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April 26th, 2012

Save The Caucus Series: Bind Iowa’s Delegates

There is little doubt that Ron Paul will capture most of Iowa’s 28 delegates by the time the state convention is over on June 15th.  His supporters control the nominating committee that puts together the at large slate of 13 delegates that is voted on at convention.  At last weekend’s district conventions, the Ron Paul supporters showed their ability to elect their supporters to the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee.  Electing delegates to the national convention is done in the same way, but fewer people will be in attendance.  That means Paul is primed to take most of the 12 delegates to be elected there.

The Paul supporters are doing nothing wrong.  They are as passionate as they are organized.  The problem is that Iowa’s delegates are not bound in any way to the winner of the January 3rd caucuses.  The Paul people are exploiting the caucus rules to their favor.  Again, there is nothing wrong with that, but it makes the Iowa caucuses look like a joke.  It is especially bad this year because Mitt Romney was initially declared the winner, but Rick Santorum actually got more votes.  The certification process corrected the error, but there is nothing that can prevent Ron Paul from accumulating the most delegates through the convention process.

As I wrote in my Monday article, Iowa will basically have produced three different winners of the caucuses in the span of six months.  Mitt Romney was declared the winner on caucus night.  After the certification process, Rick Santorum was declared the winner.  Then, at the state convention, Ron Paul should easily win most of the state’s 28 delegates even though he finished in third place.

The media mocked the Iowa Caucuses when the certification process found that Santorum had actually won.  Only eight votes separated Romney and Santorum on caucus night, and while close elections are exciting, they also create controversy.  Even though the Iowa GOP botched how it handled the announcement of the certified vote, it is understandable how the winner could change when so few votes separated the top two finishers.

What will be more difficult to explain is how the candidate who finished in third place can actually win all the delegates.  Many Iowans understand how this happens, but the outside world will not.  In fact, the media is already having a field day at our expense because our current system does not reward the winner.  In order for the caucuses to remain relevant, the Iowa GOP should make the necessary changes to award all or part of the delegates to reflect the results from caucus night.

Iowa Republicans need to bind at least 50 percent of their delegates to the winner of the caucuses.

Making changes to the Iowa Caucuses is not something that should be taken lightly.  While some may call for the end of the caucus process all together, one of the reasons we are allowed to go first in the nominating cycle is because we are a caucus state.  Since keeping the caucus format is of paramount importance, the Iowa GOP should make changes that ensure that the winner on caucus night will control a majority of the state’s delegates.

While there are a number of ways that the delegates could be awarded, the simplest way may be to only bind 50 percent of the delegates to the winner, which would still allow the rest of the delegates to be awarded through the convention process like they are now.  Using the 28 delegates that Iowa has this year as an example, this is how it would work.

Total Number of Delegates: 28

Three delegates are automatically awarded to the state’s three representatives to the RNC (State Chair, National Committeewoman, and National Committeeman).

Fifteen delegates are awarded to the winner of the vote on caucus night.  In this case, Rick Santorum would be guaranteed 15 delegate spots, which his campaign would fill.

The remaining ten delegates would be selected by the district and state conventions.  Under this scenario, it seems likely that each congressional district would elect two delegates apiece, and the remaining two would be selected by the state nominating committee and ratified at the state convention.

This simple change would ensure that the winner of the caucuses always receives the majority of the delegates.  It also preserves the system we currently have in place that rewards grassroots organization and enthusiastic supporters.

The problem with the current system is that it could ultimately undermine validity of the caucuses themselves.  While the Ron Paul supporters feel they have the right to exploit the current rules, how would they feel the shoe was on the other foot?

The other problem is that the current system doesn’t require that delegates be awarded to an actual presidential candidate.  If I could motivate enough people to support me, I could win a majority of the delegates even though I’m not even a presidential candidate.  Sure, that scenario is far fetched, but not many ever imagined that a candidate who has yet to win a single state could win all the delegates in a state like Iowa.  This is especially true considering that the presumptive nominee is guaranteed to secure the necessary delegates to secure the nomination before the state convention convenes in June, let alone the national convention in August.

Once again, a rule change like this from the Republican Party of Iowa would go a long way in providing some legitimacy into the caucus process.  It would also continue to show other states and the Republican National Committee that we are serious about preserving our First-in-the-Nation status.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country.

Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.

A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states.

Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site,

Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing.

Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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