DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press
LANSING (AP) — The Michigan Republican Party is preparing to hold a March 2016 presidential primary and not jump out of order like in 2012, when the primary was moved it up to be more relevant.
The GOP's state committee will meet Saturday in Lansing to approve a March 15 primary recommended by a policy committee. The date could change as the Legislature has the final say.
Michigan can schedule its primary as early March 1 without running afoul of Republican National Committee rules — and losing many delegates — but it can't be winner-take-all until March 15 or later. New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada are scheduled to host the first four contests in February 2016.
In 2012, the state was penalized half its 60 delegates for holding the contest early. Mitt Romney narrowly won the popular vote in Michigan and split his home state's convention delegates with second-place finisher Rick Santorum.
If a Republican contender secures more than half the statewide vote, he or she would win all of roughly 60 delegates under proposed rules. Otherwise, three delegates would be awarded to the winner of each of 14 individual congressional districts. The remaining delegates generally would be split proportionally to match the statewide vote.
At least one GOP activist is unhappy with the party's decision to go with March 15 instead of earlier in the month or even in February. Dennis Lennox said he worries Michigan could be "irrelevant" despite its purple-state status making it more representative of the country.
"This comes down regretfully to the Michigan Republican Party choosing not to rock the boat," he said.
But if Michigan tries to move the GOP primary to February, it would lose all but nine of its 58 delegates.
"The proposal the policy committee approved will ensure Michigan is a top target for 2016 presidential candidates. Breaking the RNC's rules would do the opposite," state Republican Party spokesman Darren Littell said.
Democrats are mum about their 2016 plans.
In 2012, when President Barack Obama had no opposition to re-election, they had caucuses in early May. In 2008, Michigan was penalized Democratic delegates for having an early primary the same day as Republicans.
"Our decision will be made in consultation with the (Democratic National Committee) and other state parties. At this point we aren't interested in charging ahead on our own," said Josh Pugh, spokesman for the state Democratic Party.
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