Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rules Committee Meets

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

The Rules Committee of the Democratic National Convention met today in Denver to discuss how to change the rules for the 2012 nomination:

Democrats moved Saturday to change the way they nominate presidential candidates and avoid a repeat of this year's primary scramble.

But they shied away from substantive debate such as whether to take away Iowa and New Hampshire's jealously guarded status as the nation's first vetting grounds for presidential candidates.

As a rules panel within the Democratic National Convention Committee voted unanimously Saturday to start talking about how to avoid a repeat of this year's jammed up primary schedule, party leaders sought to put off substantive — and divisive — talk about how to do that until after this year's campaign.
There appears to be broad consensus among Democrats that the nomination process needs to be reformed in light of this year's seismic battle between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and nominee-to-be Barack Obama.

However, Democrats who set up the commission said it's unlikely to tinker with the states that now have early caucuses and primaries.

"Everybody sees a real need for us to reform the way we do this," said former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges, who introduced a plan Saturday to examine the schedule. But Hodges added that his state's status as one of the earliest to choose a nominee won't change.

"The first four states, those aren't going anywhere," Hodges told reporters, referring to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
More pressing, Democrats said Saturday, is to review the role of superdelegates. A mystery to most Americans until this year, superdelegates are party insiders and elected officials who can vote for whomever they choose for president, regardless of who wins their state. The reform commission's language includes a pledge to reduce the number of superdelegates.

"This year, superdelegates comprised 20 percent of our national delegation. Yet the vast majority of the public had no idea what superdelegates were until this year," said Michael Coleman, mayor of Columbus, Ohio, a committee member and convention delegate. "The role they played in our nominating process actually distracted us from the important issues we were debating."

The commission will also review caucuses, which were deftly maneuvered by Obama this year to counter large-state victories by Clinton. Several Democrats who met Saturday said caucuses need to be more inclusive and that the party should require the same voter-access measures in place during general elections, such as secret ballots and absentee voting.

The reforms are to be proposed by 2010 and in place by the 2012 presidential contest. But even as the rules committee broke into applause as some members complained about this year's frenetic primary scramble, party leaders sought to put off potentially divisive debate about how exactly the nominating process should change.