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Harris begins: "While the Republican nomination race is focused on the ongoing battle between frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, the Ron Paul campaign is waging an under-the-radar 'delegate strategy' that could make the libertarian-leaning Texan the surprise kingmaker of the race."

Ron Paul greets one of the young supporters who have helped him collect the second-most delegates this far. (photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
Ron Paul greets one of the young supporters who have helped him collect the second-most delegates this far. (photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)



Ron Paul Quietly Amassing an Army of Delegates

By Paul Harris, Guardian UK

24 February 12

 

hile the Republican nomination race is focused on the ongoing battle between frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, the Ron Paul campaign is waging an under-the-radar "delegate strategy" that could make the libertarian-leaning Texan the surprise kingmaker of the race.

In states that have already voted via a caucus system – rather than a straight primary ballot – Ron Paul supporters are conducting an intensively organised ground effort aimed at securing as many convention delegate slots as possible, often in numbers that far outweigh the number of actual votes that Paul got in the ballot.

If successful, it means Paul's campaign could arrive at the August Tampa convention at the head of an army of delegates far larger than the proportion of votes that it won during the nomination contest.

It could also increase the chances of a contested convention – where no candidate has enough delegates to declare the winner – as well as give Paul much greater ability to inject his beliefs into the Republicans' 2012 policy platform.

The strategy is based on the fact the GOP race is in fact a "delegate contest" despite an overwhelming focus by the media and most campaigns on "winning" individual states by coming top of the popular vote. But in reality, each state, weighted proportionally by population, sends a number of delegates to Tampa where a nominee is then chosen.

A total of 2,286 delegates are sent to Tampa and so a candidate must secure the support of 1,144 of them in order to win the nomination.

However, a bewilderingly complex set of rules, often varying from state to state, exists to actually assign these delegates. Ron Paul's campaign is seeking to work that system in order to maximise its delegate count.

So far signs are that the campaign is being so successful at its strategy that it may be able to "win" delegate counts in states where it did not win the popular vote.

"They will be able to perform well enough that in some states where they came in third or fourth in the straw poll, they will come in first or second in terms of the delegate totals. I am fairly confident in making that bet," said Professor Josh Putnam, a political scientist at Davidson College who runs the Frontloading HQ blog dedicated to tracking the delegate fight.

How the Strategy Works

The strategy works because of the varying ways each state assigns the delegates that get sent to Tampa. Some states hold a "winner takes all" primary that will assign all its delegates to the candidate who tops the vote.

Others assign delegates proportionally according to the vote, splitting the delegates roughly according to the results and ensuring each major candidate gets some delegates.

But it is in the caucus states that the Ron Paul campaign is focused. There the method of assigning delegates is complex and lasts a long time. In caucus states that have voted so far like Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota and Maine, the process of assigning delegates in support of each candidate has barely begun.

That process begins on caucus night when each precinct votes and then chooses delegates to send to a county convention to be held later in the year. Those county conventions will then choose a smaller number of delegates to send to a state convention or conventions held in each state's congressional districts.

Those state and district level conventions are the bodies that actually finally choose which delegates to send to the Tampa national convention.

However, at the start of the process – the precinct level meetings held on caucus day – the delegates selected to go to the later county conventions are frequently under no obligation to declare which candidate they are supporting or to support the "winner" of the day's actual voting.

Ron Paul's campaign strategy is to get enough of his precinct-level supporters to volunteer to become delegates to the county conventions so that they outnumber other campaigns. "Their strategy is to gobble up as many of these slots as they can," said Putnam.

Then, if you manage to stack the beginning of the process with Ron Paul delegates, as the system moves through the county conventions and the district and state-wide conventions the chances of Ron Paul-supporting delegates emerging at the end and being chosen to go to Tampa is greatly increased.

The entire strategy is helped by the fact that Paul's supporters are seen as far more organised and dedicated than other campaigns.

Is It Successful?

It is currently impossible to say. No caucus state that has already voted has yet held any county conventions at which an idea of the number of Ron Paul-supporting delegates chosen at the precinct level may emerge. Those first indications should come in March.

However, the Ron Paul campaign itself, which is at pains to point out their strategy is entirely within the rules, has released information from Colorado that shows how they hope it could be playing out.

In one precinct in Larimer County there were 13 delegate slots available. Santorum had won the precinct's vote by 23 votes to Paul's 13, with five votes going to Romney. But Paul supporters took all the delegate slots.

In a Delta County precinct all five delegate slots went to Paul supporters though he came behind Santorum and Romney in the popular vote. In a Pueblo County precinct Paul supporters got the two delegate slots available despite the fact Paul finished fourth in the precinct's vote with just two actual votes.

Those examples are likely cherry-picked by the Paul campaign as best case scenarios. But Colorado party officials are – officially, at least – sanguine about what is going on as it obeys the party rules. "We are just here to play out the process. Whatever happens happens," executive director of the Colorado GOP Chuck Poplstein told the Guardian.

But Poplstein did say a successful delegate strategy was not easy to pull off. "It is difficult for any campaign. You have to be very well organised and in all of the counties. It is not an easy process. You have to have a very good ground game," he said.

But that might not be too much of a problem. The Ron Paul campaign is highly organised and focused. "We are also seeing the same trends in Minnesota, Nevada and Iowa, and in Missouri as well," the campaign said in its statement on the precinct performances in Colorado.

A recent report by the Washington Post from a caucus in Portland, Maine, revealed a dedicated activist organisation complete with pre-printed lists of which delegates should be voted for at the precinct level. That is likely true across all the caucus states.

"They do tend to be very organised and very enthusiastic for Ron Paul," said Professor Tim Hagle, a political scientist at the University of Iowa.

What Impact Could It Have?

The fact is that Paul's delegate strategy would have little impact in a normal Republican race. The system is set up with enough winner-take-all and primary states to ensure that Paul's strategy has no chance whatsoever of picking up enough delegates via this method to actually win the nomination himself.

But it all changes when the Republican race becomes protracted and closely fought. If Santorum, Romney and Newt Gingrich all stay in the race beyond Super Tuesday and start to amass their own large piles of delegates, then reaching the vital 1,144 delegates needed to win starts to become more difficult.

If that scenario plays out – something most experts see as possible but unlikely – then Paul's delegate total becomes crucial. He could become a kingmaker, agreeing to throw his hefty delegate total behind one candidate who could then claim victory.

As a candidate with a very clearly defined agenda – on foreign policy, the role of government and fiscal issues, especially the Federal Reserve – Paul could demand a high policy price for that support.

However, even if a nominee emerges prior to the convention, Paul's delegates will still be important. If he amasses a loyal and large delegate total he will able to secure a high-profile, possibly primetime, speaking slot.

He will also be more able to get his agenda into the party's official policy platform. Given Paul's stance on issues like American foreign policy and the wars in Afghanistan, that could upset the party elite and the nominee.

Modern conventions are supposed to be highly organised, tightly controlled displays of party unity. At the very least a successful Paul delegate strategy could shatter that prospect.

 

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+14 # Richard Raznikov 2012-02-24 17:08
Realistically, Paul can't influence the Republican agenda. He may be able to play a role in choosing the nominee if the convention is otherwise deadlocked, not unimportant but not very useful in terms of policy. He is so different from the other candidates that the bridge doesn't exist to bring him back.

Nobody in the U.S. media knows what to do about him; they ignore him in the debates, in the commentary, in the coverage. They pretend he's not a real candidate and pretend that he's not attracting a lot of support.

The real fun will start if the G.O.P. fails to nominate him and he can somehow get himself on enough ballots as an independent or third party candidate. He's give both parties a lot of trouble.
 
 
+10 # Ralph Averill 2012-02-25 11:20
"Realistically, Paul can't influence the Republican agenda."
I agree with your conclusion, but with different reasoning.
If the convention becomes deadlocked, and if Ron Paul has enough delegates in his pocket to swing a winner, (two very big "if"s,) the Republican candidates are all so lacking in any moral rudder as far as electoral politics are concerned, that they would promise Ron Paul anything to get his delegates, and then forget all about him as soon as they have the nomination locked. This is especially true of Romney, who would chew off his own left arm to get the nomination.
Might this result in Paul bolting and forming a third party? One can only hope.
 
 
+10 # MidwestTom 2012-02-24 23:24
He probably could carry every college campus. The educated youth realize that the country cannot go on with business as usual. Paul also is the only anti-war candidate in either party, another thing that appeals to the younger crowd. If he were ten years younger he might actually be the chosen candidate, if not for 2012, then for 2016/. He can bring REAL CHANGE, something OBAMA has not done.
 
 
+2 # jimyoung 2012-02-25 00:44
Seems like they throw in piles of money anytime it seems one might get too big of a lead, making sure no one will have enough for a first ballot victory. That leaves the door open for them to throw in a ringer at the last moment.

Reminds me of the Republicans trying to install a ringer in the 2002 California Gubernatorial race. Though I'd left the party about the same time Elizabeth Warren did, I still had (and continue to have) friends that were die hard Republicans including former party officials. It was interesting to see that none of them could remember who the party had decided should run against Gray Davis after they had joined the Davis anti-Riordan ad fever, helping to eliminate a moderate Republican who would almost certainly defeated Davis. Worse yet, I'd throw out a few obviously wrong names as if I couldn't remember either, before throwing in Bill Simon. Only one recognized who the party had thrown into ring.

Then they got the bizarre rules recall going, almost tempting me to spend the $3,500 that would have let me claim a place in history as a candidate for Governor.

Watching Darrell Issa, who put up the 1st big bucks for the recall, tearfully withdraw as the party had apparently let him think he could be their candidate before throwing him under the Arnold Bus, brings mixed emotions. I felt a tiny bit of sympathy then, but none now as I saw his bizarre congressional hearings bias.
 
 
+4 # RMDC 2012-02-25 07:25
I would not look for any surprises at the Republican convention. All political conventions now are completely scripted in advance by party leaders. The convention is when the party actually takes over the race. Right now the republican race is a free for all. Anyone could get it and make a total ass out of himself -- Cain, Gingrich, Santorum, and the rest. It is clown show. But by the magic of televison and public relations one of these clowns will be turned into a serious candidate. All the really extreme views will disappear and we will have a serious challenger to Obama. Ron Paul will disappear in a puff of smoke.

If Paul wants to have an influence in national politics, he needs to go third party. If there were three parties in the race, the winner would need just 35% of the votes (electoral). That's about the base that Obama can expect. The vast middle of undecided voters who now determine elections would go third party and Paul just might win. He needs a really attractive VP candidate.
 
 
+1 # T4D 2012-02-25 10:23
Satisfactorily completed my 24th Precinct Caucus. I well remember the "bad-old-days" when actual Delegates to the National Convention were chosen in back rooms during the District and State Conventions (BOTH PARTIES).
It can get pretty confusing now when party hacks (like me) try to be both honest and transparent at the same time.
 
 
+2 # infohiway 2012-02-25 10:48
XLNT!
A REALIST IN POLITICS!
AMAZING!
 
 
+5 # Mohanraj 2012-02-25 15:39
Ron Paul is the only sensible and realistic leader in the country. It is understandable the corporate media, both print and electronic, ignore him. They support only those who would carry out their hidden agends. That his meetings are mostly dominated by the youth is a heslthy sign which shows the future of this country is safe.
MVM
 

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