TAMPA, April 15, 2012 — The Ron Paul campaign has consistently maintained that it has won far more delegates than is generally reported by the media. The Associated Press projects Romney’s delegate count to be well over 600, more than ten times their projections for Ron Paul. However, Colorado has provided some evidence that the Paul campaign’s demise has been greatly exaggerated.
Colorado completed its state convention yesterday. Under the headline, “Romney lost Colo. caucuses, gets most delegates,” Real Clear Politics reported the results this way.
“GOP has chosen 13 Romney delegates and six Santorum delegates. The remaining 17 delegates are unpledged, meaning they are free to choose any Republican candidate for president.”
That’s technically accurate, but it begs a question from anyone even minimally curious: Who do those 17 unpledged delegates support? Are they undecided, or do they intend to vote for a specific candidate at the Republican National Convention (RNC)?
According to the Real Clear article, “Many would-be delegates criticized Romney, and some dejected Santorum fans teamed with Ron Paul supporters to push what they called a ‘Conservative Unity Slate’ to look for a non-Romney presidential candidate.”
That is also technically accurate, but misleading. Not only did Paul and Santorum supporters “push” the Conservative Unity Slate, they got its delegates elected to go to the RNC.
Todd King of Lewis, Colorado is one of the elected delegates from that slate. King is a Ron Paul supporter and will vote for Paul for president on the first ballot in Tampa. I asked him how the 17 unpledged delegates break down. This is his statement.
“13 unpledged delegates, including me, will vote for Ron Paul on the first ballot. One unpledged delegate will vote for Santorum. The remaining three unpledged delegates, also known as the ‘delegates at large,’ are the state GOP Chairman, the state GOP National Committeman and the National Committeewoman. Those three will likely vote for Romney. They usually vote for the frontrunner so as not to make waves.”
King said that the Paul delegates ran unpledged in order to win the votes of Santorum supporters who understand that the delegates will vote for Paul at the RNC, but would not be legally bound to do so. If anything changes with the Paul or Santorum campaigns between now and August, both camps would have an opportunity to persuade unpledged delegates to change their minds.
This paints a much different picture of the real delegate count for Colorado. The final breakdown looks like this:
Romney – 13
Paul – 13
Santorum – 7
At large – 3 (count these for Romney if he is still the frontrunner in August)
Remember, this is a state where Santorum won with 40% of the caucus popular vote. Romney came in 2nd with 35% and Ron Paul finished last with 12%. Yet Paul is in a virtual tie for the lead in terms of the actual votes he will get on the first ballot at the RNC.
There were also 36 alternate delegates elected at Colorado’s convention. These delegates are seated in place of any delegates that cannot make it to the RNC or decide not to go. I spoke with two of them, Bobby Eskenberry and Lloyd Garcia, both from Congressional District 7. They are both pledged to Paul and hope to eventually be seated in Tampa.
Neither could provide hard numbers, but Garcia believes that almost all of the alternate delegates are Paul supporters. He also believes that if nothing changes regarding Santorum’s campaign, many of his delegates may forego the time and expense of attending the convention, leaving the door open for Paul to win the state when alternates pledged to Paul are seated.
How many more states are going to turn out like Colorado?
Santorum won the caucus vote in Missouri by a much wider margin with 55% of the vote. Romney finished second with 25% and Paul was a distant third with 12%. However, early indications are that Paul will win far more delegates at Missouri’s state convention June 1-2. According to Fox News, Missouri’s GOP leadership admits that Paul may get all of the delegates from Missouri.
The Iowa GOP leadership has previously acknowledged that Paul may win Iowa as well. Iowa holds its state convention on June 16.
These are all states where Ron Paul lost the popular vote by a wide margin. In states like Maine, Alaska, Minnesota and others, where Paul finished a close 2nd or at least did much better, he could win the final delegate counts by wide margins.
All of this is important information for voters in states that have not held their primaries or caucuses yet. Voters often make their decisions based at least in part upon their confidence in a candidate’s “electability.” They may choose not to vote for the candidate they like best if they think he can’t win.
The media wrote a narrative at the beginning of the primary season that Ron Paul could never win the nomination. That likely affected his performance in subsequent primaries. The new media narrative says that the nomination race is over and Romney has it locked up. That conflicts with the facts. Voters in upcoming primaries should know that this race is far closer than they’re being led to believe.
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.