- GOP has tried to cut down length of primaries
- But early action by Jeb Bush, Mitt Romeny could blunt those efforts
(CNN)So much for a short Republican primary season.
The shadow campaign is already in full swing as Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush openly consider presidential runs that would tap many of the same political and financial resources.
Romney told donors Friday he's considering a third presidential run while Bush is forming a political action committee to use as a possible vessel for a presidential effort. The former Florida governor is also in California this week meeting with donors, according to two sources familiar with his plans.
There will be even more 2016 speculation later this month when a handful of possible candidates attend a gathering in Iowa.
And all of this is happening more than a year before any Republican actually casts a ballot.
These early developments could hamper the Republican Party's efforts to keep the primary season brief and orderly after 2012's marathon campaign, which included 20 debates and nearly 10 candidates. That prolonged primary provided ample ammunition to Democrats.
After the failed Republican campaign to topple President Barack Obama in 2012, the Republican National Committee concluded that the primary season needed to be contained and shortened.
The RNC went on to adopt changes to the primary calendar at the party's Winter meeting in 2014, where they shrunk the official primary season by pushing the first contest back to February 2016 and holding the party convention in early June. The decision will require all states to choose delegates within a contracted window, as opposed to the drawn-out eight months in the last cycle.
The party is also moving toward limiting the number of debates and taking more control over choosing moderators for the events. The decision was made in part to limit the chance of public, embarrassing episodes over a long and exhausting campaign period.
That decision is expected to be formalized at the RNC's meeting in San Diego this week. Debates are expected to begin near the end of the summer, and the party is aiming to hold about 10 sanctioned contests, an RNC committee member said.
RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski told CNN that candidates are free to start their campaigns as early as they want, but with the knowledge that the electoral contests won't begin until February 2016 at the earliest. In 2012, the Iowa caucuses were held on Jan. 3, and others followed almost immediately after.
"We're doing what we can to contract the process, while allowing the primary voters to make their decisions and see the candidates they need to see," Kukowski said. "It's up to the campaigns to decide if it makes sense strategically to be running a campaign a year before ballots are going to be out on money, staff and infrastructure."
Regardless, it doesn't appear that the possible candidates are taking their time. On Jan. 6, Bush rolled out a leadership PAC called "Right to Rise," which effectively served as the starting gun for the GOP primary contest. Just three days later, Romney told donors gathered in New York that he may run despite habitually denying his ambition after the 2012 race. This week, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is scheduled to hold donor meetings in New York as well.
And with more than a year to go before the first Iowa caucus meetings, potential candidates are already putting their teams together for the long slog and signing on for pre-primary cattlecalls.
On Jan. 24, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King will co-host the inaugural "Iowa Freedom Summit" with the advocacy group Citizens United. So far, nearly every 2016 hopeful has accepted the invitations to speak, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Bush, however, declined.
Republicans say that despite the early movements, the party can still fulfill the goals of truncating the official calendar.
"I think we're still better off than we were, even if these guys stretch out the donor process in the front end," Republican strategist Rick Wilson told CNN. "For all the early chatter, most of it is political class stuff, not about voter attention."