GOP Primary Proves Establishment Can No Longer Ignore Paul Supporters

[/caption]

While the mainstream media has Governor Mitt Romney’s nomination as a lock, Dr. Ron Paul continues to accumulate delegates at a healthy pace. So many delegates, in fact, the Republican parties in more than one state are trying to impose loyalty oaths in order to disenfranchise elected Paul delegates currently pledged to other candidates. The Boston Globe editorialized recently against these state Republican strategies, citing that “rules can’t be changed midway through the process just because they become inconvenient.”

The editorial continued:

“According to party rules, Romney’s campaign had more to do to get its own people chosen as the delegates to the Tampa convention; they had to show up at local party caucuses, the obscure gatherings where delegates are actually chosen. They didn’t, at least not to the degree that Paul’s supporters did. To the extent that Paul’s zealous supporters abided by the caucus rules in place, they deserve the delegates that they won.”

The editorial hits on a point IVN has stated repeatedly: looking ahead to 2016, primary rules should be changed so that delegates are chosen specifically by candidates.

In the meantime, the Real 2012 Delegate Count offers a state-by-state breakdown accurately reflecting current delegate allocations. Gov. Romney currently has 627 delegates, Dr. Paul has 186, former Senator Rick Santorum has 146, former Speaker Newt Gingrich has 66, and 1258 delegates are yet to be allocated at State Conventions.

The reason for the continued misreporting on the delegate allocation process is a basic misunderstanding of delegate selection rules. Only 35% of the delegates selected are chosen by a candidate and explicitly bound to said candidate. This poses a problem to Gov. Romney, as well as his continuing lack of grassroots support and/or enthusiasm.

This is illustrated in Missouri where a recent Public Policy Poll indicated Gov. Romney and President Obama were essentially tied. In 2008, Missouri was eventually carried by a small margin by Senator McCain. In the beauty contest primary months ago, Gov. Romney was trounced by Senator Santorum and since then Dr. Paul supporters have subsequently swept the precinct caucuses where real delegates are chosen. This past weekend, the Missouri State Convention was held with claims and counterclaims of foul behavior. Gov. Romney came away with 31 delegates, Senator Santorum got 13 delegates, and Dr. Paul got 4 delegates. State Conventions also occurred in Louisiana and Washington State.

In Louisiana, Sen. Santorum won the primary. Yet, in the “real” delegate selection process, nearly 75% of the delegates to the Louisiana State Convention were Dr. Paul supporters. Sen. Santorum sent Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere a list of twenty “bona fide” supporters who he would like to see filling the ten delegate and ten alternate slots he won in the state’s March 24 primary. Sen. Santorum called attention to what he called “delegate stealing” in a communication with the Louisiana state GOP after the Paul campaign out-organized other GOP candidates in other state conventions.

“We just tightened up the rules. We made it more responsible so that delegates for those candidates would be elected, instead of Ron Paul people posing as supporters of those candidates,” Minority Convention Credential Committee Chairman Jeff Giles told KTBS, the ABC-TV affiliate in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Predictably, the Louisiana State Convention turned into a melee. The social conservatives who control Louisiana’s GOP vowed to stop Paul takeovers. At the end of the day, the Paul supporters captured 27 of Louisiana’s 46 Republican delegates. Dr. Paul supporters also elected one of their own, Henry Herford, to a senior party post. Emotions inevitably ran high, and Herford was removed from the convention hall by security officers after he became embroiled in a dispute with other Republican activists.

According to a statement released by the national Ron Paul campaign, the newly elected Louisiana delegates met with Scott Sewell, the Louisiana Chair of Gov. Romney’s campaign, who said “he would do everything he could to make sure the Paulites controlled delegation was seated.”

Whether the convention chaos occurring at recent state conventions across the country is a result of a coordinated national effort by Republican Party leaders to disenfranchise Ron Paul delegates, or vice versa, the bottom line is that Dr. Paul continues to amass delegates. Antics aside, there are two types of jurisdictions which bear particular attention.

First, are those jurisdictions where Gov. Romney lost to Sen. Santorum or Speaker Gingrich in the primary and where the delegates are chosen in a discreet process. In those States, Dr. Paul supporters have been very successful. Given Sen. Santorum and Speaker Gingrich have suspended their campaigns, there is no pressing reason for evangelical Christian activists to turn out at delegate selection venues to participate in the election process. Given that Romney has no support, the Paulites flood these events and win elections as uncommitted or nominal Santorum, or even Gingrich, delegates.

There have been exceptions, of course, to this “Ron Paul takeover”, those being Oklahoma and Georgia. Even so, there are at least ten Dr. Paul supporters in the Georgia delegation. Gov. Romney could compete for those delegates but continues to lack the infrastructure to do so. As part and parcel of this process, the Paulites are also gaining control of state party organizations and it’s in these jurisdictions where Paul supporters are at war with former Sen. Santorum and Speaker Gingrich supporters.

Second, are jurisdictions where Gov. Romney won the primary with a binding process but the delegates are still chosen in a discrete process. In many of those states, Dr. Paul forces ended up controlling who Gov. Romney’s delegates would be. Massachusetts is a good example of a state falling in this category.

The next place where a similar scenario play out is Texas, who uses a proportionate representation allocation system. Per The Green Papers, Gov. Romney received 105 delegates, Dr. Paul received 18 delegates, Sen. Santorum received 12 delegates, Speaker Gingrich received 7 delegates, there were 6 uncommitted delegates, and Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman received one delegate a piece.

On Thursday, the Texas Republican State Convention convenes in Fort Worth, where the National Convention delegates will be elected according to the results of the primary. 108 district delegates are elected at the Convention: 3 from each of the state’s 36 congressional districts, as well as 44 at-large delegates.

Delegates are elected by Presidential Preference from the congressional districts in which their candidate received the highest percentage of the vote, providing the candidate received at least 20% or more of the vote. This goes on until the candidate’s delegate allotment is fulfilled. Then, the process is repeated for the second highest vote getter. Once all congressional district delegates are selected, the at-large delegates are selected. This is the exact type of nuanced situation where Paul supporters can and will dominate.

Paul supporters are doing so well throughout the country, by and large, because state Republican Parties are small, atrophied clubs controlled by older social conservatives who cannot match the Paulite enthusiasm.

As former California Assembly Speaker Willie L. Brown noted in his column in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Republican Party in California is in decline. In his inimical way, Brown noted:

“I see that George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice endorsed Mitt Romney at his big Hillsborough fundraiser. It just goes to show how thin the GOP bench is in California. No state officials. No big-city mayors. No real congressional stars. Just George and Condoleezza, recycled again. And after looking at the average age of the guests, I can see why Mitt doesn’t bring up Social Security as an issue.”

What Brown observed is also true in a number of states – the traditional GOP is on a downward trajectory. It has been 24 years since Ronald Reagan left the White House. A 30-year-old voter who supported Reagan in 1980 is 62 today. It does not take an election expert to realize, unless the party grows and modernizes, Republicans could be regulated to irrelevancy. In that sense, to find the Paulite Wing of the Republican Party fighting it out with the Santorum Social Conservatives is really not shocking.

There is inherent conflict between the Romney campaign and Republican Parties in states where Romney did not run well and/or where he has no role in selecting his delegates. These are the same states where Ron Paul supporters are racking up delegates, particularly in the south where Gov. Romney ran so poorly it has created a vacuum.

Romney supporters and the Republican old guard are focused on avoiding major distractions at the Convention in Tampa. In other words, they have every incentive to placate the Paulites. As such, Gov. Romney’s support to seat the Paulites from Louisiana is logical. After all, if he loses in the general, Paulites are no longer his problem. In many states, the Republican establishment is looking at the long term prospects for themselves. From this prism, the “Paul Threat” is much more immediate and direct. Whether Gov. Romney wins or loses, the organizational wherewithal the libertarian wing of the Republican Party has shown this election cycle guarantees these state parties will have to deal with these forces on their own in the future.