The Republican National Committee in the coming months will debate changes to the presidential nominating process, possibly leading to friction between President Trump’s loyalists and party institutionalists.
Trump, through emissaries at the RNC, could seek rule changes constricting the path of potential GOP primary challengers in 2020. It wouldn’t be the first time a Republican president, or nominee, attempted to alter the nominating regulations with an eye toward defrocking future competition.
As in the past, such a move would likely meet some resistance from RNC members protective of the party’s legacy and integrity as a democratic organization run by its members, as opposed to the personal political fiefdom of a single Republican — even if that leader is the president.
“Candidates come and go. The party’s always going to be here,” a GOP insider said, on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly.
The just-concluded annual winter meeting of the RNC was virtually tension-free. Committee members basked in the glow of Trump’s well-received State of the Union address, plus the improving popularity of the $1.4 trillion tax overhaul that he signed into law late last year.
The RNC rules committee met as scheduled during the gathering. In brief session, panel members agreed to begin the quadrennial process of examining the regulations that govern presidential nominations, which encompass primary contests in the states and the national convention.
“We’ve been working hard to review the nominating process,” John Hammond, an RNC committeeman from Indiana and vice chairman of the presidential nominating process committee, said Thursday in remarks to the full rules committee.
RNC members declined to elaborate on what rules changes are likely — specifics were not discussed in the public rules committee proceedings. Proposals are to be made, debated, and possibly voted on over the course of the next year, in advance of Trump’s presumed re-election campaign.
Trump is in great shape with Republican voters, according to public opinion polls. Especially in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, it’s highly unlikely that a primary challenger would gain traction.
Still, Trump could seek to cement his advantage by changing the rules governing the awarding of nominating delegates and the ability to challenge his authority as the leader of the party on the floor of the 2020 convention. In 2016, the Trump campaign successfully quashed an uprising of opposition delegates, but not before an embarrassing spectacle of protests erupted on the convention floor in Cleveland.
Proposed rules changes could be met with resistance from some RNC members, as were adjustments forced through by Republican nominee Mitt Romney during the 2012 nominating convention in Tampa, Fla. The Romney campaign was looking ahead to hoped-for 2016 re-election that never materialized.
One RNC member suggested that significant rule changes of some sort were in the offing ahead of 2020.
“There will be some material changes,” this individual said. “We’re not talking about moving some commas around.”