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|Muddy GOP Presidential Picture Keeps Iowa Delegates in Play|
|Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics|
|Written by Lynn Campbell|
|Tuesday, 06 March 2012 14:44|
Iowa’s influence in choosing presidential nominees generally diminishes after its first-in-the-nation caucuses. But this year could be different because of the lack of finality in choosing who the Republican nominee will be.
“I think we’re in a different election cycle than we’ve ever seen before,” said Republican National Committee member Kim Lehman of Johnston. “Historically, the nominee has already been chosen [by this stage in the process]. Clearly, we don’t have a chosen nominee yet. That goes back to a trend that’s happening where people are not allowing the political gurus to make the decision for the grassroots voters.”
People in 10 states are casting their votes today – Super Tuesday, with 419 delegates up for grabs. But with the perceived GOP front-runner changing multiple times so far, political analysts don’t expect Super Tuesday to clarify the GOP-nominee contest much.
“The race is far from over nationwide,” said Steve Roberts, a former chair of the Republican Party of Iowa and a member of the Republican National Committee.
Four days after Super Tuesday, Iowa Republicans will gather for county conventions. They will vote Saturday on platforms and choose delegates who will go on to the April 21 district conventions and the June 16 state convention.
Iowa’s selection in June of its 28 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Florida, could be key because the January 3 caucuses were non-binding. That means Iowa delegates aren’t required to vote for former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, even though he won the caucuses with 34 more votes than former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
“The delegate process, this time, is taking on a little bit more focus,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leader – a not-for-profit that fights gay marriage and abortion. “There’s no doubt that this is where it starts. ... You want your people to get involved in these conventions at the county level.”
Drew Ivers, a member of the Republican State Central Committee and Texas U.S. Representative Ron Paul’s Iowa campaign manager, encouraged people new to politics to get involved and attend this weekend’s county conventions. Paul finished third in the Iowa caucuses. Ivers predicted that Paul will stay in the race until the end.
“Ron Paul’s interested in getting as many supporters as possible to head to Tampa and would be open to the possibility of people supporting him,” Ivers said. “To get delegates, each candidate wants to have their supporters go to the county convention.”
The Family Leader recently sent a letter to Republican chairs in Iowa’s 99 counties, urging its conservative base to keep marriage and other social-conservative issues a focus at the upcoming conventions.
The hope by Vander Plaats, whose endorsement of Santorum on December 20 might have helped propel him to victory in the Iowa caucuses, is that Republicans ultimately will have a “brokered convention.” That means there aren’t enough delegates earned during the presidential-primary and -caucus process for a single candidate to have a pre-existing majority. (A candidate needs 1,144 of a potential 2,286 delegates to seal the nomination.)
“With the likelihood that it could go to a brokered convention, it would only be a benefit to have pro-family conservatives be delegates at that national convention,” Vander Plaats said. “I think it behooves all states at all levels to take the delegate process very, very seriously. This might not be coronation.”
Roberts said this year could be a repeat of 1976, when the nominee wasn’t determined until the Republican National Convention in Kansas City. That year, incumbent President Gerald Ford won the nomination with just 117 delegates more than former California Governor Ronald Reagan – 1,187 to 1,070. Ford went on to lose the presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.
But Republican National Committee member Steve Scheffler of West Des Moines said he believes Republicans will decide their nominee before the national convention, which will be held August 27 through 30.
“I just don’t think it’s going to be a brokered convention. I would be shocked if it is,” said Scheffler, who’s also president of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition – a not-for-profit Christian conservative group. “I think if you get to the convention and you’ve got somebody 150 delegates short, and the other one is 500 to 700 votes short, you may see people start gravitating to the person who’s closest to the top because they don’t want to see a lot of drama on the national-convention floor.”
Ivers said he’s waiting to see what happens on Super Tuesday. He said that should give the nation a better idea of how viable each candidate is, whether Santorum will pass Romney, and whether former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich will drop out. He also noted that Iowa’s 28 delegates are a pretty small portion of the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination.
“As the process continues and if Romney continues momentum in Super Tuesday, then the impact of Iowa’s 28 becomes smaller and smaller as the total gets bigger and as the larger states approach – Texas, New York, California,” Ivers said. “By the time August 27 comes around, it’s very likely there will not be a brokered convention. ... The count will speak for itself.”
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