The Republican National Committee has been discussing, somewhat quietly, ways in which it can garner more control over the nomination process including primary dates and the number of debates.

CNN has the story:

In a series of closed-door meetings since August, handpicked members of the Republican National Committee have been meeting with party Chairman Reince Priebus in Washington to hash out details of a sweeping plan to condense the nominating calendar, severely punish primary and caucus states that upend the agreed-upon voting order and potentially move the party’s national convention to earlier in the summer, with late June emerging as the ideal target date.

No party convention has been held that early since the steamy summer of 1948, when Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey as their standard bearer in Philadelphia.

And what about the number of debates?

The 17-member special rules subcommittee tasked with reforming the nominating process, appointed with little fanfare at the RNC’s summer meeting in Boston, is also considering ways to limit the number of Republican primary debates in 2016, though the group has yet to agree to any specific rules related to debates. The 2012 campaign saw an eye-popping 20 Republican debates, in addition to an array of multicandidate forums.

Priebus and other top party figures have made no secret of their desire to scale back the number of debates, which offered little-known candidates such as Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain a chance to shine but forced Mitt Romney, the eventual nominee, to publicly stake out a number of conservative positions that came back to haunt him in the general election.

Note the last sentence, emphasis mine. That would appear to be an effort by the party bigwigs to minimize the messy process for the supposed “front-runner” of the race, does it not?

Here is a rundown of the new rules amendments taking shape out of this committee:

– The first four early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — would continue to hold their contests in February.

– The first four early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — would continue to hold their contests in February.

To prevent other states from jumping the order and compelling the first four to move their dates even earlier as they did in 2012, any state that attempts to hold its nominating contest before March 1 would have their number of delegates to the convention slashed to just nine people or, in the case of smaller states, one-third of their delegation — whichever number is smaller.

“It’s the death penalty,” said one member of the subcommittee. If Florida violates RNC rules and holds its primary in February, its 99-member delegation would all but vanish.

– Any state holding a primary or caucus during the first two weeks of March must award its delegates proportionally, rather than winner-take-all.

The measure is designed to prevent a candidate from catching fire in the early states and then riding a burst of momentum to winner-take-all victories in expensive, delegate-rich states such as Florida or Texas. The early March window would give underfunded, insurgent candidates a chance to prove their mettle.

“It will allow a grassroots candidate to stay in the race and try to raise money and score some wins,” said Smack. “If they can’t score wins by that time, they probably need to pack it in and try again four years later.”

– States holding a contest after March 15 can decide to award their delegates however they see fit.

– The Republican National Convention will be held either in late June or early July, though ideally on a date before the July 4 holiday.

The decision on where to hold the convention will be made at a later date by a separate RNC panel, but Las Vegas and Kansas City are seen as two early frontrunners. Party officials said each city’s host committee seems willing and able to raise the nearly $60 million needed to fund a sprawling convention.

Any thoughts on this? I’d be reporting on rules changes and discussions within Democratic Party circles but, so far, things have been quiet on that front. I’d say they must be fairly pleased with winning the last two presidential elctions and probably don’t see a need to change all that much.