The Republican National Committee voted Friday to condense its presidential nomination contest, in the hopes of avoiding another drawn-out and destructive primary battle that could hinder their chances of winning back the White House in 2016.
The new rules are aimed at avoiding a repeat of the grueling 2012 primary election, where GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney did not wrap up the nomination until mid-April and could not tap into his general election war chest until the final days of the summer.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called the changes "historic" and said they would put the party on stronger footing heading into the next presidential cycle.
The new rules were adopted along with several resolutions, which included a pro-life strategy.
"The Republican National Committee will support Republican pro-life candidates who fight back against Democratic deceptive 'war on women' rhetoric by pointing out the extreme positions on abortions held by Democratic opponents," the resolution reads.
Under the new schedule, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada will host the opening primary contests in February 2016 — a month later than recent presidential cycles.
The remaining caucus and primary elections will take place between March and mid-May and the party's national convention — which was held in late August in 2012 — will moved up and held between June 27 and July 18.
The rules also stiffen penalties for states that jump in line to host contests and require that states that hold primaries the first two weeks of March to reward delegates proportionately. After that, states can award delegates on a winner-take-all basis.
The rules also require that states pick their delegates to the convention no later than 45 days before the convention — thereby ending the primary process in May.
The vote came during the RNC's winter meeting in Washington, where party leaders and activists from across the nation are huddling for three days to continue to map out a path forward for the party and prepare for the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 GOP nomination race for president, which is expected to kick off in earnest after the congressional races this fall.
Before the vote, Mr. Priebus said that the shortened calendar is one element of a broader game plan that includes making the party a full-time political organization, strengthening its minority outreach efforts and revolutionized its data system.
"I've said many times before that the policies and principles of our party are sound," Mr. Priebus said. "However, as we look to grow the ranks of our party, we must ALL be very conscious of the tone and choice of words we use to communicate those policies effectively."
The calendar change was a direct response to the 2012 election, where Mr. Romney did not officially win the nomination until late August at the national convention in Tampa.
As a result, he was not able to use general election campaign funds over the summer — leaving him more vulnerable to the Obama campaign, which bombarded the former Massachusetts governor with attack ads, casting him a craven capitalist and out-of-touch fat cat.
"You can't find anybody in our party that thinks '12 was a good process," said Ron Kaufman, a Republican National Committeeman from Massachusetts. "The next nominee is going to thank us a great deal. If Mitt had been nomination in mid-June, the chances of him becoming president would have been improved a whole bunch."
Mr. Priebus also launched a preemptive strike against President Obama's State of the Union Address on Tuesday, where the Democrat is expected to focus on the growing economic gap between the rich and the poor.
"The president is now preparing speeches on income inequality," Mr. Priebus said. "I believe he should give those speeches while standing in front of the mirror because under his watch everything has gotten worse. He should talk to himself because poverty is worse, food stamp dependency is worse and more people have given up looking for work under Barack Obama's watch then in any time that I can remember."
The RNC will meet later this year to set the date for the national convention and could chose a location for the national convention as early as this summer.
Las Vegas, Denver, Columbus, Kansas City and Phoenix are among the cities jockeying to host the event.
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