Part of the rationale, reports Sam Stein, is that an earlier convention will mean the party's nominee will have more money to spend on the general. Moreover, Priebus hopes to compress the primary schedule in order to avoid the lengthy battle ultimately won by Mitt Romney last time around.
"We've got a rule in our party that says that all of our primaries have to be completed within 45 days of the start of the convention," Priebus said. "So if you imagine a slide rule, I'm moving the convention forward, but I'm also moving the deadline by which all the primaries have to be complete."Not only that, he wants to reduce the number of debates, saying he had "regret" about the 20 debates held during the 2012 nomination contests:
Priebus said he thinks "we're going to have somewhere south of 10 … and my guess is we're going to work with all of these media companies and outlets in helping decide who the partners will be, who the moderators will be."On the surface, this all might seem fairly sensible. Mitt Romney did have a lot of cash that he couldn't spend until the general, the lengthy primary did weaken his campaign and holding so many debates did make the Republicans look like a bunch of clowns on a good day and a bunch of crazed lunatics on a bad one.
That being said, I think this decision is a bad one because instead of trying to make the best primary process for 2016, Priebus is trying to solve for the problems Mitt Romney faced in 2012. Newsflash: Romney isn't running in 2016. (Well, at least he says he isn't, and for once, I believe him.)
Romney's money problem wasn't that the calendar made it impossible for him to spend general election cash, it's that the only people he raised money from were big donors who maxed out, which meant half the money they donated couldn't be used until the general. If Romney had been able to raise money from small donors, like Obama did, he would have been able to use money earlier. Changing the convention date is solving for the wrong problem.
On the question of the length of the primary and the debates, it's hard to blame Reince for not being happy with how 2012 went down, but consider what might have happened had the primary calendar been condensed: Mitt Romney might not have been the last man standing. Sure, he might have embraced a different strategy, so we'll never really know, but what we do know is that Romney used the long 2012 schedule to his advantage. Not only that, he used the long debate schedule to his advantage, because each time one of his rivals had a strong performance, he came back in the next debate with an even better one.
My point is that 2012 could have even been worse for the GOP. Imagine if Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich had gotten the nomination? A shorter schedule probably would have benefited them, but even though it's impossible to say for sure whether it would have, it's absolutely clear that the GOP's real problem had nothing to do with the number of debates it held or the length of its primary calendar, but instead was that the GOP primary electorate is out of step with most people who vote in presidential elections. So again, Reince is solving for the wrong problem.
All that being said, I will give Reince Priebus a little bit of slack: By trying to hide his party, he might be solving for the wrong problem, but when it comes to dealing with what really ails the GOP, it's not clear there's anything else he can do.