Only twelve states have held primaries or caucuses, and shockingly, many of them have either been scandal ridden, had their dates manipulated in violation of proposed nomination calendar, or broke the delegate distribution rules set by the Republican National Committee. State GOP chairs in Iowa and Nevada have resigned in disgrace, and others have come under heavy scrutiny following the completion of their caucus or primary.
The Iowa Caucuses became the butt of too many jokes when Iowa GOP Chairman refused to declare Rick Santorum the winner of the caucuses following the state GOP’s certification process, which clearly showed Santorum to be the victor. Things got worse when it took the Nevada GOP 48 hours to tabulate the results from its contest where less than 33,000 people voted. Questions also surround the results in Maine and Wyoming, but the sudden delegate distribution rule change in Michigan after Tuesday’s primary might be the most egregious action of a state party yet.
The rules set by the Michigan Republican Credentials Committee, which were distributed to the campaigns and the media prior to the primary, clearly stated that two delegates would be awarded to whomever won each of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts. The rules also stipulated that two at large delegates would be awarded proportionally. Since Mitt Romney and Santorum each won seven congressional districts, CNN and other media outlets surmised that each would receive 15 delegates.
At issue is how the two at large delegates were actually awarded. Instead of awarding the delegates on a proportional basis based on the statewide popular vote as stipulated in a memo to the RNC and the Republican candidates for president, the Michigan Republican Credentials Committee met the day after the primary and voted to award the two at large delegates to the statewide winner, claiming that, contrary to previous written and verbal statements from party officials, they always intended that the two at large delegates be winner take all.
The Michigan Republican Credentials Committee voted 4-2 to award the at large delegates to Romney, the statewide popular vote winner. Those who supported the change are claiming that no rules were changed after the Michigan contest, but if that’s the case, why was a formal vote needed to award the two at large delegates to Romney?
It is also interesting that one of the two “no” votes came from a Romney backer who is the state’s former Attorney General, and the other came from the Michigan GOP’s legal counsel. One would think that these two high-profile lawyers would know something about rule interpretation. Voting in favor of the change was the Michigan GOP chair, who is favorable to Romney, and National Committeeman Saul Anuzis, who spent the last week of the campaign chasing Santorum around the state as part of the Romney campaign’s “bracketing” effort. The fact that the state GOP chairman is at odds with his own legal counsel raises a number of red flags.
There have now been far too many incidents that have ultimately benefited the Romney campaign to believe that it’s all just the result of happenstance. While the jostling of the nominating calendar has happened to some extent in many presidential cycles, it has gotten worse in the two election cycles where Mitt Romney was seeking the nomination. If the calendar manipulation wasn’t bad enough, there have been other questionable activities in states that Romney has either won or initially thought won.
Romney originally had no interest in competing in Iowa. In fact, Florida’s decision to hold it’s primary on January 31st, a full week before the Iowa caucuses were slated to be held, as well as Nevada’s original insistence that it would hold it’s contest in January, created the possibility that Iowa might have been forced to hold its contest in December of 2011. Such a move would have rendered the Iowa caucuses irrelevant. After his embarrassing defeat here in 2008, Iowa being irrelevant would have suited the Romney campaign just fine.
In addition to the shenanigans involving the calendar, there are a couple of other “coincidences” that explain why the Iowa GOP chairman may have been hesitant to declare Santorum the winner following the certification of the vote. The first is a number of large contributions to the Republican Party of Iowa from out-of-state individuals who also happen to have maxed out to Romney’s campaign and donated in excess of $100,000 to his Super PAC.
Was there some sort of quid pro quo between the Romney campaign and the Republican Party of Iowa? Between mid-August and mid-November, the Iowa GOP received contributions of $50,000, 15,000, $10,000, and $5,000 from three such individuals from California and Florida. Why would people who are pouring money into Romney’s Super PAC make large contributions to a party in a state in which their preferred candidate was not even showing interest at the time? More troubling is the question of who solicited the contributions for the Iowa GOP.
The second Iowa –related coincidence is that an individual who worked for Romney in 2008 and who is currently employed by Romney’s Iowa campaign chair, was paid by the Republican Party of Iowa to help with the caucus vote tabulation. It was this person who reportedly notified the Romney campaign that it had defeated Santorum by eight votes on caucus night. All campaigns are allowed representatives to oversee the tabulation process, but why were people so cozy to the Romney campaign paid by the Iowa GOP and allowed to fill official roles on caucus night?
Another incident doesn’t involve the manipulation of the State GOP, but the state’s largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register. As the Poynter Institute points out, “The Des Moines Register was one of the few U.S. papers that had Mitt Romney’s slim caucus win on its front page.” In fact, the website states that the paper published five different versions of the front page, and even stopped the presses, to get it’s final “Romney Wins by 8 Votes” headline on its presses.
What’s not discussed in the Poynter article is that Romney donors or Romney consultants allegedly offered to pay the Register to reprint its front page to reflect a Romney win. That information was shared in front of myself and two other journalists the night after the caucuses. I’m told the Register didn’t accept the payment, but it does show the heavy handedness the Romney campaign is willing to use to get what it wants. It also may explain why the newspaper never dedicated a headline to Rick Santorum’s eventual caucus victory. In fact, the paper never even questioned why the Iowa GOP chairman stepped down following the caucuses; instead, they published a number of flattering articles featuring interviews with him.
Manipulation of Other States Won by Romney?
In New Hampshire, Romney didn’t need to wield his influence like he did in other states since he keeps a residence there and was considered somewhat of a hometown boy. The state’s open primary, which allows independents and Democrats to vote in the Republican primary, was also beneficial to Romney in New Hampshire. Still, forcing Iowa to hold its caucuses in December would have created greater attention for New Hampshire, and the Romney campaign campaign did employ the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s son. The New Hampshire Secretary of State has tremendous sway over the primary calendar, and he nearly forced Iowa into that undesirable December position.
The Florida primary didn’t experience any problems with the counting of votes, but the state was the prime catalyst in causing chaos in the nominating calendar. In addition violating the RNC primary calendar, Florida also broke the rule that clearly states that any state that holds its primary before March 1st must award its delegates proportionally. Florida was not punished for breaking this second rule because the RNC rule didn’t prescribe any punishment for a state that breaks multiple rules, and thus the state awarded all of its 50 delegates to Romney, the overall winner. Gingrich has challenged the winner take all allotment, but nothing can be resolved in regard to this issue until the national convention in August.
The mess that was the Nevada Caucuses was well documented. However, what went under-reported was that the consultants hired to help the Nevada GOP plan and execute its First-in-the-West caucuses were also looking out for Romney’s best interests. The clearest indication of this was the initial decision by the Nevada GOP to hold its caucus on January 14th. Had the Nevada GOP not backed down from that date, the Iowa caucuses would have been forced into January.
The consultants hired by the Nevada GOP included Gentry Collins, Romney’s 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign manager. Collins also served as the Executive Director of the Republican Governor’s Association when Romney was the group’s chairman in 2006. Another consultant, Jim Anderson, worked under Collins at the RNC, and also wrote an op-ed for the Daily Caller that raved about Romney’s campaign following his wins in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Maine didn’t help the caucus brand following the fiascos in Iowa and Nevada. On Saturday, February 11th, Maine Republican Chairman Charlie Webster announced that Mitt Romney had narrowly defeated Ron Paul, 39 percent to 36 percent. The only problem was that the results from a number of precincts were left blank at the time of the announcement. The excuse from the Maine GOP was that the emails containing the results from the missing precincts got caught in the SPAM filter.
Additionally, Washington County had its caucus delayed by a week due to a snowstorm that never materialized. Despite the facts cited above, as well as the fact that only 84 percent of precincts had voted at the time, GOP officials in the state declared Romney the winner of the caucuses. Romney needed the win following losses in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on February 7th. The Maine GOP clearly delivered for Romney.
The Romney campaign spent most of Election Day complaining about a robo call the Santorum campaign sent to conservative Democrats asking for their support. Never mind the fact that Romney elicited the support of Democrats in New Hampshire and reportedly actively sought an open primary in Michigan. Even after his narrow three-point win, Romney and his army of surrogates celebrated their Michigan victory by telling everyone who would listen that Santorum somehow cheated.
While the Romney campaign was blasting Santorum for a few thousand dollars worth of robo calls, the heavily Romney-influenced Michigan Republican Credentials Committee voted to change the rules to provide Romney a delegate victory in Michigan instead of an embarrassing tie with Santorum.
Even though the Wyoming caucuses took place between February 9th and February 29th, the state GOP decided to share the results of its caucuses with CNN on February 28th, before all the caucuses were completed – an odd decision considering that no other state released its results before its contests were completed. Generally, releasing results, or even exit polling before the voting is complete is considered taboo because knowing the results could influence those who have yet to cast their vote.
Conclusion: A Disturbing Trend
So, how many states has Mitt Romney won where there has not been any questionable activity or overt influence by his campaign? Just one – Washington. Not mentioned above is Arizona, but it helped make a mess of the calendar, too, by holding its contest before March 1st.
Many political pundits have openly discussed how damaging the protracted nomination process has been for the Republican Party and its eventual nominee. What they have ignored is the win at all cost tactics that have been employed by the Romney campaign. It’s always difficult to unite a party after a contentious primary fight, but doing so after what some may view as an unfair fight will be even more difficult.
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
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