John DiStaso's Granite Status: State GOP operatives split on how Priebus plan will affect NH, lesser-funded candidates
TUESDAY, MARCH 19, UPDATE: THE PRIEBUS PLAN AND NH. State Republican operatives who have worked on presidential races are split on their national party chairman's proposal for rotating regional primaries while keeping in tact the traditional early contests, including New Hampshire's leadoff primary.
One question left by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus's plan is whether huge regional primaries following contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada will increase or lessen the influence of the first-in-the-nation primary.
Another question is whether the Priebus plan helps or hurts lesser-funded candidates.
Mike Biundo, former national campaign manager for Rick Santorum said that although New Hampshire would retain its leadoff primary status under the plan, "I still think it hurts states like New Hampshire.
"We are a retail politics state, and if we pick an under-funded candidate because he or she is able to connect with the voters and make their case, then they have to go right away into a regional primary.
"They'll have to spend millions and millions of dollars and do multiple states at the same time," he said.
As a result, Biundo said, it favors the more well-funded national front-runner.
"The momentum you build in New Hampshire I think will end up getting squashed when you have to go to big regional primaries," Biundo said.
"And if I'm a large-funded candidate, maybe I go and play where I think I can have the most bang for my buck and win multiple states at the same time -- and squash any momentum coming out of New Hampshire."
Paul Young, who was involved in the campaigns of Rick Perry in 2012, Steve Forbes in the 1990 and the late Jack Kemp in the 1980s, said, "It depends on how they structure the regional primaries.
"They should give it some time between the early caucuses and primaries and going into the regional primary because the big problem now is that it is difficult for someone to break through and continue the momentum if they're not a national front-runner because they have to spend so much time in the big media states," Young said.
"The devil is in the details," he said.
Veteran strategist Tom Rath, a former RNC member, said he expects New Hampshire's influence to be no less under Priebus's plan than under the existing system.
"New Hampshire's role is the winnowing process," he said. "The slingshot approach of winning here and then using that momentum to drive to bigger places is not changed markedly by formalizing" what is currently the case -- clusters of primaries and caucuses after the early states.
"We've worked a long time to get this recognition (by the RNC), and we've got to remember it is not our job in New Hampshire to try to order the entire process," said Rath.
"It is our job to remain where we are and, frankly, the more sancrosanct and insulated we are in that spot, the more important we become.
"It's is hard for me to dream up scenario in which a candidate skips New Hamsphire when after New Hampshire there are regional primaries," said Rath. "If anything we become more of a magnet.
"A lesser funded candidate still comes here and a well-funded candidate still comes here because they can't let a lesser-funded candidate get traction," he said.
(For earlier Granite Status reports, click on "Granite Status" above.)