The GOP enacted a little-known rule change in 2012 to its presidential candidate selection process that had a huge impact in 2012 and will have just as big an impact on the party going forward. Forbes writer Rick Ungar discussed the change in detail in a recent column.
The rule change was made to deter GOP presidential nominee hopeful Ron Paul from causing any kind of shake-up at the RNC convention. Why, in the party’s eyes, was a change needed? Because, in 2012, Ron Paul met all of the party’s requirements to be placed on the RNC nomination ballot.
GOP committee chairman Reince Priebus and fellow Republican leaders had no interest in Paul's taking away delegate votes from their desired nominee, Mitt Romney, so they got a bit creative. First, they told Paul he would only be allowed to speak at the convention if he allowed GOP speechwriters to edit his speech. Then, they told Paul he would only be permitted to speak if he publicly endorsed Romney’s nominee bid.
When Paul refused to agree to those terms, the party took drastic measures to keep him out of the race.
Leaders actually changed the party’s official requirements for how many delegates a candidate must have for his or her name to be placed on the RNC nominee ballot.
Prior to 2012, a candidate needed a plurality of delegates from six states to be listed on the ballot. Paul met that requirement. Now, a candidate must have at least 50 percent of delegate votes from at least eight states to be considered.
Imagine a three-candidate race in which winning 40 percent of the vote in 15 states made you the leading vote-getter in those states. That still wouldn't be enough to get your name on the RNC ballot; you'd need at least 50 percent of the vote from eight states. The change is essentially a way of whittling down the nominee pack in a way that suites the interests of the party's leaders.
As Ungar writes in his column, the rule change is a guaranteed way of ensuring that only established party favorites see their names on the party’s nomination ballot.
Unger believes that given the large number of candidates – think Ricky Rubio, Rand Paul, and Jeb Bush – set to run for the party’s election in 2016, it’s almost certain that the party will have to convince even relatively popular candidates to back out of the race in order to ensure at least one person can gain the 50 percent majority delegate vote in eight states.
“Thus,” Unger writes, “a Republican candidate who receives 49 percent of the vote in a 'winner-take-all' state will not be permitted to get 100 percent of the state’s delegates ... That represents a very significant problem for anyone who believes the voters should have something to say about their party’s nominee or those who don’t favor a convention where the bosses and delegates get to decide who is the nominee, irrespective of what home state Republicans might have to say.”