The Boston RNC meeting has a little controversy over replacing the word shall with may. This all comes from a change made in 2012 when Romney’s team got the wording changed from saying “contests held before April shall allocate delegates proportionally to candidates” to say may allocate delegates…”
That one change gives the party’s eventual nominee the ability to choose alternatives to convention delegates who have been allocated by state voters to other candidates and just as importantly also states that go before April 1 to have winner-take-all primaries. For conservatives the second rule is especially damaging.
Let’s look at what happened in Michigan last time. The state went before April and had to allocate its delegates proportionally, so although Rick Santorum lost because he came so close he ended up with 14 out of 30 available delegates and Romney got 16. Under the rule change Michigan may elect to be winner-take-all and then Santorum would have gotten zilch for coming in second. By picking up those delegates it did Santorum a rational to keep fighting. If he continually came in second and got nothing his support base would start to dry up. After all, who wants to work hard against better financed opposition and get nothing?
By allowing states to go winner-take-all before April 1 you encourage a shortened primary calendar and you help a more moderate candidate, if the conservative vote is divided.
Why does it shorten the primary season because everyone wants to go in the beginning so they can receive as much attention as possible. If you go later chances are things might be a foregone conclusion and your state isn’t important in the nomination fight. For example, for years California went in June and by then it was already decided who the nominee would be so the primary didn’t matter as much (with the exception of 1964).
This also helps more moderate candidates. For example, in 2008 most states were winner-take-all and John McCain was able to get all of the delegates in states like Florida and South Carolina even though a majority of people voted against him. Under a proportional system McCain’s delegate pick up would’ve been smaller and it would’ve given Romney or Huckabee the delegates needed to keep fighting and maybe beat McCain.
Looking forward to2016 if many states are winner-take-all and the conservative vote is divided between say Cruz and Walker someone like Christie would win a 100% of the delegates from big states like California or Florida but only get say 35% of the vote.
Of course Tea Party groups are furious over this. Long time GOP activist and Committee member Morton Blackwell is leading the effort to stop this change. He is being added by groups like FreedomWorks. They understand if delegates are not awarded proportionally and the conservative vote remains divided then it will almost impossible to stop an establishment candidate.
Who knew the entire complexion of the GOP race could be changed by just one word.