Republicans Recommend Ending Caucuses After Romney Defeat

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A presidential candidate can't become his or her party's nominee without first battling through the brutal Iowa caucuses.

Yet, a report by the Republican National Committee on Monday recommended the party broaden its base by discouraging caucuses for the allocation of delegates.

The final page of the 97-page "Growth and Opportunity Project" suggests changes to shore up the lengthy nomination process, which proved a pricy hurdle for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

"The current system is a long, winding, often random road that makes little sense," the report said. "Our party needs to grow its membership, and primaries seem to be a more effective way to do so."

Interviews with many current and former Iowa Republican Party officials suggested that a switch to a primary from the caucuses isn't a welcome idea, but few appeared worried that the party would implement the change.

"The notion here, I don't think, was as much the process as it was the length of the nomination calendar," said John Stineman, former Iowa caucus campaign manager for Steve Forbes' 2000 race. Stineman said he's confident the report actually confirmed the national party's support of Iowa beginning the nomination process and in its traditional caucus form.

That confidence comes from a line in the report that said: "Recognizing the traditions of several states that have early nominating contests, the newly organized primaries would begin only after the 'carve-out' states have held their individual elections."

Iowa Republican Party Chairman A.J. Spiker said "carve out" states appear to be well-protected in the new report, but also said a move toward more primaries and a shorter nomination schedule could hurt the process.

"By diminishing or taking away a caucus, you run the risk of injecting too much of an uneducated primary voter and creating the potential for Super PACs to pick who the nominee of the GOP is, going forward," Spiker said. "I think the big thing, though, is a primary system that shrinks the calendar will benefit the best-funded candidate, and there will be repercussions that could be potentially harmful."

Political purists alarmed by the report may find solace in the fact that some of Iowa's Republicans were unaware of the proposal to push for more primary elections.

"I'd like to see the report before I really make a formal comment," said Judy Davidson, chairwoman of the Scott County Republican Party.

The GOP's proposals may be targeting other states that hold caucuses and conventions that haven't run as smoothly as Iowa's.

Republican officials generally viewed caucus turnout in January 2012 as very good, despite the fact that the early part of the GOP race didn't offer a likable candidate to all people.

"Almost 123,000 people ... voted caucus night around the state," said Bob Anderson, an Iowa state central committee member. "To have 123,000 people go out on a winter evening and cast their votes -- that's a pretty good reflection of the base of your party."

The Iowa caucus has offered a solid gauge of whom the GOP base tends to favor for the election.

The need for change may not be necessary. Many Republicans saw Romney's extended battle against Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and others as a strain on his campaign, and they argued it cost him a lot of time and money that could have otherwise been avoided with a shorter primary season. Forbes aide Stineman admitted that not all primary seasons would necessarily repeat 2012. Kevin McLaughlin, former Polk County Republican Party chairman, said the problem the party faces is not the process, but the messaging.

"It's still like talking about how lousy the beverage service was on a plane that lost engine power," said McLaughlin. "That plane's going down and everybody's going to die -- what's the point of talking about how lousy the beverage service is? If you have the right message, you'll draw people to your party."

Even with the proposed changes on the table, the process to approve new rules would require significant momentum from party officials. For now, Iowa's coveted caucus format may be poised for more of the same.

"We start the process for someone who didn't have a chance in another state; we bring them to the national spotlight and then the whole country gets an opportunity to say, 'Either we like him or we don't,'" said Linda Holub, former co-city chairwoman of Sioux City's Iowa Republican Party.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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