For obvious reasons, people keep trying to figure out how to ensure that the Republican presidential primary process doesn’t get hijacked (again). Writing at National Review, John Noonan recently observed that “One of the GOP’s great structural weaknesses is that there’s little downside in running for president.”
Noonan’s solution was to raise the bar of entry. “Raise $5 million for the RNC in the years before the nomination,” he writes, “and only then do you qualify to run.”
Changing the rules is a very serious matter, and I’m not even sure his proposed solution would do the trick. Most of the people running with ulterior motives could easily meet this threshold (e.g., Donald Trump could have easily raised $5 million). Never mind that the obvious criticism here is that this rule change would be blatantly elitist.
But let’s assume that we agree with Noonan that something must be done and that we are willing to tinker with the RNC rules to produce better candidates. The obvious question is: What constitutes a better candidate?
While nominating someone with a deep commitment to helping the GOP—and the ability to raise money—is important, I would argue that they aren’t the most important qualities we should expect in a nominee.
I think the next Republican nominee should be (A) a consensus candidate with the most Republican supporters and (B) someone capable of winning a General Election.
If we’re (reverse) engineering a solution to avoid another disaster, I think it’s fair to say that Donald Trump might well have been able to comply with Noonan’s criteria; he would likely not have complied with mine.
If our goal is to have a consensus candidate who can win, Republicans should consider the crazy idea that I’ve seen floated a few places, including The Federalist: Instant-runoff voting.
Here’s a quick explainer:
Again, changing the rules is a big deal, inasmuch as it is predictive. We shouldn’t enter into something like this lightly.
Having said that, my guess is that, had Republicans utilized instant runoff voting, either Scott Walker or Marco Rubio (probably not Donald Trump) would have won the nomination. Either would have had a good shot at defeating Hillary Clinton come November.