By Craig Robinson
Even though Ron Paul finished a disappointing third place in the Iowa Caucuses back in January, his supporters made sure to become delegates to the county conventions that were held a few months later in March.
The Paul supporters were still fully engaged when the convention process began in Iowa, even though their candidate had yet to win a contest and had basically stopped campaigning. While they were still engaged, Mitt Romney’s supporters were almost absent.
Romney’s absence allowed the Paul supporters to go on and dominate everything from State Central Committee elections, to the party platform, to the selection of the delegates to the national convention. Even though many longtime activists didn’t like how the Paul supporters conducted themselves, the Paul supporters had operated within the rules that governed the process.
Paul’s Iowa supporters may have dominated the county, district, and state conventions in Iowa, but the caucus to convention process does not end at the state level. The process concludes at the national convention, and that’s where the Paul domination ended.
The refresher on the Paul campaign’s emphasis on the caucus to convention strategy is necessary before weighing in on the rule changes that were adopted at the national convention on Tuesday. Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker, a former paid Paul operative, and Iowa’s National Committeeman Steve Scheffler, a Paul enabler, are mad as hell at the Romney campaign for the rules changes. What they fail to realize is that the rule changes came about as a response to how the Paul supporters conducted themselves post-caucus.
The first rule change addresses how delegates are selected in future Republican presidential primaries. This new RNC rule basically requires that the delegates from a state reflect the outcome of the caucus or primary results. The new rule also provides the RNC with an enforcement mechanism to ensure that this new rule is followed.
The rule as originally proposed was horrible, as it would basically allow the presumed nominee to select the delegates from a state, but the final version is a common sense measure. The candidate who wins the most votes in a nominating contest should be rewarded with the most delegates from that state. This was a necessary change because of the actions of the Ron Paul supporters in states like Iowa that showed no respect to the candidate who actually won.
It’s pretty hard to oppose a proposal that wants to ensure that the winner of a contest is actually earns an appropriate amount of delegates at the end of the process.
Rick Santorum won the caucuses, albeit a few weeks after the January 3rd caucuses, yet he was awarded with just two delegates to the national convention. One, National Committeewoman Kim Lehmann, was already guaranteed to be a delegate due to her position on the RNC, the other one had enough friends in the right places to earn the Ron Paul seal of approval.
Mitt Romney, who finished a close second, was given no delegates unless you want to count Senator Grassley, Governor Branstad, and a couple others who would support whoever the presumed Republican nominee would be. On the other hand, Ron Paul mopped up the rest, and on Tuesday, Iowa awarded 22 of 28 delegates to Paul at the national convention.
The Paul supporters operated within the bounds of the rules, but in doing so, provoked the Romney campaign to lobby for changes to those rules for future elections. By the way, the Romney folks who pushed through the rule changes also operated within the existing rules. I don’t like how either campaign operated, but the Paul supporters now know how unpleasant it is to have something they don’t like jammed down their throats.
The other rule change allows the RNC to modify the rules between national conventions so long as 75 percent of the RNC members approve. This is a dangerous rule change that takes the power from convention delegates and gives it to a very small group of people. This is especially dangerous when a Republican occupies the White House, as it means that a sitting president, who would have a lot of sway with RNC members, could change the nominating rules to his or her advantage.
The main reason to oppose this rule is that it increases uncertainty in the nominating process at a time when the committee should be looking to create certainty. The nominating calendar is already a mess, and the new rule allows the RNC to completely overhaul the nominating calendar on a whim anytime between now and September 2014.
The RNC is already heavily influenced when a Republican president occupies the White House, but imagine if a sitting two-term president pressure RNC members to change the nominating structure in a way that favors a current Vice President who wants to run to carry on the work of the current administration. Money and name ID already make it difficult for lesser known or long shot candidates to be successful. This new rule would make it even tougher.
Spiker, Scheffler, and other Ron Paul supporters are livid about these rule changes, but had they shown some respect to the 120,000 people who voted in the caucuses, the first rule change wouldn’t be necessary, and its backers would have found it difficult to find support for it within the rules committee.
Chairman Spiker has been outspoken during the rules committee meeting this week. Iowa Republicans also shouldn’t have any beef with how Scheffler, who serves on the rules committee, voted. The problem is that, while this cast of characters are white hot about the rule changes, I don’t believe it has anything to do with protecting Iowa’s First in the Nation status. Instead, they are trying to preserve their own source of power.
Had Spiker, Scheffler, and the others been concerned about defending Iowa’s First in the Nation status, Drew Ivers and the throng of Paul supporters who surrounded him wouldn’t have awarded Ron Paul 22 of Iowa’s 28 delegates during the roll call of states. I’m sure that Ivers and his cohorts feel like they really accomplished something, but for the life of me, I don’t know what it is. If anything, Ron Paul’s Iowa organizers proved that Iowa’s system contained flaws which needed to be addressed.
The caucus to convention process is now over. What used to be a process where all the supporters of presidential candidates could ultimately come to a consensus was upended so that Ron Paul could receive 22 of our 28 delegates. In the end, I guess that it can be said that Paul won Iowa, Nevada, and Minnesota. That’s one more state than Newt Gingrich won.
What do these technical victories accomplish for Ron Paul? Absolutely nothing. Paul’s three state victory came at the moment when Romney secured 2061 delegates, or 917 more than he needed to secure the nomination. However, the ramifications of Paul’s “victories” are significant. The Iowa GOP is now dysfunctional and broken. The RNC also passed new rules to make sure similar shenanigans don’t happen in the next cycle.
Hopefully in the future, Iowa Republicans will return to their commonsense ways and work together to build a delegate slate that is representative of Iowa Republicans, not just one candidate. Maybe in the future, being a delegate will be a reward to an activist who has gone above and beyond in helping elect Republicans in the state. Maybe someday, the Republican Party of Iowa will once again have leaders who put the good of the party above their own self-interest.
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