Mitt Romney

Will Rule Change Fight Hurt the Republicans?

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Maine delegation.

If you have been following Reason.com's coverage of the Republican National Convention this week, you know that Tampa was the scene of a pretty ugly fight over the party's nominating process.

In a departure from a pattern going back to 2008, the struggle this time was not just between Ron Paul supporters and the party establishment. In Tampa, the party manhandled a wide range of grassroots activists, including social conservatives and harder-right members. 

For more about the struggle, click here, here, here, here and here. Although television coverage of the convention largely seems to have followed the GOP's preferred narrative, the story of the delegate fight did get picked up in mainstream newspapers. 

At FreedomWorks, Michael Duncan gives more detail on how the party leadership kiboshed dissent: 

To placate the grassroots, the establishment pushed a "compromise" on Rule 15, which conservative commentator Erick Erickson called a "red herring", and simply shifted even more unsettling changes into Rule 12. The Romney camp then launched a misdirection campaign to placate and confuse grassroots activists. 

The Romney camp even went as far as preemptively removing Rules Committee members and replacing them with Romney-appointed delegates, a move one can only imagine was done to secure passage of the rule changes. 

A grassroots insurrection against the changes led by Morton BlackwellFreedomWorksRush LimbaughMichelle MalkinRon Paul supporters and countless others, encouraged full Minority Reports on the Rules when the RNC convened to adopt the rules. 

This is where the establishment got even more brazen. When Speaker John Boehner asked for the "ayes" and "noes" on the adoption of the rules, the "noes" were at the very least just as loud as the "ayes", and yet in the opinion of Speaker Boehner the "ayes" had it. Gavel. 

Judge for yourself whether the ayes really had it:

Grassroots activists have objected that the rule changes are tyrannical and likely to corrupt the process. (I am agnostic on internal party governance, and I don't know that it's necessarily wrong to require delegates to vote in a way that reflects how voters actually cast their ballots.) But the decision to centralize decision-making in a party establishment headed (for now) by Mitt Romney could have more important consequences in November, by further cooling the already lukewarm popular support Romney has.

For many reasons, Romney is viewed with great suspicion by a broad cross-section of the GOP base, including fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and above all the mass of Americans who have risen up in revulsion at Obamacare's individual mandate (which Romney pioneered as governor of Massachusetts). 

Romney's popular vote tallies throughout the primary campaign do not suggest that he has substantially improved on his ability to bring voters out to the polls since 2008 (when he was defeated in the primary by John McCain, who went on to lose to Barack Obama). This is one of the reasons I believe Obama will ultimately win in November, despite a first term that has been stunning in its failures and even more disastrous in its successes. 

Romney and the party leadership did not alienate grassroots activists unintentionally. In many cases they appear  to have gone out of their way to antagonize dissenters. This may have been an easy decision to make when the grassroots consisted only of Paul supporters (whom many Republicans would like to see leave the party anyway). It's another thing when you piss off the lineup of pundits and conservative stalwarts Duncan names above. It's also unnecessary: Despite the claims of many Paul diehards, there was no scenario under which Romney was not going to get the nomination. 

The GOP is fabled for its party discipline, embodied in Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment. But Republicans can still weaken their candidate without speaking ill of him. They can decide not to work for him, not to show any enthusiasm for him among their undecided friends and family members, and not to bother voting at all. Obama, the former community organizer, showed in 2008 that he had the ability to motivate loyalists to get out to the polls, and its unlikely that skill (which is even more important in an election that is expected to get a mediocre turnout) has deserted him completely.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, just doesn't excite people. You can win an election without exciting people, especially against an incumbent whose four-year tenure has been so miserable for so many. But it's hard to see how producing a new cohort of disgruntled Republicans will help Romney get past his natural limitations as a politican. 

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  1. They ayes had it before the establishment Republican even asked the question. And all those voices against the rules changes – Limbaugh, Malkin, the ones with an audience – are about to fall lockstep behind Mitt Romney.

    No, the changes won’t even itch.

    1. I’m with you on this, which sickens me, but there you have it. Once the candidate is decided, almost all the dissenters will go full steam ahead TEAM RED because…that’s what they do.

      “Don’t tell me how to do it…it sickens me.”

      1. Limbaugh et al get to criticize their own candidate. Failing to do so would be even more teamish than endorsing someone whose behavior you don’t always like.

    2. Limbaugh, Malkin, the ones with an audience – are about to fall lockstep behind Mitt Romney.

      Considering that they JUST criticized the campaign and the RNC for the rules changes, that is absolutely the opposite of what’s actually happening.

      1. I don’t see how that precludes them from forgetting all of this in a week or so. Maybe it won’t happen. Let’s be optimistic.

  2. The Richard Gilbert lawsuit lives on, albeit twice amended. One of the arguments is that coercing delegates to vote a certain way violates the Voting Rights Act. Gilbert seems very chipper about its prospects given what he’s tweeted today.

    1. Here’s the pdf of the complaint. I was glad to see Matt Papke, Phoenix Ron Paul activist, right at the top of the plaintiffs list.

  3. Wait, so the “nominee” can veto any delegate or alternate and force the state to have a new delegate election.

    But I’m confused – I thought the delegates chose who the nominee is supposed to be?

    And I notice that Michelle Malkin and Ron Paul supporters are on the same side of an issue, indicating that the issue is kind of important, or else the Apocalypse has arrived.

    1. It’s like the presumptive president elect dissolving the electoral college so that he may be coronated by popular acclaim. Don’t worry, though. I was assured by a Romney-supporting friend, that this was simply a case of RonPaulers being immature since the actual voting doesn’t matter. Or something.

      1. But it’s Malkin, too, and others who don’t give a rip for Paul. Basically, the grassroots people are objecting, and the establishment lewinskys are pushing it.

        1. Absolutely, but Paul hatred is blinding the establishmentarians at this point. They’re furious that Princess Romney didn’t get the coronation she always dreamed of. Had there been any further humiliation — say a bucket of pigs’ blood — Romney would have telepathically sealed the doors and burned all of the delegates alive. You’ve seen those crazy eyes. You know he could do it.

    2. That point bears repeating for the slower Establishment types:

      The delegates choose the nominee.

      The nominee does NOT choose the delegates.

    3. The way I read it, it said that a candidate can replace delegates who are supposed to committed to vote for him or her. So if Romney has 20 delegates committed from a state with 30 delegates, he can replace only the 20 who are committed to him.

  4. This happens every time Nixon goes to Florida for a convention.

  5. I always thought that if the chair ruled incorrectly, or controversially, on a voice vote, that a motion could be made for an actual vote, and it would have to be taken if seconded. Not the case?

    1. I looked it up in Robert’s Rules of Order. Supposedly anyone can call for a division, and it doesn’t need a second and it’s not debatable, and a vote is taken by standing.

  6. Unfortunately my business is tasked with raising money for the RNC and I can guarantee you it has hurt the willingness of people to donate since the minute the media started talking about it. Granted it will soon be forgotten but it has had a very immediate impact and has been the biggest complaint on the phones since it happened.

    1. Your job sounds like a blast.

  7. Why not have the pledged delegates’ votes be automatically counted for whoever they’re pledged for, while leaving them free to vote their consciences on the platform, the VP and the rules? If they’re really worried about delegates violating their pledges (of which I saw no real evidence), then this would be better than letting the establishment rather than the voters select the delegates.

  8. a first term that has been stunning in its failures and even more disastrous in its successes

    This is such a great line. If they give out Pulitzers for individual sentences, you should totally win one.

  9. Will it hurt them? It won’t gain them a single vote and it will certainly cause some of the people they rebuffed to not vote for Romney. The only question is whether the effect will be significant.

  10. “Of course we have a level playing field. We just reserve the right to move the goalposts”.

  11. “Will Rule Change Fight Hurt the Republicans?”

    No. As I said before, the Paul supporters’ walkout means one less group of kooks for the Democrats and media to hang around the GOP’s neck.

    1. Until, of course, milk hits $48 a gallon, at which point Ron Paul will be recognized for the visionary genius that he is, and no one will ever admit that he used to call Ron Paul a “kook”.

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