After the Republican Party County Conventions held here last week, something has started to become increasingly clear – Mitt Romney does not have the Republican nomination for President secured. This may come as a surprise to many, but the primary voting on February 28th was essentially a beauty contest. Mitt Romney won 41.1% of the vote and Ron Paul won 11.6% of the vote, but the delegates are the ones that actually pick the candidate and the delegates will not be determined until the state convention on May 18th-19th.
Here’s how it works – first there is a primary where the voting is open to the public. This is what happened on February 28th and this was what received all of the media attention. It didn’t take long for various media outlets to project Mitt Romney as the winner, and by the next day we got the projections that Romney had been awarded 16 delegates, Santorum received 14, and Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich received none. This is where the confusion comes in.
The media projects delegates based on vote totals from the primary, but that is incorrect and inaccurate. Delegates are actually selected at county conventions which were held statewide on May 3rd. Then, a number of those delegates are selected to go on to the state convention which is May 18th-19th, and then from that pool of delegates, 30 are selected to go to the national convention where they will cast their vote for the nominee.
Almost one million people cast a vote in February for the Republican candidate of their choice, but only 30 people actually get to vote at the Republican national convention in August, and those 30 votes are the only votes that count. Those 30 people are the ones that Ron Paul has been targeting this whole time – not the one million people in the primary whose votes don’t actually count. This was the strategy used by Warren Harding and it got him elected President despite being relatively unpopular in the general voting. Now you see why Mitt Romney is getting nervous and the Republican Party is trying everything they can to ignore Ron Paul.
It’s unlikely that Ron Paul will get a majority of the 30 delegates from Michigan, and because of state party rules certain numbers of delegates are bound to vote for Mitt Romney in the first round of voting at the national convention. So the strategy that Ron Paul has been following is to get as many of his supporters on the slate of delegates even if they are bound by state party rules to vote for Romney. It remains to be seen how many Michigan delegates support Ron Paul, all we know for sure is that the official numbers are completely inaccurate.
Since a candidate needs 1,144 delegates to win the nomination at the national convention, any Ron Paul supporters that are bound to Mitt Romney can simply abstain from voting, thereby denying Romney enough delegates in the first round of voting. Then a second round of voting is required and all bound delegates are thereby released and allowed to vote for anybody they want. At that time, Ron Paul supporters will be free to vote for Ron Paul thereby guaranteeing that the Romney delegate total will decrease significantly in additional rounds of voting.
Delegates can even vote for other candidates that have suspended their campaigns (in case you were wondering why candidates “suspend” their campaign rather than “end” it – that’s why). This would be a disaster for Romney and at that point nobody knows what will happen. Nobody can deny that Romney appears to have very little support in the Republican Party and a brokered convention would probably destroy his chances of winning the nomination. After all, if he were going to be the candidate, it wouldn’t make it to a brokered convention in the first place.
Making matters worse, with Ron Paul still in the race the Republican National Committee is required not to show favoritism to any candidate. According to rule #11 found here, the party is not allowed to contribute money or any aid at all to one candidate over another. This rule seems to have been violated by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on April 25th when he released the following statement indicating that the national party was lining up behind Romney, despite Ron Paul still being in the race:
“Governor Romney’s strong performance and delegate count at this stage of the primary process has made him our party’s presumptive nominee,” Mr. Priebus said. “In order to maximize our efforts I have directed my staff at the R.N.C. to open lines of communication with the Romney campaign.”
“It’s my intention to have a seamless and complete merger between the presumptive nominee and the Republican National Committee,” Mr. Priebus said. “That means political, communications, fund-raising, research and the chairman’s office, along with the governor’s main operational team, are completely merged.”
According to Republican Party rules, Ron Paul is entitled to those same fundraising efforts, and if we know anything about Ron Paul supporters they are going to hold the party to those rules. And Mr. Priebus better be careful or he may end up being replaced by a Ron Paul supporter too.
Update 5/10/2012 – Someone just sent me this banner that sums up the 2012 presidential race perfectly and explains why Ron Paul supporters are as vocal as they are, and why it is unlikely that they will ever really get behind Romney. If too many people feel there is no real difference between the two candidates, the choice then becomes do you want to accept it for 4 more years, or for 8 more years.
Update 5/14/2012 – We’ve got a new article with recent information and clarifications of Rule 38 and the unit rule, as well as how this affects Michigan. Read it here: http://www.michiganstandard.com/261/ron-paul-delegate-strategy-to-win-republican-nomination-paying-off/