Must-read: If Florida goes forward with earlier primary, RNC rules suggest results would be proportional

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On Aug. 6, 2010,  a rule change passed the Republican National Committee by an unheard-of two-thirds majority and was enacted, writes Stu Rothenberg.

The rule, drawn up by the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee established at the 2008 GOP convention, was  subject to an up-or-down vote without amendment at the party’s 2010 summer meeting.

Under the first part of the new Rule 15, which has received plenty of media attention, only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are allowed to select delegates to the 2012 convention in February, while other states can begin the process no earlier than the first Tuesday in March.

But the new rule also states that, aside from the four February states, all other states holding contests before April 1 (that is, the often crucial March states) must “provide for the allocation of delegates on a proportional basis.” Proportionality is not defined in the rules.

Then-RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who was chairman of the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee, praised the changes, saying they would “ensure that we emerge from the primaries with the strongest Republican nominee possible to defeat Barack Obama.”

Supporters of the change believe the new calendar, combined with the proportionality requirement for March contests, will make it more difficult for a candidate to deliver a quick, early knockout.

Like if were Rick Perry were to win Florida, but Romney were to finish a close second.

Interestingly, Rule 15 doesn’t impose an additional penalty on a state that violates the February window for also violating the proportionality requirement.

In other words, if a state not authorized by the RNC rules to select delegates in February does so, it loses half its delegates. But if it also selects the remaining delegates through a winner-take-all system — which maximizes the importance of a state in the nominating process — it suffers no further delegate reduction.

While Ryder admits that the RNC’s Rule 16 (“Enforcement of Rules”) only applies to the February “window” and not to the proportionality requirement, he notes that Rule 23 (“Contest Procedure”) allows challenges to a delegation at the convention if a candidate feels wronged by the way a state selected delegates, including violating the proportionality rule.

States don’t have to inform the RNC about their delegate selection procedures and dates until Oct. 1, so Chairman Reince Priebus and his team won’t know officially about the problems they are facing for another three weeks.

More analysis from Rothenberg here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.