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The GOP's Primary Plot Shakeup

The GOP's Primary Plot Shakeup

The national Republican Party is considering a number of major changes to its presidential nominating process to avoid a repeat of the debacles of 2012, according to several party officials.

Most significantly, the party is considering holding a “Midwestern primary” featuring Great Lakes states such as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota that would come immediately after the votes in the traditional early primary states. Also being weighed and thought likely to be approved when the Republican National Committee meets in early 2014 is a plan to shorten the primary season considerably by holding the party’s convention in July, almost as soon as the last primary ballots are cast.

The move toward a “Midwestern Super Tuesday” after the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida appears aimed in part at wresting control of the nominating process from social conservatives in the South in an effort to produce a nominee more likely to carry the election in November. Nearly all the “Rust Belt” states have fallen into Democratic hands in recent elections, and GOP officials believe that showering them with more resources throughout the primary process—and ensuring that an eventual nominee is broadly popular there—could flip the Midwest into the Republican column in November.

“The idea here is to try to recapture an area of the country that Republicans have simply not been able to carry,” said one GOP insider familiar with the plans.

Plus, the Midwestern states are relatively expensive places to mount a campaign, and bunching them together on one day would likely cost candidates less, as they could focus all their resources on one section of the country for an extended period of time, as opposed to campaigning in Michigan one week, Ohio a few weeks later, and Wisconsin a month after that.

“These are big electoral prizes. They matter,” said one state GOP chairman. “You have to spend a ton of money in them. It’s a region where you win or lose the primary.”

The plan, however, is not likely to sit well with state chairs and committee members from Southern states who would be pressured to keep out of the “Midwestern primary.”

“I don’t know that there is much appetite for it,” said John Padgett, the Republican Party chairman from Georgia. “We would not be in favor of having Georgia cut out. I don’t know that there will be any change.”

Bill Armistead, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said his state moved its primary up in 2012 to gain a greater say in the primary process and would not want that influence diminished.

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