TAMPA — Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, one of the top organizations behind the tea party movement, was at the Monday morning meeting of the Georgia delegation – attempting to foment a revolt that could undo GOP efforts to keep tea partyers happy, and quiet.
That’s one reason why Georgia’s delegation meeting was closed to press. The other: State GOP Chairman Sue Everhart on Tuesday wants to pledge all of Georgia’s 76 delegates to Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich has cut loose his delegates, and Rick Santorum has done the same.
But four Georgia delegates refused to sign a document that would allow their votes to be cast by proxy – despite the pressure of “Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!” chanting by other delegates.
Ron Paul won no delegates in Georgia’s primary. But three of the four holdouts have now declared themselves Ron Paul supporters, despite signing pledges to support the party’s nominee.
Which brings us back to the rule change up for approval by the convention on Tuesday, which — in 2016 — would give the Republican nominee the power to vet delegates to the national convention. In other words, the rule change would allow the nominee to pick those who will pick him/her.
“We’re asking activists to talk to every state party leader. The worry here is that you’re flipping the whole process on its head. It used to be that the grassroots chose the delegates, and the delegates choose the candidates. They’re essentially creating a rule where the candidate can disavow any delegate that doesn’t toe the line,” Kibbe said.
“If you disenfranchise the delegates, you create a real threat of splintering the party,” he said. “Presumably the goal of the Romney camp is to prevent any sort of dissent going into 2016.” But Kibbe added that there would be a higher likelihood of disaffected grassroots and perhaps even the creation of a third party.
The measure was one of several adopted last Friday by the convention’s rules committee. Secretary of State Brian Kemp said he opposed the change in dispute, which would negate laws currently in place in several states that bind delegates to a specific candidate.
However, Kemp said he didn’t sign the minority report that protested the change, and which tea partyers will attempt to bring to the full convention for a floor vote. (The minority report also makes changes to the election calendar that could boost Georgia’s influence in the next primary, which Kemp supports.)
Kemp told delegates that he anticipates a floor fight tomorrow.
Six state delegations must insist on bringing the measure forward before it becomes eligible for a roll call vote. However, the chances are slim that convention delegates would reject the entire GOP platform if it is put forward in a single piece.
“I will not pretend that the deck is not stacked against us,” Morton Blackwell, a longtime conservative leader and Virginia delegate, wrote in an email that’s rapidly making its way around Tampa.
The object of the rule change is to prevent state delegation takeovers in states like Massachusetts and Nevada, where Romney delegates were nearly erased by Paul enthusiasts.
“We know what it’s aimed at, but you don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” said Georgia delegate Debbie Dooley, a tea party activist.
Here’s a letter that Julianne Thompson, a Romney delegate from Georgia, has fired off to Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee this afternoon:
As a National Delegate to the 2012 RNC, I am extremely disappointed that a rule would be passed through committee that essentially strips the grassroots of all of it’s representative power by ridding State Parties of their ability to choose whom they will send as delegates and alternates to represent their State to the Republican National Convention. The rules change would allow the Presidential nominee sweeping new power to override that process and choose their own National Delegates. The rule also allows the RNC (with only a 3/4 vote) the power to amend the party’s rules without a vote by the full Republican National Convention.
The GOP is the political Party of the grassroots. Our national delegates are the boots-on-the-ground that get Republicans elected. We are there for County meetings, State Conventions, National Conventions, and most importantly we spend our time and money canvassing our neighborhoods, going door to door, making phone calls, writing personal endorsement letters, and getting-out-the-vote for Republicans. We are the worker bees, and we are the heart and soul of the Republican Party.
We have always believed that our Party is the one who best represents what it means to be an American…freedom! With your current attempt at this rules change, you are essentially striking the first blow that chips away at that freedom, and you disenfranchise the very people that turned the tide for the GOP in 2010 by returning power in the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans.
I would like to hope that our nominee is unaware of the skullduggery that occurred with regard to this attempt at shutting out the people that have unified to help him win in November. The audacity of creating a firestorm when there is an opportunity for unity and peace that is needed to win back the Senate and take back the White House is irresponsible and I seriously question the motives of those behind this attempt.
Why the change in rules? That is the million-dollar question, and it is fairly easy to answer. There are still those in place in the GOP and on campaigns that would like to use the delegate and alternate seats as rewards for donating large checks to campaigns and the RNC.
If your desire is to win elections, then I strongly suggest that you engage the grassroots and show respect to those who help put you in power.
During a time that should ring of unity, you have put the GOP at a crossroads. Do you want to win this election and future elections? Now is your opportunity to prove it. Either take it to the floor and let us vote it down, and better yet, pull this insulting attempt to disenfranchise the heart and soul of our Republican Party!
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider