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May 28, 2017

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US Republicans aim to shorten the 2016 presidential primary calendar

WASHINGTON--The U.S. Republican Party confirmed Tuesday it will bring its 2016 national convention forward in order to prevent a divisive, marathon battle among its candidates ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

For decades the Republican National Convention has been held in late July, August or even September of a presidential election year, meaning the party can have little time to unify behind its nominee before Americans vote in November.

In 2016, "we'll probably have the convention either on one or two start dates: June 27th or July 18th," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus told reporters at a breakfast in Washington.

In recent elections, politicians vying for the Republican nomination squared off deep into campaign season, highlighting divisions between core conservatives and centrists that some say hurt the party's prospects in 2012, when Mitt Romney lost against incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama.

The aim, according to Priebus, is to shorten the season for potentially divisive party primaries to three or four months, from February to April or May, as opposed to the marathon six months of 2012.

"We need to take control of our nominating process, and I don't think we did in 2012," Priebus said, adding that a reduction in the number of televised debates was also likely.

In 2012 the party held 23 debates, prompting complaints by several candidates that the televised events provided repeated opportunities for voters to watch Republicans beating up on each other.

The convention shift, which still must be ratified by the party's rules committee, would result in the earliest Republican National Convention since 1948.

The Democratic Party has mostly held its conventions in July or August, but has not held a June confab since 1936.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee said Priebus's shift will do nothing to reverse what she sees as the Republican Party's failure to attract minority and women voters.

"They've worked to shorten their primary calendar and limit debates, but do they truly believe that limiting the number of people who hear their agenda makes it any less divisive?" she said.

The host city for the four-day Republican convention will be chosen this August, Priebus said.

The eight contenders are Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, all in the state of Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Dallas, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Phoenix, Arizona.

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