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Minnesota Republicans balk at new caucus rules

Opposition to a new rule handed down by the Republican National Committee may undermine the Minnesota Republican Party’s attempt to be a bigger player in 2016 presidential politics.

According to the new RNC rule, the state party cannot conduct a non-binding presidential straw poll at the 2016 precinct caucuses  a popular and traditional party practice.

The rule, adopted at the last Republican National Convention in Tampa, states, “Any statewide presidential preference vote that permits a choice among candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in a primary, caucuses, or a state convention must be used to allocate and bind the state’s delegation to the national convention.”  

Party activists protested the rule change when it was proposed in 2012—and they’re protesting it now. Party leadership will address the concerns at their next executive committee meeting on Feb. 26. “We expect to get a waiver from the rule,” says one party leader who preferred to remain unnamed until any action is taken.  

Nevertheless, opposition to the rule change puts the state GOP in a bind. The party joined the DFL in setting March 1, 2016, as the precinct caucus date specifically to put Minnesota among the states weighing in on “Super Tuesday.” 

For its part, the DFL will conduct a binding presidential preference ballot. “We’ll work hard between precinct caucuses and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to have a delegation that is ready to nominate the next President of the United States,” says DFL Chair Ken Martin.  

Assuming the state Republican party receives a waiver from the RNC, its choice of presidential candidate will not be determined until the final round of delegate selection at the state convention in June of 2016.   

Both national parties are trying to tighten the presidential nominating process, urging states to hold election year primaries in March. That’s a move that runs counter to the desires of many party activists, who believe that grass-roots support takes time to develop and who often resent a national party’s anointment of a frontrunner.

But even though Minnesota likely will continue to draw out its presidential preference process in 2016, the move to a March 1 caucus is seen as an incremental step to join other states in efforts to streamline the national election cycle.

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