Now is the time for Paul to pick up delegates
Strategy is to convert nonbinding straw-poll, caucus results his way RNC count puts Gingrich ahead of Santorum
Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign always has banked on playing the caucus game to try to maximize his support where it counts — the delegates who will attend the national convention this summer in Tampa, Fla.
This week that strategy gets its first test in Iowa and Wyoming, where earlier nonbinding straw polls begin to turn into those convention delegates. Mr. Paul is counting on his small cadre of dedicated supporters to be the ones fighting to win those delegate seats.
“The real winnowing will happen Saturday,” said Drew Ivers, Mr. Paul’s Iowa campaign chairman, adding that the campaign is playing out the process by contacting all of the delegates and asking them to support Mr. Paul.
Iowa held its precinct caucuses Jan. 3, and Rick Santorum won the presidential preference straw poll there, while Mr. Paul came in third. But those results aren’t binding. The state’s actual delegates to the GOP’S national convention are chosen through a convoluted process that began with delegates being elected at the precincts. They then attend district and state conventions to choose national delegates, who aren’t bound to follow the results of the Jan. 3 straw poll.
That same process already is playing out in Wyoming, where Mitt Romney won last month’s caucuses but the real voting is happening at county conventions this week. With some of those counties already reporting, Mr. Romney is projected to have won five delegates, Mr. Paul to have won one and Mr. Santorum and Newt Gingrich to have none.
Mr. Paul has vowed all along that his supporters, being committed to his cause, would be more likely to turn out for the subsequent conventions and therefore be better represented in the delegates that caucus states send to Tampa. He’ll need all the help he can get because he has failed to win any of the 23 primaries and caucuses that have been held so far and trails badly in delegate projections.
In Washington over the past month, Mr. Paul held six rallies that his campaign said were attended by more than 7,000 people combined. But when time came for the GOP’S caucuses, he won just 12,594 votes.
That indicates a core group of very dedicated supporters but also underscores the trouble he has had reaching out to voters beyond that core.
In Idaho, the situation was even worse: He held seven rallies that his campaign said attracted more than 12,000 people, but he won only slightly more than 8,000 votes in the caucuses on Super Tuesday.
Sensing worry among his followers, Mr. Paul sent an email Thursday saying his delegate strategy is intact after Super Tuesday.
“In fact, while I didn’t win any state’s straw polls, my team expects me to win a plurality of delegates in at least three states, as well as outright majorities in two more of the states that have already started their process,” he said.
In Iowa, converting support into votes is going to be difficult at the beginning of a political revolution like the one the campaign hopes to spark, Mr. Ivers said.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum may have won more primaries but the Republican National Committee’s current delegate count shows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has more bound delegates than the Pennsylvanian in the race for the party’s presidential nomination.
Front-runner Mitt Romney has earned 339 delegates to the August nominating convention in Tampa, Fla., or more than the rest of the field combined, according to a chart the RNC sent Thursday to its 168 members, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
Mr. Gingrich is second with 107 delegates, topping Mr. Santorum’s 95 delegates and the 22 delegates pledged to Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
“The results may change as there are many close Congressional District results,” the national committee says in a note introducing the chart. “These numbers reflect the current results of the congressional districts and the actual results may not be certified for up to two weeks.”
Winning the nomination will take 1,144 delegates.
Press reports have put Mr. Santorum in second place based on projections about how delegates will be allocated in some of the caucus states where voters have cast their ballots, but where the actual delegates won’t be decided until later, at county, district and state conventions.
Delegates have yet to be fully awarded in Iowa, Colorado, North Dakota, Minnesota, Maine and Washington. Mr. Santorum won the first four of those contests, while Mr. Romney won the other two.
Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich are battling to be the conservative alternative to Mr. Romney in the race, and Mr. Santorum says his victories in seven primaries and caucuses give him a leg up.
There have been public words from the Santorum camp, plus private pressure from some in the “anybody-but-romney” faction of the party, calling for Mr. Gingrich to drop out of the contest so that conservatives can coalesce around Mr. Santorum.
For his part, Mr. Gingrich has said he is the true conservative and has dismissed calls for him to step aside. Most recently, his Super Tuesday night speech painted his home-state win in Georgia as foreshadowing another comeback.
While Mr. Gingrich has won just two primaries, Georgia and South Carolina both bind most of their delegates to support the primary winner.
“A revolution means new activity. So you’ve got new people who are starting to wake up, get engaged in the political process, who up until now have not been engaged in the political process,” he said.
GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, addressing a crowd in North Dakota on Tuesday, is banking on winning over delegates in states where straw-poll and caucus results are not binding.