Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Republicans Move to Punish 5 Early-Contest States

June Kronholz
Wall Street Journal
New York, New York
22 October 2007

Republicans "always believe in redemption," Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan told reporters today. But barring that, he added, the party will strip New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Wyoming of half their convention delegates next summer.

Their sin: scheduling their presidential primaries or caucuses outside the six-month delegate-selection window set by the party in 2004.

Duncan announced the punishment during a break in a party meeting on the "call to convention." That call, which will be issued after the 2007 elections, will detail how many delegates-and votes-each state will be allotted when Republicans hold their national convention in St. Paul, Minn., next Sept. 1-4.

It also comes amid weeks of confusion and one-upmanship as a few states have attempted to raise their visibility and importance in the presidential-selection process by leapfrogging ahead of each other. As a result, the primary calendar is still in flux just weeks before the first votes are expected.

Republicans agreed at their 2004 convention that states should hold their primaries and caucuses between Feb. 5 and July 28, 2008. States voting outside that window were to lose half their delegates, a threat that hasn't deterred some. As it is, Wyoming will hold a delegate-selection convention on Jan. 5; Michigan will hold a primary on Jan. 15; South Carolina's Republican primary is Jan. 19 and Florida's primary is Jan. 29. New Hampshire, determined to retain its first-in-the-nation claim, hasn't set a primary date yet.

Iowa's Jan. 3 Republican caucus seems safe because it's not much more than a presidential beauty contest; delegates will be chosen at a party convention in June. Nevada's Jan. 19 caucus is in the same boat.

The party won't bring down its wrath on candidates who want to campaign in those five states-unlike the Democratic candidates, who have pledged not to campaign in any state that has jumped the party gun.

It's not too late for states to reschedule their contests and retain the delegates, Duncan added. The end may be near, but all could be forgiven, he added.



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