- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2014

CHICAGO — Any party that allows its opponents to help pick its candidates in “open” primaries is a PPINO — a “political party in name only” — say many Republican officials at their annual summer meeting.

Republican National Committee members and activists are still seething about reports that longtime Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican, enlisted Democrats to help him win his tough primary contest this summer against state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who was backed by the tea party.

They would seem to have an ally in the GOP boss, but the sentiments of the entire party and the prospects for changing state laws are unclear.

SEE ALSO: DEACE: An open letter (plea) for RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to do something about Mississippi

At least one committee member plans to press the issue at the RNC meeting, which opened Wednesday.

Currently, 27 states let independents and Democrats help pick Republican candidates for general elections. The reason usually is not the desire of the state GOP but rather that the state legislature has mandated open primaries or requires no party registration.

“I have been a longtime supporter of closed primaries to choose our candidates for office,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told The Washington Times at the three-day gathering in the Windy City. “This is a position I have held for a long time and is consistent with the party’s platform.”

SEE ALSO: Former RNC’s Haley Barbour tied to attack ad that paints tea party as racist

Political parties have been weakening steadily over the past 40 years, and Republican primaries that are open to independents and Democrats in more than half of the states don’t give voters much reason to pick one party over the other, aside from ideological views.

About 25 percent of voters identify themselves as Republicans, 31 percent as Democrats and 42 percent as independents, according to the most recent Gallup poll on the subject.

Some conservatives meeting in Chicago have always held that an open primary benefits liberal Republicans, who can appeal to Democrats.

Other conservatives, however, say open primaries allow Democrats to vote for the more conservative, less-experienced and less-electable GOP candidate.

The only restriction for Georgia’s open primaries is that voters must stay with the same party if a runoff is necessary.

Georgia RNC member Linda Herren said it makes no sense that her state doesn’t “require citizens registering to vote to register by political party.”

As a result, Georgia Democrats pretty much know the winners of their primaries before the polls open and are tempted to cross over to help sway the GOP choices.

“Those candidates that choose to run in a Democratic primary against the favored candidate rarely receive any Democratic Party support. Even more rarely do they secure the nomination for their party,” she said. So many Democrats choose to vote in the GOP primaries.

“They generally do this to assure that the weakest Republican candidate will be the one facing their candidate in the general election,” Mrs. Herren said.

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