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Apr 19, 2016 7:58 PM

Steinhauser: Fight to keep NH primary first resumes this week at RNC spring meeting

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Steve Duprey says he’s “hopeful we’ll be able to make the case once again.”

The case the longtime Republican National Committeeman from New Hampshire’s making is to keep the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary status safe for another four years.

When it comes to the Democrats, the state appears to be in the clear for the 2020 election cycle.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, told NH1 News in February that the Granite State will “absolutely” remain first in the party’s 2020 primary calendar.

“We actually for the first time in decades had no discussion over the states in our primary window,” the DNC chair added.

When it comes to the GOP, it’s a different story.

At the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Charleston, South Carolina in January, the Rules Committee tabled a resolution to end the so-called carve out states (New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada). But the Granite State’s not out of the woods yet.

The motion, introduced by Utah committeewoman Enid Mickelsen, could possibly come up again on Thursday when the Rules Committee reconvenes at the RNC’s spring meeting in Hollywood, Florida.

Before heading to Florida, Duprey told NH1 News that he thought the resolution “will either be left on the table or if they bring it off the table I hope we’ll defeat it again.”

“The good news is all three of the current contenders, John Kasich, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, all strongly support the Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina early three. I think the issue of Nevada’s been up for debate for many years and will be at the convention again this summer. But I’m hopeful we’ll be able to make the case once again. I think New Hampshire acquitted itself very well, with record turnouts, record participation, we gave 17 different candidates on the Republican side a fair shot. That’s what our job is and I think we did it very well,” Duprey declared.

But a win for New Hampshire at this week’s Rules Committee meeting won’t mean the fight to remain first-in-the-nation in the Republican primary calendar is finished.

Duprey said “it will come up at the RNC Rules Committee meeting that we hold just before the convention, in the four days leading up. Then what ever decision is made by that Rules Committee will be voted on by the full 168 members of the RNC. Then those are really suggested rules that are handed to the Rules Committee of the convention. They get a go at it. And then all 2,000 plus delegates get to vote on it as well.

Duprey’s long led lobbying efforts to convince fellow RNC members of the wisdom of keeping New Hampshire’s primary first.

“What we did during the New Hampshire primary was invite up 20 members of the RNC who wanted to come. And they spent three or four days here traveling around and seeing how well the primary worked. I think we got a lot of friends out of that effort. We convinced some people who didn’t understand how intimate and how well informed and how participatory the New Hampshire primary is. So we hope we’ve got those as votes on our side,” he told NH1 News.

“We won’t have the chance to bring the delegates to the convention up here or the members of the Rules Committee who are drawn from the delegates, but we do put on a concerted effort. We send them books and we send them memos and we send them data, and we lobby them and it’s an old-fashioned effort to convince the right number of votes. The key thing is if your nominee or the candidates to be your nominee support the New Hampshire primary, that makes a huge difference. And we think that every one of the candidates will be good to their word and follow through,” Duprey added.

While he’s orchestrating the effort, Duprey isn’t alone. He said that New Hampshire’s RNC committeewoman Juliana Bergeron and NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn are key parts of the team. And he added that “it will be all the 23 members of the New Hampshire delegation down there (at the Republican convention in Cleveland) getting deputized. Iowa does the same. South Carolina does the same. So it’s a massive effort. A lot of coordination, a lot of hard work.”

Clash over convention rules

While the motion to end the carve-out states is on the minds of many in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada, the Rules Committee will be in the national spotlight for another reason.

At issue: a controversial proposal that would overhaul how the Cleveland convention would function by changing the underlying rule book for the convention’s proceedings.

“I’m just one member of the Rules Committee, but I’ve been on it a long time. And I don’t think we should change the rules,” Duprey told NH1 News.

Duprey said that the Rules Committee of delegates that convenes at the convention is “twice as large. And we should go from there. If we make any changes to the rules here (at the spring meeting in Florida), even if they’re the most benign, well intentioned, they will be perceived by one camp or the other as trying to tip the scales. We are the mechanics in this effort. We’re not the ones who pick the candidates and we have to be very careful as a Rules Committee, as a Republican National Committee, not to do anything that would give any one candidate any advantage over the way the rules are written now.”

“The rules have been in place for a couple of years. Yes, different states have different arcane rules on how you select your delegates, but those have been known and the RNC shouldn’t do anything that will upset that apple cart. So I am not in favor of any rules changes. I know there have been discussions of the eight state threshold to be nominated. I don’t think that should be changed. There’s now been a recent discussion of changing from the House Rules to Roberts Rules because it empowers the delegates versus the presiding officer. I don’t think we should change a thing and I’m not going to be supportive of any change,” he added.

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