Leaders of the Republican Party have begun internal deliberations over what would be fundamental changes to the way its presidential nominees are chosen, a recognition that the chaotic process that played out this year is seriously flawed and helped exacerbate tensions within the party. In a significant shift, Republican officials said it now seemed unlikely that the four states to vote first would all retain their cherished place on the electoral calendar, with Nevada as the most probable casualty. Party leaders are even going so far as to consider diluting the traditional status of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as gatekeepers to the presidency. Under one proposal, those states would be paired with others that voted on the same day as a way to give more voters a meaningful role much sooner. But in a move that would sharply limit who could participate in presidential primaries, many party activists are also pushing to close Republican contests to independent voters, arguing that open primaries in some states allowed Donald J. Trump, whose conservative convictions they deeply mistrust, to become the presumptive nominee.
Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are sure to mount fierce resistance when the changes are debated in July at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where party officials are planning to consider a variety of procedural and rule revisions. Normally overlooked and largely irrelevant in recent presidential elections, party rules gained considerable scrutiny this year as, until recently, Republicans faced the prospect of their first contested convention in 40 years.
Anxieties about the system’s fairness, stoked by Mr. Trump when he believed he could lose the nomination, mirror the bitter debate unfolding in the Democratic Party. Democrats will face a similar reckoning before their convention in Philadelphia over how to address the perceived inequities in their nominating process, which Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has denounced as unfair and corrupt. Given the dissatisfaction with the rules in both parties, officials say, some combination of changes for 2020 is almost certain.