We’re Only 11 Weeks into a 9 Month Primary Cycle
I know, it feels like these primaries have gone on forever, but you know what – it’s only been 11 weeks since the first in the nation caucus. I stood before three precincts in Iowa on a Tuesday night just 11 weeks ago and spoke about Ron Paul. I said some good things. Lots of people said good things about all kinds of candidates. One woman even cried as she spoke about Santorum. One man stood up and said something bad about most of the candidates. He cited lots of statistics and spoke as if he were some kind of expert on how Romney was the only electable option.
That was on January 3, 2012, before anyone in the United States had cast a ballot, even before any exit poll had been taken. Mitt Romney was nothing but a former governor who lost to the guy who lost to Barrack Obama. That doesn’t exactly scream electable.
And thirty minutes later straw poll results were tallied. Mitt Romney wasn’t really electable in that room. Ron Paul was – in all three precincts, in fact, he had the most votes in each of those three precincts (one was only a tie). It will be months before anyone will have a hunch about the all-important question “Who won Iowa?” After all, it’ll be the delegates selected at the Iowa State Republican Convention on June 16, 2012 who matter, not the results of the January 3 non-binding straw poll.
So, who won Iowa? The winner is the one who can control Iowa’s RNC delegation with his delegates, the one who the majority of the Iowa delegation is friendly to. That person is the one who will win Iowa. But the media loves an easy-to-cover horserace and the media reported differently. Lots of things can change between now and the August 27 start of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
This past week, we heard Newt Gingrich point out that we are precisely at half time. Only half the delegates have been apportioned. Those who read the last four paragraphs recognize that Gingrich’s statement isn’t really true. Half the delegates haven’t been apportioned. In such a hotly contested race, an honest person should wait until after state conventions are held before making such a statement. Not a single state convention has yet to be held - North Dakota, next weekend, will be the first. State conventions can turn the tables on much of what the media and GOP insiders tell us is binding.
This week we also heard the perennially astute, anti-machine journalist, John Kass of Chicago, point out that Gingrich and Santorum stayed in the race so that Romney would not have to feel the wrath of Ron Paul in a one-on-one debate and a one-on-one contest. He added some other pleasant barbs in an article about Romney’s inability to listen to Illinois voters on the topic of corruption:
There are two other pseudo-conservatives in the race who've done the GOP establishment's bidding by blocking U.S. Rep. Ron Paul from a one-on-one with Romney early on in the campaign. The establishment blocking backs are flawed beyond repair, but at least they listen to their audience.
The Two Contests Taking Place
From Iowa (January 3, 2012) to the first day of the RNC (August 27, 2012) is just one week short of 9 months. Right now we are 11 weeks into a 9 month election cycle. Soon states can become winner-take-all states. That doesn’t change an important fact however. As you might have heard from Sunday morning pundits, there are two races taking places, both of which are important. There is the narrative of electability and there is the delegate count.
One is the process by which the general voter says to himself “that guy has a chance.” The popular vote plays prominently in that. Win enough states, be the media sweetheart for long enough, and you will be the only electable option. Everyone will fall in line behind you. Most years that’s how it goes in the Republican Party. After a point in that process, dissent becomes disloyal. From that perspective a convention is not really a business meeting of a party, but more of a big rally for the nominee in which every mouth must voice support for that candidate or be silent.
The other part to the process, the delegate race, is a different story. Winning the narrative of electability sometimes makes the rest of the delegate process a lot easier. Most years there’s no need to even worry about the delegate process, since, like sheep, the delegates just sort of get bumped into the chute ahead of them and move troublelessly from precinct level all the way to the state and sometimes national conventions, never once questioning who they might support. Delegates like that will support the popular choice, of course. They’ll support the name that gets whispered to them down the whisper-chain on the floor of the convention.
This year’s a little different. Ron Paul’s around and he’s done his homework. He knows that the flash of the media can be overcome by the substance of the delegate process. March 10 in Nevada Ron Paul supporters proved that by just showing up to the Clark County Republican convention prepared. They just came and they dominated. They dominated the county convention where some 70% of Republican voters in the state live.
In Boone County, Missouri this weekend Ron Paul got 18% in a non-binding primary, but in the part of the election that matters in accumulating delegates – the caucus – 91% of the delegates that advanced to the next level were Ron Paul supporters. In King County, Washington delegates are chosen for the state convention in each state legislative district. One district had 100% of delegates chosen as Ron Paul supporters, another had 18 of the possible 20 delegates as Ron Paul supporters. There’s been lots of success in Washington, and Ron Paul’s proving himself a real standout in the delegate process. Ron Paul supporters are recognizing that if you learn the rules, show up, and follow the rules you greatly multiply your likelihood of winning.
I mention Ron Paul specifically, because he has a ground game. Ron Paul has hordes of supporters making phone calls, knocking on doors, circulating petitions. Mr. Romney too has a ground game, but tends to spend more effort and resources on things like big media advertising and robocalls through his campaign and related PACs.
Gingrich has no ground game to speak of, as can be demonstrated by his failure to get on the ballot in his own state of Virginia. Santorum was the odd man out in Illinois Tuesday, unable to get his delegates on ballots statewide. The reason being – Santorum also has a poor ground game. And that ground game is important in many aspects, and especially important in the delegate process in many states. Santorum, as a result of the media flash, was still able to pick up a few delegates. But, ultimately, he has no ground game – in Boone County, Missouri, where Santorum won 50% of the popular vote, he ended up with 0% of the delegates, Romney with 9%, and as you know already Ron Paul got 91%.
Roberts Rules of Order is how conventions are run. The RNC claims that its delegate process is set in stone, not so much. Much can be changed by state parties and the people who run those state parties. If enough people with a common opinion show up prepared, those people run their state parties.
As we roll through March, this increasingly becomes a race between Mitt Romney, who is winning the narrative of electability and Ron Paul who may very well be winning in the nomination process.
I won’t lie to you like the mainstream media does and tell you who the guaranteed nominee is. They’ve been doing that for at least a year. Names like Pawlenty, Gingrich, Perry, or Bachmann were the undeniable President-elect at certain times. The media sounded so certain one might doubt if it was even worth the time to bother voting for anybody other than those candidates. I see a clear path for Ron Paul to win that nomination. Mitt Romney too has a path.
Where I stand, the truth of the matter is no one knows who will win and in all likelihood, no one will know as we go into the RNC on August 27.
On the floor of that convention, almost nything goes and it’s up to the delegates to determine. The delegates are in charge. On the floor of many state conventions almost anything goes, and its up to you or me, or anyone else passionate about the future nominee to step forward and act.
11 weeks into this 9 months caucus process, it’s pretty unclear who the nominee might be and there’s lots of game left to play.
Allan Stevo is a writer from Chicago – author of the #1 Best Selling Book at LewRockwell.com for the month of February, the recently released How to Win America for Ron Paul and the Cause of Freedom in 2012, a book on how Ron Paul supporters can secure the GOP nomination and with certainty deliver a presidential win for Ron Paul in 2012.