Supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) flock together at the start of the… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)
TAMPA, Fla. -- Party regulars and insurgents may be squaring off in a floor fight Tuesday afternoon at the Republican National Convention over just how much control Mitt Romney and future presidential nominees should have over who gets to pick the delegates for future conventions.
Sarah Palin and Republican officials from Clark County, Nev., joined what seemed to be a growing ruckus over whether the Romney camp (and presumably a President Romney in 2016) should have veto power over the seating of future nominating delegations.
Palin called the Romney maneuver “disappointing” and “a direct attack on grass-roots activists by the GOP establishment.” In a directive late Monday, the Nevada group, representing the county that includes Las Vegas, accused representatives of the presumptive nominee of “destroying the system of checks and balances imperative to preventing tyrannical control of our party.” The Nevadans said this amounted to a “Marxist-style power grab.”
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Strong words for their party’s soon-to-be standard bearer and a bit over the top, when it comes to at least one part of the delegate-assignment fight. Romney’s plan, in effect, seeks to construct the rules to more closely reflect results from primaries and caucuses. Under the plan, delegates would be distributed in proportion to primary voting
Those arguing that delegates should adhere to the vote of the people point to Maine, Minnesota and other states. Caucus wins in those states by Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum, respectively, were not precisely reflected when delegates to the national convention were chosen. Instead, supporters of libertarian Ron Paul took control of state conventions in both those states and directed most of the delegates (at least initially) to him.
The activists represented by Palin, the Nevadans and many Paul supporters want rules that reward this sort of inter-party activism, never mind results at the ballot box. It’s not exactly one-person-one-vote, folks, but insurgents know it gives them a fighting chance.
Recall that Democrats have their own nod toward party elites: Candidate Barack Obama won the 2008 nomination, in part, because he outmaneuvered Hillary Clinton in securing the party majordomos designated “super delegates.”)
Besides the issue of proportionality, the Romney camp also moved to add a provision allowing future nominees to have veto power over the composition of all state delegations. This second change particularly infuriated the party aficionados who do much of the heavy lifting — read: get out the vote efforts — at election time.
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Although they doubtless would like to support their expected nominee, party regulars have to be bridling over the notion that despite their years (and sometimes decades) of service to the GOP, Papa Mitt would have final say over whether they would be seated at the next national convention.
If the Ron Paulites and other dissidents can get this to a vote on the floor of the convention Tuesday, it will be long before the network TV cameras blink on in prime time. But it could be one of the more telling skirmishes in Romney’s long-term war with those who may be ready to hand him their nomination, but not their party’s rule book.
His fight to adhere to one-person-one-vote makes sense. His fight to play overlord of the actual composition of the state delegations does not. Romney deserves a split decision on what may be the one truly contentious issue to come before the entire convention.