Despite wiping away 30 years of tradition in 2012 when South Carolina Republicans nominated Newt Gingrich for president instead of the eventual nominee Mitt Romney, the Palmetto State will retain its cherished bellwether status for 2016.
The 168 members of the Republican National Committee today voted to lock it in, with the election tentatively scheduled for some time in February 2016. Under new RNC rules, only South Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada will hold primary elections for president that month. The RNC says it will penalize any other states that try to leapfrog those four.
“In 2012, the lack of such severe penalties brought chaos to the nominating calendar and pushed the first four contests to early January of that year,” according to a statement from the S.C. Republican Party.
“Today’s vote is a huge win for South Carolina and the country,” says SCGOP chairman Matt Moore. “We have taken historic steps to reform the nominating process and return a Republican to the White House.”
Up until the last presidential election cycle, South Carolina Republicans had accurately predicted the party’s eventual nominee since they chose Ronald Reagan in 1980. Gingrich neutered that the last time around, and apologized for doing so.
South Carolina’s small size, cheap media markets and mix of establishment, Tea Party, older, and military-minded Republicans from the mountains to the coast have made it an attractive place for presidential contenders to pave their way to the White House, even on shoestring campaign budgets.