

It’s unfortunate that Collins felt the need to go down this path because it’s simply not necessary.  The Executive Committee of the RNC as well as Republicans across the country know that Michael Steele’s chairmanship has been a disaster.  If Collins believed that it was necessary to distance himself from Steele’s disastrous leadership, he could have done so within the walls of the RNC or in the interview process with potential suitors.

After seeing Collins’ Machiavellian behavior, one has to wonder if his move to criticize Steele publically will hurt his future prospects.  Would a presidential candidate have to worry that Collins could go rogue if the campaign isn’t going as planned?  What about those who work along side of him or work for him? Will they be able to trust him, or will they worry that he will throw them under the bus if doing so will benefit him?

I found it ironic that, on the same day an Iowan received the nation’s highest military honor for selfless service, for courage under fire, and for displaying the willingness to give his own life to save the lives of two of his fellow soldiers, we had another Iowan showing personality traits from the opposite end of the spectrum.

Iowa Maintains First-In-The-Nation Status in 2012

Before you know it, presidential hopefuls will once again inundate the state of Iowa. If you want to get technical about it, you could easily say that we already are.

Congressman Ron Paul is scheduled to speak at the Campaign for Liberty’s mid-west conference in Des Moines tonight. Newt Gingrich is planning to barnstorm the state on May 26th, hitting Davenport, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines. For months now, potential candidates like Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki and Rick Santorum have been visiting the state.

Most Iowa Republicans are not focused on the 2012 caucuses yet. With contested races up and down the primary ballot, and Governor Culver being incredibly venerable, there is good reason for Iowa Republicans to not be looking too far ahead.

That said, earlier this week, the Republican National Committee’s Temporary Delegate Selection Committee (TDSC), recommended a rule that would continue to protect Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status., a move that sends a signal to potential presidential candidates that Iowa will once again will kick-off the nominating process.

The TDSC rule stated, “No primary, caucus, or convention to elect, select, allocate, or bind delegates to the national convention shall occur prior to the first Tuesday in March in the year in which a national convention is held. Except Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada may begin their processes at any time on or after February 1.”

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn, told TheIowaRepublican.com, “The rule that the TDSC recommend will punish any state other than Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, that holds their primary or caucus before April 1st by allocating the delegates won in those contests proportionally, instead of winner take all.”

While that might deter some states, a few states already award delegates proportionally by congressional district, and other states might be willing to have their delegates awarded that way in exchange for all of the attention they would receive by moving up in the nomination calendar. The only way that the RNC can prevent frontloading is to not count the delegates from any state that doesn’t follow the RNC rules.

Strawn added that it would take a 2/3 vote of the RNC to pass the rule, which could happen at the summer RNC meeting in Kansas City.

While it’s not official, the TDSC’s recommendation signifies that Iowa will once again lead off the nominating process. What it does not do, however, is allow Iowans to set a date for the caucuses.

In the 2008 caucuses, the date wasn’t selected until October, just a few months before the caucuses. Hopefully that will not be the case for the 2012 caucuses, but for Iowa to maintain its status, it will have to react to any state that ignores RNC rules.

Iowans would like to believe that the reason presidential candidates visit the Hawkeye state is because they want to listen to our concerns. There is no doubt that these candidates do care and want to listen to what we have to say, but it’s not the great people of our state that bring these politicians here. It’s the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Since 1976, the Iowa Caucuses have kicked off the presidential nominating process. Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status is a privilege, not a right. There are numerous states, mostly ones with a greater population and thus more electoral votes, that would love to steal the spotlight we receive every four years.

Fortunately, Iowa and the other small states that traditionally kick off the nominating process have done a good job making the case for why these small states should have such a major role in determining who the nominees are. The best case that states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina can make is that candidates must engage in retail politics to be successful in each.

The caucuses also provide candidates without a huge war chest the ability compete. Larger states such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and California, would require candidates to run radio and TV ads in a number of media markets, while Iowa only have five.

The TDSC should be commended for their recommendation. If the RNC is able to vote on the nomination schedule this summer, hopefully the 2012 presidential campaign calendar will be more predictable and spaced out that it was in 2008.

Santorum “Disgusted” With Questionable RNC Expenditures

Santorum in IowaFormer United States Senator Rick Santorum was in Council Bluffs, Iowa today at a noon luncheon hosted by the Pottawattamie Republican Party. During the question and answer portion of the event, Santorum was asked to comment about a story that appeared in the Washington Post regarding the Republican National Committee spending $1,946.25 at Voyeur, a West Hollywood nightclub that is known for its bondage and S & M performances.

On its website, Voyeur describes itself as, “A destination for provocative revelry that combines eroticism and nightlife exclusivity. An alluring ambience designed with elegance and comfort while maintaining underground vitality”

Santorum’s face filled with disgust as he listened to the question. “There is no excuse for people’s contributions to the RNC to go to pay for this behavior,” Santorum said. “Frankly, I’m disgusted by it,” he added.

Santorum went on to criticize RNC Chairman Michael Steele, saying, “As a leader, you set the tone for your organization. If somebody who worked for my organization did something like this, they would be out of a job.” Santorum added, “It’s not just that this happened, it’s that someone saw this reimbursement and then approved of it. Chairman Steele might not have had personal knowledge about this sort of activity, but if that’s the case, there is an absence of leadership at the RNC.”

Even before this latest RNC scandal, Republican insiders were beginning to view Steele as a liability. In a poll of Republican insiders conducted by the National Journal Online two weeks ago, 71 percent of respondents admitted that Steele is a liability.

Santorum’s visit to Iowa is his third in the last six months. Thirty people attended his Council Bluffs event, a surprising turnout considering that there was not much notice or publicity in advance of the event. The crowd that turned out today for lunch is larger than some presidential candidates generate in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses.

While some national political pundits dismiss Santorum as a legitimate presidential candidate, Iowans have responded well to him in the last six months. The level of interest that Santorum is receiving is an indication that Iowans are keeping their options open for the 2012 caucuses.

Photo by Dave Davidson