Looking Towards Tampa: Ron Paul’s Delegate Strategy

Governor Romney continued his march this week to the Republican nomination in Tampa. However, as has been noted repeatedly throughout the process, he is a very weak nominee. There also continues to be a substantial amount of questions surrounding the legitimacy of mainstream accounts of delegates. This week, Gov. Romney won all delegates in Connecticut [25], Delaware [17], New York [92] and 12 out of 16 in Rhode Island – Dr. Paul won 4 in Rhode Island and may have led a major “stealth” operation in Pennsylvania.

What was not reported widely but referred to by IVN’s Chris Hinyub and W.E. Messamore, was the details of the Pennsylvania result. Gov. Romney easily won Pennsylvania’s beauty contest. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Republicans separately elected delegates by name to the Tampa Convention. According to election experts, of the 59 delegates that were directly elected in Pennsylvania, 16 were uncommitted. Numbers-wise it breaks down as follows: Romney 11, Paul 5, Gingrich 4, Santorum 3, and 23 unknown. The Pennsylvania result – and many believe that at least half of Pennsylvania’s delegates are Dr. Ron Paul supporters – is indicative of a trend that is not being picked up on: The Ron Paul takeover of state Republican parties.

Delegate allocation in the Republican race stands as follows:

“Soft” delegate count: Romney 852, Santorum 254, Gingrich 147, Paul 90, Uncommitted 45.

“Hard” delegate count: Romney 724, Uncommitted 307, Santorum 217, Gingrich 131, Paul 54, Huntsman 2.  

Both Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum have released their delegates, and it appears these delegates are free agents. As such, they can vote for whomever they want. In most states, delegates are not in fact chosen by the candidates but are chosen through a discreet process and then bound to a candidate. This process has massive implications.

As Pennsylvania shows, because Republican turnout is way down, Dr. Paul’s opportunities increase. So far, Mitt Romney won more votes in the Alabama primary than he won in the northeast – excluding Pennsylvania and Delaware yesterday. In addition, Pennsylvania, where a U.S. Senate primary kept turnout high but the departure of Rick Santorum effectively handed the win to Romney, the numbers should caution Republicans. Overall, Romney took 58 percent of the popular vote and won every county. But in ten counties, mostly in central Pennsylvania, he only won 50 percent of the vote or less. It was the same pattern we’d seen in competitive states — suburban Republicans have accepted Romney, and rural voters haven’t.

Many insiders are speculating that at least 600 delegates are actually Dr. Paul supporters, particularly in caucus states. Under GOP rules, in order for a candidate to be placed in nomination they must have a majority of delegates from each state. Given what has happened thus far in the primary season, Paul will control the delegations from Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Washington State. With Sen. Santorum and Speaker Gingrich out, it is likely the same case for Nevada, as well. If these realities hold true through April, Dr. Paul arguably has sufficient delegates to be nominated.

In terms of state party control, Ron Paul supporters control the Iowa Republican Party. Six of the new Iowa GOP state central committee members elected at district conventions Saturday have publicly expressed support for Dr. Paul, as well as the new state party chair.

To stop Dr. Paul supporters from controlling the Iowa delegation, Gov. Romney backers in Iowa claim they will focus on teaming up with Christian conservatives, a strategy unlikely to succeed. In fact, the Paulites are already causing Romney problems. There was a dispute between Romney’s campaign and three top Iowa party activists at the Republican National Committee meeting Friday when the Iowans declined to sign a “delegate pledge form” in order to get their photos taken. The reception guests apparently needed to first sign a pledge promising to support Gov. Romney as a delegate to the GOP’s national convention. CNN reported that the Iowans refused to sign and “the dispute became heated.” Gov. Romney has limited ability to affect this because he simply does not have the organizational grassroots support.

It is no secret that Dr. Paul is focusing on accumulating delegates slowly but surely. The Rachel Maddow Show has run segments compiling footage from multiple occasions in the past few primary months of Dr. Paul declaring his plan during stump speeches and campaign stops.

The next step for the Ron Paul campaign is to maximize his performance in his home state of Texas, which has a totally proportional primary on May 29. Dr. Paul spokesman Jesse Benton told The Daily Beast their campaign believes “we’ve got the money and the grassroots support to do what we want to do in Texas” as opposed to other primary states such as Indiana, where Paul is struggling for media attention.

Benton acknowledged the increasing possibility that Dr. Paul would not be the GOP nominee, but made clear that the “secondary goal of all of our political action [has been] getting limited-government, libertarian-leaning folks involved and taking over the party apparatus.”

Part of the plan for doing that is accumulating enough delegates to give the Texas congressman the necessary leverage in Tampa to mold the GOP platform to his taste. They may not share the sentiment with outsiders but there’s a general expectation within the GOP that Romney will lose in November.