Rules Committee Fever

Just got back from a rousing Democratic National Rules Committee meeting here in Denver. As a die-hard fan of precision parliamentary proceedure, I found it to be a real hoot.

For Iowa caucus-lovers, the news was pretty good.

The rules committee followed Barack Obama’s advice and voted to form a special commission to study and reform the 2012 nominating process, including the primary and caucus calendar. The prospect of such a commission is making a few Iowa politicos wary, but backers of the plan insist that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will keep their cherished spots when the dust settles.

The commission will focus on three issues — setting a reasonable calendar, shrinking the number of superdelegates and creating uniform rules for states that hold caucuses. A reasonable calendar, party leaders say, starts after Feb. 1 and allows only privileged states such as Iowa to hold nominating contests before the first Tuesday in March.

Iowa will need to closely watch the debate over caucus rules. A lot of disgruntled Hillary backers were prowling around the meeting, talking about how caucuses should be made to look more like primaries with secret ballots and absentee voting for those who can’t make it to a precinct meeting. They’re still sore that Obama won so many caucuses.

They make some fair points. But can you really strike a balance that broadens participation while preserving the things that make caucuses unique, and yes, confusing to some? We’ll find out.

The commission co-chairs will be appointed by the next DNC chairman, not current Chairman Howard Dean, and recommendations are Jan. 1 2010.

We tried to ask Dean what he thought of Iowa’s prospects, but he blew us off. “I don’t know. We don’t even have a commission yet,” he said over his shoulder, without breaking stride, to Radio Iowa’s O.K. Henderson.

Otherwise, downtown Denver is filling up with Dems, security is becoming more visible and a bottle of pop in the hotel hallway sells for $2.

But it’s a gorgeous day and I have a ticket to the Reds-Rockies tilt tonight. Can it top the rules meeting?  We shall see.

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