Four years ago, the Republican National Committee was frustrated. The 2012 primary had dragged on for months. The states couldn’t make up their minds. And the party ended up with Mitt Romney, bruised by attack ads even before the Democrats got their first swing.
Republicans agreed this couldn’t happen again. To beat Hillary Clinton, they’d need a strong candidate fast, without all the intraparty bloodletting a protracted primary can bring.
So they built the 2016 primary calendar. It’s slimmer. It slaps down states trying to move elections earlier. And by emphasizing a delegate-allocation system that matches how Republicans actually voted, leaders reasoned the party would gracefully winnow through competition and pick a nominee with a minimum of fuss.
That theory now sports one giant Trump-shaped hole. The billionaire’s towering lead is bolstered by the very system that was meant to prevent a candidate like him from ever making headway. It’ll go down as one of the biggest ironies in recent political history.
But another well-intentioned tenet of the GOP's reform—a strong preference for proportional delegate selection—has also come into question. Through a series of baffling rules that defy flowcharting, states like Texas and Alabama have effectively unhooked a candidate's popular vote from the number of convention delegates they receive, the real currency of the election. Because of these rules, a candidate could get 30 percent of the vote in several Super Tuesday states and walk away with only a quarter of its delegates—or, conversely, more than half.