At one time conceived to occur in a little over a week from now, then presumed they might happen just after Carnival, Louisiana’s Republican Party still has not chosen a date for its congressional district caucuses to determine delegates for the state convention that will meet Jun. 2. This inaction has spawned conspiracy theories both implausible and minor in impact that should make no real difference in deciding on a date.
According to state GOP rules, the six district meetings elect three delegates each to serve as national delegates. Officially uncommitted, at the state convention the body, comprised largely of delegates elected at the district level, will decide whether they can have pledged delegates sent to the national convention officially to a candidate. No constraint exists on selection to the state convention except that it occur prior to the meeting at the state level.
Difficult to take seriously is the notion that a delay comes at behest of Gov. Bobby Jindal, in some gambit to enhance his ability to secure some kind of national office. The thinking goes that the state is not that friendly for leading nominee candidate Mitt Romney, so the longer the caucuses are delayed that could select delegates hostile to Romney, the more time Romney has to build a lead in the national contest that can contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy of the inevitability of his nomination.
But Jindal knows, because he did not commit to assist Romney early (instead, declaring support for and backing that up with actual aid in favor of Texas Gov. Rick Perry) and Louisiana is not a swing state, that, at best, he has a very outside chance to get Romney’s assent to serve as his vice presidential running mate. Others, such as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida have conservative credentials similar to Jindal’s but bring much more electoral value to a Romney-led ticket. It seems highly unlikely that Jindal would go to such lengths where, at best, long odds would become only slightly shorter, or, which seems even less likely, that Jindal is not astute enough politically to understand this and so takes on this scheme out of misjudgment.
Nor does the idea that all this effort would go towards trying to obtain an even less valuable prize, a high-level appointment in a Romney Administration, make any sense. Jindal may be valuable for such a job without his having to expend so much effort, and he should know that tradeoff. Why should Jindal create potential enemies at home, where he may harbor future electoral ambitions past his current term limitation, over such a small prize he might get without anything more than stumping for Romney, over less than one percent of delegates needed for the nomination? In all likelihood, anybody floating this idea does so not because there’s truth to it, but to draw attention to themselves or satisfy their own political ambitions.
The corollary to this is that delay not so much serves Romney against all others but that it disserves his competitor Rep. Ron Paul. The libertarian polarizes the Republican electorate so that his nomination would cause at least as many Republicans to vote against him in the general election who otherwise would support any major alternative as would vote for him. This discomfits many Republicans, including apparently state party leaders, who grasp the fact that current data viewed in historical perspective shows that Pres. Barack Obama is a one-term president with any other major candidate but Paul as the opposition.
Because of the strong reactions he evokes, Paul has been able to build a committed campaign organization, although with some of questionable commitment to the Republican Party. In fact, Paul’s initial promising results have been in no insignificant part to non-Republican support, if not benefitting from a deliberate strategy by Democrats to vote for Paul where they can to sow chaos in the Republican process.
But that can’t happen in Louisiana because of the closed primary system for presidential preference delegate selection. The state lets parties select who may participate, and state GOP rules limit that to those registered as Republicans as of last Dec. 15. So, unless there has been some very long-term planning going on, it would be difficult to pack deliberately the district meetings with enough infiltrators and/or true believers who otherwise act as Republicans to make a difference in favor of Paul, by getting a disproportionate number of national convention delegates and state convention counterparts in his favor selected, whereupon at the state convention the latter would be enough in number to vote to allow the former to commit three months later.
Still, disproportionate influence of Paul supporters at the district level could happen because of the superior organization. Whether that represents any real concern that favors delay, however, is another matter. It’s hard to imagine that, at best, such an effort would net more than one additional national delegate per district, if enough state delegates even could be selected to allow commitment later. The state party alone could more that mitigate these extras by its executive committee being able to pick five delegates to the national convention, and the national committeeman, committeewoman, and state party chairman also serving in this capacity, none of whom might be expected to support Paul. In other words, Paul gains would be so insignificant even with a concerted effort that it’s little to worry about in the national picture.
The Jindal hypothesis has next-to-no credibility, and even if the stop Paul thesis might seem plausible, given what little impact Paul would have via Louisiana in his national ambitions it hardly matters, so if that’s a fear driving state party elites, they needn’t worry. Why not cue up the caucuses before the Mar. 24 preference primary to bring Louisiana slightly more influence and attention in the process?
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 09:25