San­to­rum’s del­e­gate chase eyes do-overs

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY STEPHEN OHLEMACHER

For­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum of Penn­syl­va­nia is fall­ing so far be­hind Mitt Rom­ney in the race for Re­pub­li­can del­e­gates that his best chance might be in states that voted weeks ago.

The chief ri­val to the fron­trun­ning Mr. Rom­ney, Mr. San­to­rum is try­ing to im­prove his lot in places such as Iowa and Washington state, where lo­cal cau­cuses were just the first step in de­ter­min­ing del­e­gates to the Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

In those states and a few oth­ers, sup­port­ers are now pre­par­ing for county, con­gres­sional dis­trict and state con­ven­tions, where the cam­paigns hope to keep their del­e­gates — and pos­si­bly poach some from other can­di­dates.

Mr. San­to­rum’s del­e­gate count could use a boost. He trails Mr. Rom­ney by 300 and would need to win 74 per­cent of the del­e­gates in the re­main­ing pri­maries to clinch the nom­i­na­tion be­fore the na­tional con­ven­tion in Au­gust. So far, Mr. San­to­rum is win­ning just 27 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the tally by the As­so­ci­ated Press.

But the San­to­rum cam­paign pre­dicts that he will sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease his del­e­gate haul in cau­cus states, pri­mar­ily at the ex­pense of the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor.

“The Rom­ney cam­paign likes to talk about how they have this su­pe­rior or­ga­ni­za­tion in these cau­cus states, and there­fore, they are go­ing to per­form well,” said John Yob, Mr. San­to­rum’s na­tional del­e­gate di­rec­tor. “If you be­lieve the Rom­ney cam­paign’s spin that they have this su­pe­rior or­ga­ni­za­tion, but yet they’re los­ing these con­tests, it must mean they have a de­fi­cient can­di­date who is un­able to ap­peal to the base of the party.”

The Rom­ney cam­paign calls that as­sess­ment laugh­able and ques­tions whether Mr. San­to­rum has a suf­fi­cient or­ga­ni­za­tion to com­pete in up­com­ing pri­maries while also try­ing to rally sup­port­ers in states that held cau­cuses weeks or months ago. This week­end, for ex­am­ple, Louisiana holds its pri­mary Satur­day, the same day county con­ven­tions kick off in Washington state.

Rich Bee­son, Mr. Rom­ney’s po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor, notes that Mr. San­to­rum didn’t get on the bal­lot in Virginia or the Dis­trict of Columbia and failed to file full slates of del­e­gates in Ohio and Illi­nois.

“You’re all of a sud­den go­ing to be able to or­ga­nize at a state con­ven­tion, a county assem­bly, and start steal­ing del­e­gates from us?” Mr. Bee­son said. “We have a plan in place. We will main­tain and in­crease our del­e­gates at the cau­cus level.”

Mr. Rom­ney leads the race for del­e­gates with 563, in­clud­ing en­dorse­ments from Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­bers who au­to­mat­i­cally at­tend the con­ven­tion and can sup­port any can­di­date they choose. Mr. San­to­rum has 263 del­e­gates, for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich has 135 and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has 50.

It takes 1,144 del­e­gates to win the Re­pub­li­can nom­i­na­tion to take on Pres­i­dent Obama in the fall.

Six states have held lo­cal cau­cuses that were only the start of a mul­ti­step process to win ac­tual del­e­gates. To­gether, those states have a to­tal of 223 del­e­gates, which will be up for grabs at county, con­gres­sional dis­trict and state con­ven­tions sprin­kled through­out the spring.

In five of the states — Iowa, Colorado, Min­nesota, Maine and Washington — the AP used lo­cal cau­cus re­sults to project the num­ber of na­tional del­e­gates each can­di­date would win if he main­tained the same level of sup­port through­out the process. The sixth state, Mis­souri, didn’t re­lease statewide re­sults from lo­cal cau­cuses, so it was im­pos­si­ble to make a pro­jec­tion.

Mr. San­to­rum has more del­e­gates in the five states than any other can­di­date, ac­cord­ing to the AP tally: 73, com­pared to 62 for Mr. Rom­ney, 15 for Mr. Paul and none for Mr. Gin­grich.

It was two days be­fore the “Rea­son Rally” — a gath­er­ing of non­be­liev­ers, sec­u­lar hu­man­ists and ag­nos­tics on the Mall — and celebrity ac­tivist for athe­ism Richard Dawkins still didn’t know what he was go­ing to talk about.

“Well, I’ll prob­a­bly say some­thing to the ef­fect that the sec­u­lar Con­sti­tu­tion of this coun­try is the envy of the world,” Mr. Dawkins said. “It would be a tragedy if it were let down.”

Mr. Dawkins is the kind of per­son Rea­son Rally Coali­tion co- chair­man David Sil­ver­man wants. He said the event, which or­ga­niz­ers have sug­gested could draw some 30,000 peo­ple Satur­day, is tai­lored to a young gen­er­a­tion that he sees as a ris­ing sec­u­lar force.

The rally has a po­lit­i­cal mes­sage: “We vote. We live here. We buy things. We mat­ter,” or­ga­nizer and jour­nal­ist Ja­milia Bey said Thurs­day at a brief­ing at the Na­tional Press Club.

Mr. Dawkins, co­me­dian Eddie Iz­zard and Adam Sav­age, co-host of Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s “Myth­busters,” are on the speak­ers’ list. The rally was timed for max­i­mum po­lit­i­cal im­pact, with Congress in ses­sion, the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial bat­tle in full swing, and the gen­eral elec­tion just over seven months away.

Jesse Galef, di­rec­tor of pub­lic­ity for the Rea­son Rally Coali­tion, said the num­bers sug­gest the unchurched and un­be­liev­ing are an un­der­rated force in the Amer­i­can elec­torate, de­spite the fact that just one mem­ber of Congress, Rep. Fort­ney Pete Stark, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, has pub­licly pro­claimed him­self an athe­ist.

A 2008 sur­vey by the In­sti­tute for the Study of Sec­u­lar­ism in So­ci­ety and Cul­ture found that 15 per­cent of Amer­i­cans con­sid­ers them­selves re­li­gious skep­tics, while 22 per­cent of high school and col­lege-age youth are skep­ti­cal of faith or openly athe­is­tic.

“That’s a huge dif­fer­ence and, we think, a sign of things to come,” Mr. Galef said.

Mr. Sil­ver­man said that sec­u­lar Amer­i­can vot­ers have long been be­lit­tled and ig­nored, and they have failed to come to­gether as a vot­ing bloc. The coali­tion, which plans a lob­by­ing blitz on Capi­tol Hill for Fri­day ahead of the rally, backs a greater sepa­ra­tion of church and state and the repeal of laws grant­ing spe­cial priv­i­leges to re­li­gious groups, Mr. Galef said.

The coali­tion says so­ci­ety and the law dis­crim­i­nate against athe­ists. “This I be­lieve is a civil rights is­sue,” Ms. Bey said. She told the story of a for­mer boss, a Chris­tian, who pressed her on her faith. When she told him she had no re­li­gion, he fired her. She de­clined to say where she worked.

Rally speak­ers also say the evan­gel­i­cal con­ser­va­tives and right-wing re­li­gious groups have too much power in the cur­rent Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal de­bate.

“Part of what this rally is about is to show that there is an au­di­ence and a base for those will­ing to stand up against the re­li­gious right forc­ing their be­liefs on ev­ery­one,” said co­me­dian Paul Provenza, who will em­cee the event.

At least one Chris­tian group is plan­ning a coun­ter­demon­stra­tion. Rick Schenker, pres­i­dent of Ra­tio Christi, a stu­dent apolo­get­ics group, is part of True Rea­son, a group of Chris­tians formed in re­sponse to the Rea­son Rally.

About 40 stu­dents from the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Greens­boro will walk through the crowd, hand­ing out water and a book­let ex­plain­ing how Chris­tian­ity is a ra­tio­nal faith.

“If you are truly here for rea­son, we’re here to say ‘Chris­tian­ity is rea­son­able, ra­tio­nal and it’s true,’ ” he said.

Mr. Sil­ver­man calls the ef­fort by True Rea­son “pa­thetic.”

He said about 17 groups have reg­is­tered to protest the event.

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