Monday, May 7, 2012

Ron Paul wins Maine but nomination still a long shot

public domainRon Paul shook up the Republican Party over the weekend when he won a majority of delegates at the Maine Republican convention. Paul is mounting an insurgent strategy in caucus states where his supporters disregard the nonbinding results of straw polls and commandeer delegates in spite of the fact that their candidate has not been able to win a single election.

In spite of the apparent success of the strategy in several states including Maine, the Boston Herald reports that Paul’s delegates may not be a factor at the convention. The Romney campaign alleged that Paul supporters had committed rules violations and claimed that ballots were tampered with. Romney supporters are considering challenging the results with the Republican National Committee. Romney supporters who objected to alleged rules violations were overruled by convention chairman Brent Tweed, a Paul supporter.

The Herald quotes Maine state representative Jeffrey Timberlake as saying, “This thing is going to get thrown out. Nearly everything they did here was illegal.”

Paul supporters indicated that their legal team was ready to meet the legal challenge from Romney. Romney’s legal team includes Benjamin Ginsburg, who was also an attorney for George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount.

The big question is whether Ron Paul’s strategy of flooding the caucus states with supporters has a chance of succeeding. According to the Republican primary schedule on, 17 states and territories use the caucus system. These states and territories include Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Kansas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Marianna Islands, Hawaii, American Samoa, and Missouri. There are a total of 481 delegates available in these areas according to The Green Papers .

A total of 1,144 delegates are needed to nominate this year’s GOP candidate. Even if Ron Paul supporters were to secure the all of caucus state delegates, which they have been unable to do, Paul would still not receive enough delegates to secure the nomination.

There are no more caucus states left on the primary schedule. The remaining 14 states (Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Nebraska, Oregon, Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas, California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and Utah) are all primary states. Of these, only Utah and New Jersey are winner-take-all states according to The Center for Voting and Democracy. This means that Ron Paul does have the chance to pick up some additional delegates in the majority of states where delegates are awarded proportionally.

Thus far in the primary season, Mitt Romney has proved much more popular with voters than Ron Paul. Paul has not won a single election. According to results on Politico, his best showing has been the 40 percent of the vote that he carried in Virginia where only he and Romney were on the ballot. Mitt Romney has won the elections in 32 states and territories so far.

The picture may change slightly for the remaining primaries with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich out of the race. There are three primaries scheduled for this week: North Carolina, West Virginia, and Indiana. According to Real Clear Politics, Romney leads Paul by comfortable margins in all three states. In North Carolina, Romney is at 48 percent and Paul at 12 percent. Gingrich is in second place with 30 percent. In Indiana, Santorum and Romney are in a statistical tie at 27-26 percent respectively. Paul trails with six percent. In a West Virginia poll from October 2011, the latest available, Gingrich led Romney 18-16 percent, while Paul was at six percent.

The results of the remaining primaries depend on whether Santorum and Gingrich supporters will break for Romney or Paul. In any case, Paul faces an uphill battle. The remaining 14 primaries are worth a total of 770 delegates. The New York Times estimates that Ron Paul has 94 delegates so far. This means that he would have to win almost all of the caucus delegates as well as most of the remaining primary delegates to win the nomination. In contrast, Mitt Romney, with 856 delegates, needs only 288 plus however many caucus delegates he loses to Paul. Romney’s total also does not include voting at-will party leaders according to Yahoo. These party leaders are more likely to vote for Romney.

Paul’s likely strategy is to try to win enough delegates to deny Romney a victory on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention. Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein told Talking Points Memo, “Basically, if we ever get there [to a brokered convention], it’s up for grabs and we have no idea who the delegates will be loyal to. They may just be an individual case by case basis.”

An open question is how many Romney delegates might be closet Paul supporters that would reveal themselves when they are unbound after the first round of voting. The delegates committed to Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would also be added to the mix.

It is unlikely that Ron Paul will be able to force a brokered convention, but there is a slim chance. Despite his early success in the caucus states, the Romney campaign will undoubtedly be ready to fight for every delegate in subsequent caucus state conventions. Likewise, non-Paul Republicans in the remaining primary states are likely to be galvanized by what many may feel is an unfair strategy. Nevertheless, Paul will almost certainly amass enough delegates to rate a prominent slot at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.

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