WASHINGTON — S.C. retains early GOP primary
South Carolina and three other states will retain their coveted spots atop the GOP presidential primary calendar, according to new rules approved Friday by Republican leaders that could reshape the 2016 presidential election.
Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada also would secure top spots, as they have in the past, as part of a larger plan that would significantly shorten the GOP’s presidential selection process.
Keeping smaller states atop the primary schedule allows underfunded and upstart candidates a chance to gain a foothold in the race, S.C. GOP chairman Matt Moore said in a television interview Thursday.
Friday’s vote came as the Republican National Committee worked to create an easier path to the White House for its next nominee roughly a year before campaigning begins in earnest for the next presidential contest. While President Barack Obama’s second term began just a year ago, prospective Republican candidates already have begun visiting states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina that hold outsize influence because of their early positions on the primary calendar.
Those states and Nevada will host the first four primary contests in February 2016 under the new schedule. The remainder of the nation’s 46 states and territories would vote between early March and mid-May.
The party’s national convention is expected in late June or early July, roughly two months sooner than has become the norm.
Officials from early voting states praised the plan, which establishes strict penalties for states that jump out of order, as Florida did in 2012. Republican national committeeman Steve Duprey of New Hampshire described the changes as an “effective death penalty for any state that tries to jump the calendar.”
The shift comes during the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee, a collection of party leaders and activists from every state that controls the GOP’s national infrastructure. The group expects to finalize additional changes, including setting a new date for its 2016 national convention, later in the year. Among other changes, the committee intends to dramatically reduce the number of presidential debates and have more control over the moderators.
GOP leaders complain the party’s 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, was forced to suffer through a lengthy and expensive primary process that ultimately hurt his ability to compete against Obama. An earlier convention date, for example, would allow the party’s next nominee to access millions of dollars of general election cash months earlier.
Not everyone was pleased with the changes.
“I think we’re going too far in shortening this process,” Republican committeeman Morton Blackwell of Virginia said. “We need an adequate amount of time in order for presidential candidates to be tested.”
Moffly makes 6 in S.C. school chief race
Charleston County School Board member Elizabeth Moffly will run for state superintendent of education for a third time, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported.
Republican superintendent Mick Zais said he will not run again, leading to a crowded field in the election.
Six candidates have announced for the seat so far. Moffly lost GOP primary runoff to Zais in 2010. She also ran unsuccessfully for superintendent in 2006 and Congress in 2013.
Staff writer Andrew Shain and The Associated Press contributed.