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The NFL Draft And The GOP 2016 Nominating Rules

Stay with me on this one. The country’s obsession with the NFL Draft has a lot to do with how you ought to think about the GIOP nominating process.

My Monday Washington Examiner column continues my look at what the Republican National Committee is doing to reform the presidential nominating process. My first take on the subject from last week is here. My most recent conversation with RNC Chair Reince Preibus on the subject is transcribed here.

The GOP cannot handicap itself going into the next three years just because “that’s the way it has always been done.” Neither can it be hostage to the bogus RINO-hunters who see in every change an effort to keep Tea Party activists at bay or big donors happy.

As the Examiner article notes, a lot of serious thought has gone into various proposals and Preibus is carefully guiding a process by which reforms will emerge that are not tied to any party or faction but to the party’s overriding interest in getting the strongest nominee to the general election against Hillary. More power to him and hopefully the “fire-first-aim-later” critics will watch and see what emerges before denouncing the end result as a super-secret plot to impose the Bilderberger-Trilateral Commission will on the GOP.

The good news is a lot of political junkies and suspicious activists are also football fans. They need to ask themselves if they want their favorite franchise’s front office to work like it did in the good old days of the ’60s and ’70s –to use the same scouts, the same evaluation techniques, the same analysts from that era.

Take, for example, the Cleveland Browns (and don’t say “please.”) The Browns have the #4 and #26 spots in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. There are four first-round worthy QBs out there –Bridgewater, Bortles, Manziel and Carr– and perhaps more, which means the Browns need only rank ‘em and wait and then pick up another terrific receiver at 26 and the best running back on the board when their early pick in round two comes up. (Side-bar: With Brian Hoyer’s return in ’14 and the playoffs a given, the RNC should see that the Lombardi trophy will be in Cleveland come early 2016, which makes picking a convention city pretty easy, and with the Tribe and Cavs peaking at the same time, the GOP would be nuts not to tap into that sort of momentum.) But getting the right order of the four QBs will take a whole lot of information and analysis, hopefully done with the most modern tools and the freshest eyes.

Some things about the NFL Draft in this era of massive information flows are just obvious, like following Dane Brugler on Twitter. Brugler has become the best of the new generation of NFL draft analysts. Why ESPN hasn’t already stolen him away from CBS Sports is beyond me, but it took Fox a few years to figure out Guy P. Benson was the future of center-right commentary as well. The Brugler-Benson connection is just this: There is a tidal wave of talent being empowered by the new technology that makes senior hierarchies uneasy but which in fact ought to make them prospect-hungry. The way media finds and promotes new voices just reflects how rapidly changing the information business is, and for the nominating process to stay attached to processes developed in baby steps from such relatively ancient political events as the 1952 New Hampshire Primary and the 1976 Iowa Caucuses is as nuts as asking scouts from the ’70s to provide commentary not he graduating class of 2014.

Sports, politics and media are all about picking talent from among vast throngs of would-be practioners. What made Roger Ailes Roger Ailes is what made Ozzie Newsome Ozzie Newsome –an eye for talent and not just talent but the sort of talent that would be needed as the basics of the media/gam changed.

The people making the rules about picking nominees have to be as willing as network executives and football front offices to throw out the old approaches and play books. Whether Reince Priebus becomes a Bill Walsh-like figure in politic as opposed to sports depends on how brazen his changes are, how big the great he takes and the changes he makes.

There isn’t much reason to play it safe, though. And a lot of reason to listen to the Dane Bruglers among the political analysts –like Jay Cost and Jeffrey Anderson. Really listen to them. Not just cocktail party chat, but serious extended study of what they propose. The same holds true for almost every area of complex problem-solving, from tax-code reform, to poverty-fighting, to the repair of the train wreck that is Obamacare. New tools. New techniques. New voices.

But start with the politics. If the GOP can be half as innovative about the nominating process as the best NFL franchises are about the draft, the Priebus reforms will be sweeping indeed.

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    Hugh Hewitt
  • Hugh Hewitt is a lawyer, law professor, and broadcast journalist. A proficient blogger, Hugh Hewitt has one of the most visited political blogs in the U.S.

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