Ron Paul captured delegates in Maine and saw his own people become delegates in Nevada. This complicates matters for Mitt Romney. Those delegates might, or might not, simply abstain on the first ballot and force a second ballot. And even if they don’t, Mitt Romney cannot afford to make Ron Paul or his supporters angry with him.
Ron Paul wins Nevada and Maine
Last weekend, Ron Paul captured most of the delegates at the State convention. His supporters knew the rules; most others did not. The Ron Paul delegate strategy has always been to force Republican Party regulars to follow their own rules.
The national Party seemed ready to break those rules in Nevada. Last week, the lead counsel for the RNC sent a threatening letter to the Nevada Republican chairman. His message: let Mitt Romney “vet” delegates “bound” to him, or else. Nevada Republicans chose “else.” Twenty-two of the twenty-eight delegates they chose are loyal to Ron Paul. (From the Associated Press.) Twenty of them must vote for Mitt Romney on the first ballot. But if Mitt Romney does not win on that ballot, those delegates may vote for whom they please.
Charges of “dirty tricks” are rife from Nevada. Joel McDurmon at American Vision News sums up. He embeds a video with interviews from witnesses who tell an interesting story:
Here you can see one of the people who was allegedly passing out the fake slate being escorted out by the sergeant-at-arms.
Ron Paul supporters realized the rules weren’t being upheld, and more than 400 delegates [Romney supporters] were registered after the 9 am deadline.
Republican leaders admitted they had miscalculated the preliminary delegate totals.
The tricks didn’t seem to work.
Ron Paul looks ahead
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX-14). Photo: US House of Representatives
Ron Paul has 94 delegates; Mitt Romney has about 856. Mainstream reporters still expect Mitt Romney to have the 1,144 delegates he needs to win on the first ballot. But Ron Paul will not stop. He expects to capture more delegates in Washington State. Remarkably, the regular Washington Republican chairman welcomes the idea.
I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t, I don’t want to have a boring convention.
Yet Tierney Sneed of US News and World Report suggested that Ron Paul should drop out of the race. Commenters on that page vociferously disagreed. At last report, voters in the poll overwhelmingly voted “No!”
Minnesota, Louisiana, Missouri, and Iowa must still hold their State conventions. Ron Paul already has good positions in all four States.
Ron Paul at the convention
Almost certainly, Ron Paul will win the right to have someone nominate him for the top of the ticket. The rules say that any candidate with pluralities of delegates in 5 or more States has that right.
The question now is: what can Ron Paul do next? Only two candidates will have people introducing them: Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have both suspended their campaigns. Whether that’s the same as withdrawing and releasing their delegates, the rules do not make clear. Rick Santorum seems to have given his delegates to Mitt Romney. But Newt Gingrich has not made that clear yet.
Can Ron Paul supporting delegates, though bound to vote for Mitt Romney, vote for Ron Paul anyway? Not on the first ballot; the rules won’t let them. Can they abstain from voting on the first ballot? That also depends on whom you ask. Even the Ron Paul campaign does not seem to know. At best, State Party rules govern that. Some States let delegates abstain. Most don’t.
But those rules say nothing about how delegates must vote during the platform debate. More to the point, Mitt Romney knows that he cannot anger either the delegates or the people they represent. So he probably will not contest any delegate slots, as the RNC lawyer said he might. Instead he will try to negotiate with Ron Paul; with what result, none can say.