Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ron Paul’s strategy: Poach candidates from caucus winners

Ron Paul hasn’t won a single primary or caucus in Republican primary, but Rachel Maddow of MSNBC notes that Paul seem “both happy and like he has something up his sleeve.” In an interview with Paul’s senior campaign advisor, Doug Wead, Maddow explains the reason behind Ron Paul’s giddiness.

Essentially, Ron Paul’s strategy centers on the fact that votes in caucus states are not binding. After the votes are cast at the caucus, many of the voters go home before delegates are actually chosen for the state convention. Ron Paul supporters are apparently staying behind to make sure that delegates who support Ron Paul are chosen regardless of the results of the vote. This isn’t how the process is supposed to work, but it isn’t illegal either.

Maddow cites one Larimer County, Co. precinct as an example of the strategy in action. In the precinct, Rick Santorum won the straw poll with 23 percent of the vote. Ron Paul finished second with 13 percent. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich received five and two percent of the vote respectively. However Ron Paul supporters were awarded all 13 delegate slots for the precinct in spite of the fact that he lost the vote. Wead told Maddow that the Paul campaign is tracking delegates at the precinct level and believes that it has won Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado and Nevada in this manner; all caucus states where Ron Paul has lost the popular vote.

Georgia does not use the caucus system. Its 124 delegates will be distributed proportionally among the winners of the March 6 primary election.

Paul’s delegate strategy is roughly analogous to usurping the Electoral College in the presidential election. Voters actually vote for electors, who then cast their vote for president in the Electoral College. Although the electors almost always vote to reflect the will of the people of their state, they are not legally bound to do so. The strategy raises concerns that are also reminiscent of the super-delegate controversy from the Democratic primary of 2008.

The Paul campaign is open about the delegate strategy. Wead openly acknowledges what Paul supporters are doing. Wead tells Maddow, “There is nothing wrong or deceptive about this. Anybody can stay. Woody Allen says 80 percent of success is showing up. Well, our people show up and they have a right to do that and they are committed.”

An article on by Todd King, Paul’s New Mexico state leader, explains the process in detail. King describes how the goal of the Paul campaign is to get enough Paul supporters to the precinct caucuses to win there, then take control of the county and state caucuses in turn. He writes, “Gaming the system is easy for anyone who seriously wants to.”

According to King, the goal is make Ron Paul the party nominee because “typical boobus-americanus [sic] does not think for himself, and accepts the party nominee.” According to this line of reasoning, “If Ron Paul gets the party nomination, then he gets top line on the ballot during the primaries, and is almost assured a win” at the convention.

Nevertheless, although Paul may be winning delegates in spite of the will of the people, he is not winning primaries. It is highly unlikely that Paul’s supporters will be able to use their sneak attack to win enough delegates to secure the nomination, especially as supporters of other candidates become aware of what is happening.

Wead raises the possibility of a contested convention in which no candidate receives enough delegates to secure the nomination on the first ballot. Although Wead concedes that the possibility of a contested convention is remote, he points out that while some delegates might support other candidates, “Ron Paul delegates are not going to go, even if they are offered Secretary of State….” Wead hints that even if Ron Paul is not the final nominee, his delegates might be traded in exchange for “many things we want. We would like to see the Federal Reserve audited for example….” If Paul cannot win the nomination, his campaign is positioning itself to play kingmaker, most likely favoring Santorum or Gingrich over Romney.

The end result of Paul’s gambit is questionable. It is highly unlikely that most Republicans will look favorably on such questionable tactics from a man who did not endorse the Republican candidate in 2008. While Paul’s tactics are not illegal, they clearly flout the will of the people and are not likely to win Paul any friends within the Republican Party. This raises the question of how effectively he would be able to govern if he did win the nomination and the presidency.

Originally published on

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