TAMPA, March 21, 2012 – Following Mitt Romney’s victory in Illinois, the media buzz on Ron Paul has focused on speculation about him dropping out of the race. According to many sources, his delegate strategy has failed and his fundraising is drying up.
However, Ron Paul seemed as upbeat as ever last night during his appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He noted that the delegate counts for many states are still unknown and that a brokered convention becomes more likely every day.
Several media outlets report that Paul has only secured one tenth of the delegates that Romney has secured. This presumably rests upon the assumption that the percentage of delegates each will eventually secure will mirror his percentage of the popular vote.
However, Paul’s campaign maintains that they expect to control a majority of the delegates in Iowa, Maine, and possibly several other states.
Why the disconnect? Is this evidence of the media treating Paul’s campaign unfairly?
Probably not. It is much more likely that most do not fully understand the caucus process. Rachel Maddow admits that she doesn’t and suggested that even the Republican Party doesn’t know the delegate count for any candidate at this point. She’s right.
The process of selecting delegates for the Republican National Convention (RNC) varies from state to state. In some states, like Florida, the winner of the popular vote is awarded all of the delegates for that state. Those delegates are bound to vote for the winner of the popular vote during the first round of voting at the RNC. That’s the easy part.
In other states, the process is not that simple. A popular vote is held, but it’s really no more than a preference poll or “straw poll.” After the straw poll is closed, a series of meetings commence in which delegates are elected from a precinct, district or county, which then elect delegates to a state convention, which then elect the delegates to represent that state at the RNC. This process typically takes months after the straw poll is over and the resulting delegates for each candidate may bear little resemblance to the vote percentage that candidate won in the straw poll.
Paul’s campaign believes that his supporters, typically more enthusiastic and devoted to his candidacy, are more likely to remain after the straw poll and participate in the delegate selection process. There is some evidence that they are correct. For example, the Iowa Republican Party confirms that delegate assignment has nothing to do with the straw poll and that Paul may secure the most delegates from Iowa.
Implicit in much of the coverage of the delegate selection process is that it somehow disenfranchises those who only vote in the straw poll. Not so. All Republican Party members have an equal opportunity to become delegates. That they choose not to merely reflects their level of commitment to their candidate.
Nor does the process render the straw poll meaningless. Its purpose is to inform those seeking a delegate slot what the majority of voters in their state prefer. This can have profound influence on how they eventually vote in the ensuing conventions. A delegate may initially support Mitt Romney, but change his or her mind after learning that a majority of voters in their state, including independents or Democrats in some states, preferred Rick Santorum.
So how many delegates does Ron Paul or any of the other candidates have? No one knows. There are some delegates that are bound to vote for primary winners during the first round at the RNC, but that’s all that has been decided. Hundreds of other delegates in states that have already held their primaries/caucuses are still up for grabs. “First in the nation” Iowa is actually last in the nation to select its delegates. That won’t happen until June.
At the end of the process, the delegates from each state will meet at the RNC and an initial vote will be taken. If after that vote no candidate has the 1,144 delegates necessary to secure the nomination, a brokered convention begins. Paul reminded Leno that under those circumstances, even bound delegates from primary states become unbound and can “vote their conscience.” Paul believes he has a real shot to win in that scenario.
Whether he’s right or wrong, Paul and his supporters show no sign of giving up. With crowds now swelling into the thousands and reasonable evidence that they are doing much better than most people think, the Ron Paul Revolution is likely going all the way to Tampa.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America
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