As the GOP presidential hopefuls vie for Florida’s 50 delegates today, there is still a contest underway to claim Iowa’s 28 votes at the national convention. The state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention do not have to be representative of the Iowa Caucus results. Iowa’s national delegates are free to support for whomever they choose.
To clinch the GOP nomination, a candidate must secure 1144 delegates. After the Florida primary, only 87 delegates will be committed. That means we have a long way to go before this race is settled. It also means Iowans could once again play a role in deciding the Republican nominee.
National media outlets publish “projected” delegate counts for Iowa, but the projections are nothing more than wild guesses at this point. For instance, CBS projects Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney each picked up 12 delegates from the Hawkeye State. The New York Times gives Santorum 13 and Romney 12. CNN’s delegate calculator is even more confusing. And wrong. The truth is, right now no presidential candidate can lay claim to any delegates from Iowa.
“They don’t even exist yet,” said Republican Party of Iowa Executive Director Chad Olsen. “We don’t even know who any of them will be or who they will support. They can go and vote for whomever they choose. It is completely open and not bound.”
Iowa’s delegates will be determined at the district and state conventions. 25 delegates and 25 alternates will be elected. The state’s two national committee members and RPI chairman earn automatic delegate slots, giving Iowa a total of 28. The current national committee members are Kim Lehman and Steve Scheffler. Both seats are up for election at this year’s state convention. Lehman endorsed Rick Santorum. Scheffler remained neutral in the caucus, but was vocal in his distaste for Mitt Romney.
Prior to the caucus, the Romney and Paul campaigns were seemingly the only ones making a hard push for their supporters to become delegates. While many Iowa Caucus attendees left the meetings right after the presidential votes were cast, hardcore activists stayed for the delegate election and other party business.
The Paul campaign has been vocal in claiming they were very pleased with the amount of supporters elected to the county convention. Some national media outlets do not project any Iowa delegates for Ron Paul. That is nonsense. He picked up more than 21 percent of the vote. It is safe to assume Ron Paul will have at least that same percentage in terms of Iowa delegates.
The process for choosing Iowa’s national delegates is somewhat convuluted. Delegates to the county conventions select delegates to the district and state conventions. At each of the state’s four district conventions, three national delegates and three alternates will be chosen. That is how 12 of Iowa’s 25 delegates are chosen.
Also at each district convention, two people will be appointed to a committee that nominates delegates for Iowa’s remaining 13 slots at the national convention. Those delegates, as well the national committeeman and woman, will be voted on at the end of the state convention. In past years, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has been given an automatic delegate slot.
The convention battle for delegates this year is expected to be a heated one. Ron Paul’s state chairman, Drew Ivers, sent an email last week to campaign supporters, trying to identify exactly how many county delegates they have and which precincts are covered. Four weeks after the caucus, the Paul campaign in Iowa remains very organized. They already have a lopsided amount of supporters on the State Central Committee. The Paul campaign will try to dominate the delegate elections, as well.
Given the ever-changing state of the GOP presidential race, there is a possibility it could come down to a brokered national convention. The Ron Paul campaign is making sure his Iowa supporters remain engaged in the process. The other presidential campaigns would be wise to follow suit.
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