Later this week, a 17-member committee that has been tasked to evaluate and make recommendations on how Republicans can improve its presidential caucuses will meet in Ankeny. The formation of the committee was wise. The recommendations that ensue will be helpful. The only problem is that Iowa Republicans might not be finished tarnishing the caucuses.
One hundred and eleven days have passed since the January 3rd caucuses were held and Mitt Romney was declared the winner. Ninety-six days have passed since the Republican Party of Iowa announced that Rick Santorum, not Mitt Romney actually won the First-in-the-Nation caucuses. If Saturday’s district conventions are any indication, in 54-days the Republican Party of Iowa will announce that Ron Paul, the third place finisher in the caucuses, will emerge with a majority of the delegates selected to go to the Republican national convention in Tampa.
As unthinkable as it seems, Iowa Republicans are on course to declare three different candidates the winner of the 2012 caucuses. Ironically, the candidate who actually won the contest, Rick Santorum, will have received the least for his effort here as Mitt Romney received all the attention and hype from being declared the winner on caucus night, and Ron Paul is likely to get the most delegates.
If the quirky situation wasn’t bad enough, the leadership of the Republican Party of Iowa, Chairman A.J. Spiker, National Committeewoman Kim Lehman, and National Committeeman Steve Scheffler seem unfazed by the ramifications of such a result, or worse yet, unaware of the consequences that the current state of affairs will have on the future of the caucuses.
Iowa’s three representatives on the Republican National Committee are charged with an important responsibility in addition to serving on the committee. Job number one when you represent Iowa is to maintain and protect the state’s First-in-the-Nation status. Fulfilling this duty requires more than just attending RNC meetings, it also requires the foresight to identify potential threats to the caucuses so that necessary steps can be taken in advance to thwart any such threats that may come Iowa’s way. Sadly, all three of them seem oblivious to what is about to happen.
The lack of foresight by Iowa’s three RNC members was on display at last week’s RNC meetings in Arizona. While Lehman and Scheffler insist that they were not looking to cause a scene when they and Chairman Spiker refused to pledge their support for Mitt Romney at the national convention, the ordeal was well documented by CNN’s Peter Hamby and was quickly picked up by the national media outlets.
Scheffler and Lehman insist that they were unaware of the requirement to pledge their support to Romney in order to attend the photo reception with Romney. Had they known it was a requirement, both told TheIowaRepublican.com that they wouldn’t have tried to attend the event. Even though they meant no harm, the reality of the matter is that the incident once again paints Iowa Republicans in a bad light.
While it seems a little obnoxious for the Romney campaign to issue a loyalty pledge as a condition to attend a reception for RNC members, Iowa’s RNC members should have either avoided putting themselves in that situation or tried to defuse the situational quietly instead of making the remarks that were made in front of a reporter.
Even though the Romney loyalty pledge is a little over the top considering he will ultimately become the Republican nominee, it did allow the Romney campaign to identify states that would be problematic at this summer’s convention. The Iowa delegation’s actions only confirmed the Romney campaign’s fears. Iowa is going to be a major headache.
If the commotion caused by the Iowa delegation wasn’t bad enough, the results from Saturday’s Republican district conventions in Iowa indicate that things are about to go from bad to worse in regards to the relationship between the Iowa GOP and the RNC/Romney campaign.
Even before Saturday’s district conventions, Ron Paul supporters had a large influence on the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee. The committee already consisted of five Paul loyalists, but four others joined them in electing A.J. Spiker, a paid Paul organizer and member of the State Central Committee, as Chairman following Matt Strawn’s resignation.
On Saturday, the Paul allies saw their support within the committee go from being a large presence to an all out stranglehold. The new committee consists of only four incumbents, David Chung, Wes Enos, Tim Moran, and Gopal Krishna. Joining them are six declared supporters of Ron Paul, and one who is sympathetic and supported by Paul when he ran for the state legislature in 2010. That puts the number of Paul supporters on the committee to seven votes, plus the chairman who votes to break ties.
In terms of hardcore Paul supporters, there has only been an increase of two members over the five that the committee previously had. Yet, when you consider that both Lehman and Scheffler, who are up for re-election at the state convention in June, and Enos and Krishna voted to elect Spiker chairman back in February, it becomes clear the influence that the Paul supporters have within the committee is more than just significant. All told, it is safe to say the Paul support on the committee stands at nine on the low end and around 12 or 13 at the high end in the committee of 18. Even if some of the less ardent Paul supporters broke ranks, the Chairman votes to break ties.
The results of the SCC elections end up being problematic for the future of the caucuses for a couple of reasons. First, with the Republican Party of Iowa now being governed by Paul supporters, the Romney campaign and the RNC may get creative in how they allocate funds to the state.
Typically the RNC allocates funds, staff, and equipment to state parties for voter contact purposes, which is the main function of a state party in the general election. However, if the RNC and/or the Romney campaign don’t feel like those funds would be utilized as they intend, they may be forced to either write off the state or find another entity, in this case a county GOP organization, to which they could allocate those funds to in an effort to circumvent the start party.
It would not come as a surprise if the RNC/Romney campaign would decide to have counties like Scott and Dallas run the victory programs instead of the state party because both counties are well run and have competent leadership that both the RNC and Romney campaign would trust. If that ultimately happens, it will be an embarrassing blow to the Iowa GOP, its leaders, and ultimately the caucuses because of the bad message it sends about the Republican Party of Iowa.
Secondly, if the results of the SCC are any indication, it seems very likely that Ron Paul will get a majority of the delegates to the national convention from Iowa. Paul needs a majority of the delegates in just five states to allow his supporters to vote for him on the first ballot at the national convention. Iowa is a key cog in the Paul plan, and if Iowa votes for Paul who finished third place in the caucuses, it will not only be embarrassing for Romney, but could be costly for the future of the caucuses.
The Iowa Republican Party leaders, especially Lehman, Scheffler, and Spiker, need to be working to ensure that Iowa is not embarrassed by having a third person lay claim to victory in Iowa due to a delegate count that does not reflect the caucus outcome. Even if Paul is able to break the threshold so that his supporters can vote for him on the first ballot, there is no conceivable way that he is going to become the Republican nominee. So one has to wonder why some in the current GOP leadership are willing to jeopardize Iowa’s already weak grasp on its First-in-the-Nation status for a candidate who has not won a single state in the primary.
Maybe before the Caucus Review Committee begins its work on Thursday, they should take action to avoid what seems like ensuing disaster that will dwarf the problems we experienced with the caucuses. Those on the committee need to put aside any personal preference or animosity towards a candidate and do what’s best for the caucuses. That is what they are entrusted to do.
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
- Voter Guide: GOP State Central Committee Candidates (theiowarepublican.com)
- Paul’s Zeal For Delegates Could Cost Iowa the Caucuses (theiowarepublican.com)