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GOP tightens its rules on nomination process

– Republicans are enthusiastic about wrapping up their year of sweeping party rule changes aimed at making the work of picking a candidate for president more efficient and less prone to infighting.

Not a moment too soon. As members of the Republican National Committee meet this week in Chicago, several White House hopefuls are spending a few days in Iowa – a full year and a half ahead of the state’s leadoff caucuses.

Yet for all their success in making the administrative changes called for in the RNC’s post-2012 election autopsy, including imposing strict new penalties on states that violate the party’s nominating schedule, the party’s members of Congress have not yet moved on its only policy recommendation.

“In order for our party to grow, we need to have a comprehensive response on immigration,” New Hampshire Republican National Committee member Steve Duprey said. “Even though this session’s been disappointing, I think there’s still room for progress.”

The rule changes, adopted last spring in Memphis, include stripping states – except for the traditional first four of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – of almost all their delegates to the party’s nominating convention if they hold a presidential primary or caucus before March 1.

“It would render them irrelevant,” rules committee chairman Bruce Ash of Arizona said.

The RNC today will name a committee charged with shrinking the number of presidential primary debates, to likely about half of the nearly two dozen of the 2012 campaign. Last spring, committee members easily passed a measure that would penalize candidates who participate in debates that aren’t sanctioned by the RNC, and a debate committee selected today will be given a say in who moderates the debates.

The primary goal is to limit the opportunities for candidates with little chance of winning to linger in the process, as did, for example, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2012.

“The idea is to put an end to this traveling circus,” said Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak.