Democrats to begin primary reform effort

A special commission within the Democratic National Committee will meet Saturday to begin a six-month process aimed at revamping the party's nominating process, aiming to avoid the long, contentious slog between Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKrystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans Sanders campaign announces it contacted over 1 million Iowa voters Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMissing piece to the Ukraine puzzle: State Department's overture to Rudy Giuliani On The Money: Trump downplays urgency of China trade talks | Chinese negotiators cut US trip short in new setback | Trump sanctions Iran's national bank | Survey finds Pennsylvania, Wisconsin lost the most factory jobs in past year Meghan McCain, Ana Navarro get heated over whistleblower debate MORE that threatened to rend the party in twain in 2008.

The so-called "Change Commission," established by an act of the Democratic National Convention, is tasked with establishing a later primary calendar, with nominating events beginning in March of an election year.

"Pre-window" states, like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, would be allowed to hold their events in February. In 2008, all four states held their nominating contests in January, a scenario both parties are hoping to avoid in the future.

"It is critical to move the primary window back to March," said New Hampshire state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee and an active participant in last year's debates over the primary calendar.

Most other RBC members contacted by The Hill declined to comment on the record for this article, instead preferring to wait and see what the commission does before making their feelings known.

Democrats meeting in Washington on Saturday will also begin the process of finding a way to reduce the influence of unelected "superdelegates," who played such a controversial role in the 2008 election. The party leaders and elected officials — PLEOs, to insiders — make up about one-fifth of the delegates to a convention, a fraction that will likely shrink once a deal is reached.

Republicans, who have begun their own look at rules for nominating their presidential candidate, have far fewer superdelegates. While members of the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate are automatic voters at a convention, the only automatic GOP voters are state party chairmen and the two national committee members from each state.

The Change Commission will also do its best to tighten rules surrounding caucuses, a cheaper way to hold nominating contests but one that has many incarnations.

New rules specifying appropriate and conforming plans, organization and other aspects of a primary will have to be approved by the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which will approve or amend any recommendations the Change Commission makes.

The Change Commission "is in accordance with filling a pledge the president made during the campaign to take a look at the primary process," said Hari Sevugan, a DNC spokesman.

Sources on the commission and on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, many of whom did not want to be quoted prejudging the commission's work, said this weekend's meetings are more about getting commission members up to speed on the history of the primary calendar.

Commission members include close allies of President Obama's, mixed in with powerful members of the Democratic National Committee. Some notable names include former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and Massachusetts businessman James Roosevelt Jr., the co-chairmen of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee; Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller; Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.); and Teamsters Union President Jimmy Hoffa.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, widely respected for developing a plan to navigate little-appreciated or -understood caucuses in smaller states that eventually carried the president to victory in the nominating process, will also join the committee, which is led by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Mo.).

Democrats have until Jan. 1 to submit their bids to the RBC, while Republicans have until next summer to submit their own revised plans to the full RNC.

But those in both parties say the chances of success hinge on working together to pressure states to go along, as no plan is going to make everyone happy. Already, key RNC members David Norcross and Bob Bennett have spoken with the DNC's Roosevelt as the two sides seek to work together.

"Chairman [Tim] Kaine hopes to work with the RNC on a common approach that puts voters first," Sevugan said.

Republicans agree, saying neither party wants a primary that places heavy cost and time burdens on their candidates or the party infrastructure.