If you think Rick Santorum won Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado, you’re wrong.
Let me explain: Santorum did win the caucus votes in all those states. But because none of those states have bound delegates, that means the state’s delegates to the national convention could theoretically vote for someone besides Santorum for the nomination, someone like say, Ron Paul, whose campaign is aggressively working to control as many state delegates as possible. In Minnesota, where Paul nabbed 27 percent of the caucus vote, the Paul campaign estimates that 75 percent of the current delegates are Paul supporters. In Colorado, where Paul got 12 percent of the vote, 50 percent of the delegates are Paul supporters. Now delegates face elimination rounds, so it’s unclear if the Paul campaign will be successful or not in maintaining these percentages. But the campaign is hoping to pull it off. From my piece today:
The campaign refuses to worry about backlash from the party if its plan succeeds, and Paul’s percentage of delegates at the convention is significantly higher than his percentage of votes.
“We think that’s the way a party should really pick its nominee,” [Paul national campaign chairman Jesse] Benton says. “We think that the activists that are most tuned in to the issues, most engaged in the process should be the ones selecting the nominee.”
It’s true that most states have bound delegates (or at least the vast majority of delegates are bound), so this strategy has limits. But if there is a brokered convention — which is not out of the realm of possibility this cycle — it will matter if most or a significant chunk of delegates are Paul supporters. And Benton proposed one other way Paul’s delegate domination could have an impact:
The campaign is also flirting with the possibility that “bound” delegates won’t ultimately be bound. “We would like to take a majority of the delegates and so if there is an unbinding after round one, or if there is a rule passed on the floor of the Republican National Convention to unbind the delegates, then the majority of the delegates [in a given state delegation] would be our supporters and we would control that delegation,” Benton remarks. He notes the campaign’s efforts in Nevada, where delegates are considered bound for the first round of votes: Paul came in third, winning 19 percent of the vote, but the campaign believes it currently controls 60 percent of the delegates. If by some chance those delegates became unbound (and the campaign managed to control 60 percent of the convention delegates), the convention-delegate vote would not mirror Nevada’s caucus vote.
The rules relating to delegate selection are arcane and confusing. But the Paul campaign has a considerable advantage here in that they both are very much aware of the rules, and are encouraging their supporters to know them and to embrace the process and become delegates.