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GOP changes delegate rules

Hartford - In the hope of attracting more Republican presidential candidates to perennially blue Connecticut, the state GOP has again changed its method for awarding delegates to the party's national convention.

"We certainly have a lot of [candidates] who are in Connecticut's airspace flying to New Hampshire, but it would be nice to see some of them touch down in Connecticut," Jerry Labriola Jr., chairman of the state Republican Party, said in an interview Thursday.

The switch in the party's rules happened earlier this week at a meeting of the Republican State Central Committee in Trumbull. Members voted 52 to 12 to stop awarding delegates on a strictly winner-take-all basis and adopt a hybrid of the winner-take-all and proportional systems.

Under winner take all, the GOP candidate who received the most votes in the primary got all of Connecticut's 25 regular delegates for the national convention. The state has three additional "superdelegates" who aren't bound to support the candidate who wins the primary, for a delegate total of 28.

The new method still has a winner-take-all scenario if a candidate garners more than 50 percent of the statewide vote and carries all five congressional districts, each worth three delegates. But if no candidate reaches 50 percent, the candidates then share the state's 10 at-large delegates on a proportional basis.

The new system will be in place for the April 24 regional primary for the 2012 election, when voters in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware and Pennsylvania all go to the polls.

Gary Schaffrick of Bristol, who co-authored the new method's proposal, said it gives an incentive for primary candidates to campaign in Connecticut because there are more delegates in play.

For example, a candidate who finishes a distant second in the statewide primary results could still pick up three delegates by winning a congressional district.

Labriola said he anticipates seeing more candidates campaigning here soon. "We would like to see them paying attention to Connecticut, more than just stopping in Greenwich to raise money," he said.

State Democrats have for years used the proportional method to award delegates.

The last time Republicans changed their delegate system was in 1995, when the state GOP switched from a traditional proportion system to winner take all. The strongest proponent of the change was then-Gov. John G. Rowland, who felt that the winner-take-all method would most benefit his chosen candidate for the 1996 presidential election: Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas.

The switch also was touted as a way to attract more attention from candidates by making Connecticut a more attractive prize in the primary race, according to the Hartford Courant.

This spring the General Assembly voted to move the presidential primary to the last Tuesday in April from the first Tuesday in February. The move was a response to recent rule changes adopted by the national Democratic and Republican parties to counter the phenomenon of "front-loaded" primary calendars as states such as Florida attempt to push their primary dates into January.

Political analysts say that a front-loaded primary schedule makes it tougher for late-entry candidates to campaign and raise money.

The 2012 Republican National Convention is scheduled for the week of Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla. The Democratic National Convention will be held the following week in Charlotte, N.C.

There will be no Democratic primaries next year because President Barack Obama is unopposed for the party's nomination.

A Quinnipiac University poll conduced earlier this month found former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leading among the Republican candidates with 37 percent of the primary vote, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 19 percent and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with 8 percent.

In a 2012 general election matchup, Obama beat Perry 52 percent to 33 percent and beat Romney 49 percent to 36 percent.

jreindl@theday.com

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