Five states were penalized by the Republican Party for holding their presidential primaries earlier than party rules allowed. These states (New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan and Arizona) were stripped of half of their delegates to the Republican National Convention. This not only reduced their relative clout in the nominating process but also meant those states lost prized delegate spots for party officials in Tampa this year. However, now that the primaries are over and the convention is a week away, the RNC, surprisingly is not lifting the penalty.
In contrast, after the 2008 Democratic primary, Florida and Michigan, two states that violated Democratic Party rules, were able to seat full delegations at the Democratic convention in Denver. The DNC went back on its original punishment as part of a compromise between the Obama and Clinton campaigns after Obama had clinched the nomination. It also helped that those states were swing states, where energized party leaders might make a difference.
This year, four of the five states that the Republicans are penalizing are considered competitive (New Hampshire, Florida, Michigan and Arizona). But that bought them no leniency. Further compounding this, those four states all provided crucial wins to Mitt Romney in the GOP primary and a Romney loss in any of them would have likely kept him from being the nominee.
It’s good for the primary process that the penalties are sticking. It may even serve as a real deterrent to states rushing to have early primaries in the future. But holding to a hard line won’t help Romney in the fall.
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