The little-noticed rule change required, for the first time, states holding primaries and caucuses in March to allocate their delegates to the 2012 Republican primary contestants on a proportional basis. Republican National Committee rules had previous allowed only for awarding delegates on an all-or-nothing basis.
Many political observers believed the revision was responsible for lengthening the amount of time it took the eventual nominee to secure the 1,144 delegates necessary for the nomination in the 2012 Republican primary for president.
The revision also meant, however, that states holding primaries and caucuses later in the season saw their votes count toward the nomination for the first time in decades. States holding primaries after March 2012 were permitted to award delegates on an all-or-nothing basis.
History of the Delegate Rule
The delegate rule was drafted by the Republican National Committee's Temporary Delegate Selection Committee, a panel established during the party's 2008 convention.
The revision was placed before the national party for a simple vote without the opportunity for amendment at its convention in Kansas City on Aug. 6, 2010. Members of the party then voted to adopt the rules by a majority of more than two-thirds.
"The decision by more than two-thirds of the committee will put our presidential nominating process on the right track and ensure that we emerge from the primaries with the strongest Republican nominee possible to defeat Barack Obama," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a prepared statement announcing the changes.
Support for Rule Change in 2012 Republican Primary
Republicans who supported the rule change said the measure would prevent any one candidate from securing the delegates needed for the presidential nomination too early in the lengthy primary and caucus season.
Those supporters also argued that forcing the Republican candidates to compete through more primary contests would help the eventual nominee sharped his message. Practice makes perfect, in other words. Many felt the 2008 Republican nominee, U.S. Sen. John McCain, suffered from a short primary season."In 2008 McCain cleaned up the nomination after a few states while the Democrats kept fighting on, and it was a real drain in terms of energy. The media essentially ignored us," Steele told The Daily Beast. "We wanted to have an open process that allowed different candidates to have time to get in the game and to allow states that had previously been ignored to get a chance to vote. The goal was to have enough states to get an opportunity to play."
Criticism of Rule Change in 2012 Republican Primary
Critics maintained the drawn-out 2012 Republican primary would force the eventual nominee to spend too much of his time and money defending himself from attacks by fellow Republicans, thereby weakening his campaign in the fall election.
The 2012 Republican primary did extend beyond Super Tuesday, the single and sometimes decisive day in a presidential election year on which many states hold primaries and caucuses.
Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a supporter of Mitt Romney for president, called the 2012 Republican primary rules revision "the dumbest idea anybody ever had." He said it didn't make sense for the Republican candidates to "beat each other up longer" before facing an incumbent, Democratic President Barack Obama.
Text of Delegate Rule
The delegate rule revision reads, in part:
"Any presidential primary, caucus, convention, or other meeting held for the purpose of selecting delegates to the national convention which occurs prior to the first day of April in the year in which the national convention is held, shall provide for the allocation of delegates on a proportional basis.