GOP Insider: Delegates Are ‘The Eminent Citizens Of The Party’

(REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

Kerry Picket Political Reporter
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A Republican Party insider told The Daily Caller that convention delegates are considered to be “the eminent citizens” of the party.

The insider confirmed a recent claim by North Dakota Republican National Committeeman Curly Haugland that all delegates at the Republican convention in Cleveland this summer may vote for whomever they prefer on the first ballot and are not required to vote the way their state’s voters did. But, the insider said, most Republicans think Haugland is wrong, and therefore the RNC will conduct its convention as it has for the past 40 years, which is technically against its own rules.

Haugland, an unbound delegate and Standing Rules Committee member, shook up the party when he suggested that all Republican delegates are “unbound” to their states’ voters.

He told TheDC he came to this conclusion after looking through RNC records. He explained that in 1976, President Gerald Ford was concerned his pledged delegates would turn against him at the convention and cast their votes for Reagan instead. Ford was 50 delegates short of a majority, while Reagan was 58 short.

Ford’s campaign persuaded the Convention Rules Committee to create a resolution to force delegates from 19 states to cast their ballots in accordance to the results of their state primary contests.

That rule, known as the “Justice Resolution,” was quietly rescinded at a 1980 Convention Rules Committee hearing, unbinding all delegates from their state primary contests going forward. Most Republicans, however, did not take notice that all Republican delegates were unbound at GOP conventions from 1980 to 2012, because GOP nominees were either incumbents or front-runners who already had massive majorities going into the conventions.

The longtime GOP insider, who witnessed the 1976 rule change as it happened in committee, told TheDC that Haugland’s assertion is correct, but that continuing to bound delegates is “one of those things that we have done for the last 40 years. And so what it comes down to is, most people don’t think he is [correct], and therefore that’s the view that’s probably going to prevail.”

Similar to how general election voters cast their ballots for electors at the Electoral College to cast ballots for a general election nominee, Republican and Democratic voters cast ballots directly for delegates in their states to go to their respective conventions and cast ballots for their preferred candidate.

“The delegates are very much on the same parallel as the electors. In the old days, they were the eminent citizens each town sent to make these decisions, because they tended to basically know who was a snake and who wasn’t. And it’s still the same principle. The delegates are of the same status of the electors. They are the eminent citizens of the party that are chosen to make that decision,” the GOP party insider told TheDC.

“Until the modern primary system, which really didn’t get kicked into full gear until the 1968 Democratic convention and the reaction to that, state parties tended to choose the delegates,” he said, noting that numerous nominations of “favorite sons” kept anybody from receiving a majority at most conventions and various. That meant that deals were often made among the delegates.

The rules committee does have the power to change the rules in the weeks before the convention, as it did in 2012, when Mitt Romney’s campaign became concerned that Ron Paul would pre-empt him from getting a majority.

“That’s a misperception, and it’s not a threshold for 2016,” Ginsburg told MSNBC on Monday. “Each convention has to pass that rule and a number of other procedural rules for itself. There’s no precedent that’s set. In 2000 and 2004, it was five states. We moved it to eight states in 2012 for the reasons of that convention. It does not carry over. The delegates in Cleveland will decides how many states it takes to put a name in nomination.”

Ginsburg added, “The delegates who will serve on the convention in the rules committee haven’t even been selected except in a small number of states, so I think its way premature to say what delegates will want to do or even what the individual candidates in Cleveland will ask the delegates to do,” noting the importance of campaigns persuading delegates their way at state conventions.

Blackwell, however, does not believe that delegates who are currently bound to their state primary results in the first round of balloting will be released in the first round of balloting as a result of Haugland’s findings, telling TheDC a “ferocious rules battle” would happen on the floor if such an instance would occur.

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