Skip to comments.RNC neutrality challenged on Romney
Posted on 04/06/2012 2:08:05 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
The Republican National Committee was supposed to play the part of umpire in the GOP presidential primary, but some Republicans are grumbling that the committee wasnt just calling balls and strikes.
Critics, including supporters of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich and even neutral Republicans, argue that the national party took steps that helped tilt the contest toward Mitt Romney an allegation that the RNC rejects but is taking very seriously.
The list of specific grievances ranges from issues that even the party acknowledges are legitimate, to those that they dismiss as desperate fixations from Romneys flailing rivals.
For example, the committee agrees that some states that went for Romney jumped the line in the primary schedule, a violation of party rules. But RNC defenders shrug off other complaints, like that they undercut Santorum and Gingrich by formatting a delegate tracking list to pad Romneys tally, by forming a fundraising alliance this week with Romney and by highlighting a rule that would block an unlikely path to the nomination for Gingrich.
And its possible theyll be other clashes in the coming weeks, with the RNC signaling Thursday its opposition to a push by Santorum backers in Texas to alter the rules surrounding that states May 29 primary to help the former Pennsylvania Senator.
Critics of the RNCs handling of the primary are so sensitive to signs that the committee may be pulling for Romney that theyve even detected evidence of favoritism in the staff ties between his campaign and the RNC though some concede such speculation veers more toward conspiracy theory than legitimate concern.
Still, taken together, the perception that the primary wasnt a fair fight could damage the Partys standing with the big donors and grassroots activists it needs to rally this fall to defeat President Barack Obama. And if Obama wins reelection, that angst could create problems for the RNC and particularly for its chairman, Reince Priebus.
The chatter is that the fix is in, and thats created a great deal of consternation, said Michael Steele, Priebuss predecessor as RNC chairman.
Steele said hes been approached very quietly by about ten of the RNCs elected members expressed misgivings about the influence that the Romney campaign seems to have in dictating the terms of what the RNC is going to do and how it is going to follow the rules.
A source with a rival GOP campaign said supportive RNC members have raised concerns about a pro-Romney bias within the committees full-time leadership, and suggested they were dissatisfied with Priebuss stewardship.
The RNC defended its neutrality in the race, with spokesman Sean Spicer explaining we followed the rules exactly as laid out and questioning Steeles credibility to comment on RNC affairs given the state of disaster Mr. Steele left the RNC in.
The handful of 168 members interviewed for this story all rejected the idea that there was a concerted effort to favor Romney and one even emailed the next day after talking with Spicer to more assertively defend the RNC.
However, some did acknowledge that individual RNC moves seemed to benefit Romney, conceding that those decisions could be fueling the perception that the national Party had its thumb on the scale.
I would like to discourage the public from believing that theres been monkey business going on thats giving Mitt Romney any kind of an advantage, said Phyllis Woods, an RNC committeewoman from New Hampshire. Woods, who didnt endorse in her states first-in-the-nation primary, said shes concerned that there may be some perception that the RNC or maybe even some state parties anoint candidates.
But she asserted thats not the RNCs fault. Its just part of the culture right now that there is a mistrust of the establishment.
That mistrust is justified, said supporters of Santorum and Gingrich. They complain that the RNCs interpretation of rules padded Romneys delegate lead and could stymie Gingrichs attempt to compete in a brokered convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer the increasingly far-fetched scenario that the former House Speaker contends is his route to the nomination.
Its probably not coincidence that both interpretations favor Romney, asserted former Pennsylvania congressman Bob Walker, a top Gingrich campaign advisor. But the fact is that weve known all the way along in our campaign that we are faced with an establishment that has made their decision.
Gingrichs allies lashed at Priebus late last month after he suggested in an interview on MSNBCs Daily Rundown that an important rule of the RNC could bar Gingrich from having his name presented as a candidate at the convention.
The rule states that candidates have to demonstrate the support of a plurality of the delegates from five or more states prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination.
Priebus explained when these candidates are adding up their delegates they had better make sure they at least have a plurality of five states to make these things happen.
Gingrich both at the time and still has won only two states primaries, but his supporters contend that he could cobble together pluralities of delegates even without winning additional contests by wooing uncommitted delegates from states that have already voted.
When Priebus cited the rule in the context of Gingrichs campaign, it was disturbing to me, and I think hes wrong about it, said Rick Tyler, a former close Gingrich aide now running a super PAC devoted to the former House Speaker. The super PAC, Winning Our Future, is doing some things on the delegate front, Tyler said, asserting Priebus failed to take into account Gingrichs efforts to court uncommitted delegates. Were one delegate behind in Mississippi. You dont think we can get one delegate to say theyll support Newt?
The Gingrich and Santorum campaigns found common cause in challenging the RNCs handling of the allocation of delegates from Arizona and Florida both of which violated party rules by holding their primaries before this month.
The rules which were approved during Steeles tenure in an effort to extend the primary to give voters in more states a chance to weigh in stipulate that states that hold nominating contests prior to April 1 are required to allocate their delegates proportionally. But Arizona and Florida approved plans allocating all their delegates to the winner of their primaries and, in both cases, that ended up being Romney.
While the campaigns have indicated they intend to challenge the winner-take-all delegate allocations at the convention, the RNCs delegate tracking list continues to count all 29 delegates from Arizona and all 50 from Florida in Romneys column.
The tracker indicates its numbers do not reflect any potential delegate disputes.
But it nonetheless gives a bloated view of how many [Romney] has, said Tim LeFever, an influential conservative activist and top fundraiser for Santorum.
The RNCs response to such complaints that they can be addressed through a formal challenge before the conventions rules committee doesnt satisfy Santorum supporters, said LeFever, asserting that the RNC has flouted the spirit of the Steele rule changes to extend the primary. Theyre saying you can still vote but its not going to make much of a difference because theyve been pushing everybody to have this race over before it even gets to your doorstep, said LeFever, who lives in California, which holds its primary June 5. In my mind, its disenfranchisement.
Even John Ryder, a national committeeman from Tennessee who helped write the new rules, said if I were issuing delegate counts either as a member of the media or as a member of the RNC press office, I might put an asterisks next to the delegates from Florida and Arizona. After talking to RNC spokesman Spicer, though, Ryder emailed back to explain that he was satisfied by the RNCs disclaimer about how disputes could impact delegate tallies.
But Kim Lehman, an RNC committee member from Iowa who supports Santorum, noted that the RNC delegate tracker is not even including states like Iowa that Santorum won because theyre unbound.
Nonetheless, both Ryder and Lehman praised Priebus for trying to accommodate supporters of all the candidates even as the primary process grew contentious.
Im not saying that everyone is happy, said Lehman. Im just saying that the way that things have been conducted have been fair.
The committee has been diligent about both treating the campaigns equally and following its rules, said Spicer. Those rules gave it little flexibility in how it handled the Florida and Arizona violations, Spicer said, explaining the RNC enacted every punishment available to the RNC under the rules and have made everyone aware of how further action can be taken if it was so desired.
He cast the dustup over the five-state rule that could bar Gingrich as an effort by Priebus to clarify the rule in response to a question about Gingrichs strategy, asserting Im not sure how reading the rule that is on a website advantages any one candidate.
News this week about the Romney campaign taking up an RNC offer to form a joint fundraising committee, which was presented as a sign that the Party was coalescing around Romney, was much ado about nothing, Spicer said.
He explained that the presidential campaigns of Santorum, Gingrich and even Texas Rep. Ron Paul had been offered similar joint fundraising arrangements during a conference call several weeks ago, and said three campaigns have expressed interest in doing this.
After being contacted by Spicer about this story and asked to respond to grumbling about the joint fundraising arrangement, Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond called POLITICO to say we did get approached a couple months ago about that. And if our campaign was at a different point, we might have taken advantage of that. Hammond said Gingrich doesnt intend to participate in a joint committee, but he added that generally Reince has been very good to Newt and has been fair.
But Tyler called the joint committee offer to Gingrich, Santorum and Paul too cute by half because Romney is the only person who can afford to do something like that. Tyler said the deal has all the imprinteur of the fix is in and predicted if Newt Gingrich were to win the nomination, I think the RNC would get cleaned out.
Tyler and other Gingrich and Santorum backers cited the staff ties between the RNC and Team Romney, such as RNC outside counsel Tom Josefiak, who serves as the top lawyer for a super PAC run by a pro-Romney operative, and Romney general counsel Ben Ginsberg, who worked for the RNC for years.
Team Romney has an advantage with someone like Ginsberg, who has been around the RNC for a long time and understands the rules and can make them sound like anything they want, said Tyler.
Then theres Rich Beeson, Romneys political director. He worked as the RNC political director and is a partner in a political data firm co-founded by RNC political director Jeff Larson.
An operative for one of Romneys GOP rivals said I know this sounds like Watergate conspiracy theory stuff, but it is all connected. Its the same sort of establishment crowd who all have concluded that we need Mitt Romney to be the nominee to beat Barack Obama.
The operative, who was not authorized to discuss the race, has worked at high levels of GOP politics, but said It has been eye opening to see up close the degree to which the establishment does put its thumb on the scale.
I saw it in the first televised debates - all 'pre-arranged', all talking points, all lies - deliberately to bring out this outcome. Yes, their 'thumb' was obvious - I know mitt's and the GOP E fingerprints.
The far left elites have taken control of both political parties.
Amy, who is 31 years old and single, supports Newt Gingrich for president. She says, Newts the only one whos a fighter, and who gets what the battles about. She added, Im tired of buying into the candidates Im told to support. I am trusting myself on this one, not the GOPs pick.
The basis for her support included her opinion that Newt has a strong core. When asked to follow up on this point, she said, Hell withstand opposition. And then she said, His strong core makes me feel secure. She also explained that he doesnt care what others think. She says shes looking for a person strong enough to fix what she sees as a fiscal crisis and a loss of confidence in America.
Amy said that another reason she supports Gingrich is that hes smart. This led her to say, Hell expose the other side, and I feel validated when he articulates the positions she feels strongly about.”....
Who has been laboring under the delusion that the RNC is neutral? Certainly no one in these parts.
She was brought up right. She can see right through the BS.
His strong core makes me feel secure.
That's the same way I felt with Reagan. I remember it to this day!
Im tired of buying into the candidates Im told to support. I am trusting myself on this one, not the GOPs pick.
. . .
And she’s only 31 with a couple presidential cycles under her belt.
I honestly cannot believe that we’re looking at Romney as the likely GOP nominee. Seriously? How far we’ve fallen!
Coronated? Are there no editors left?
We stayed level with 1996.
Bob Dole had more charisma! Romney comes across as a weird poser as he tries to portray “regular kinda guy” on the trail.
“The far left elites have taken control of both political parties.”
This is pretty much what Savage says.
The whole system is now rigged...8 years Repub., 8 years Dim.
Even if there is a screw up and Romney gets in, you will still be screwed.
America is going down the tubes, no matter what.
Along with all the things you mention, the Republicans really have to get rid of open primaries. Republicans should choose Republicans, period.