Rom­ney ri­vals seen ‘tilt­ing at wind­mills’ in con­ven­tion ploy

Del­e­gate short­fall un­likely to deny nod

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

A sneak at­tack at the con­ven­tion, the plan that Newt Gin­grich and Rick San­to­rum are count­ing on to win the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, is far-fetched in the eyes of state party of­fi­cials who say that Mitt Rom­ney will be nom­i­nated even if he goes into the con­ven­tion with only a plu­ral­ity of del­e­gates.

Steve Duprey, a New Hamp­shire Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­ber who re­mains neu­tral in the race, said it is a “fan­tasy” to think that del­e­gates at the con­ven­tion will co­a­lesce around some­one other than Mr. Rom­ney if he holds a big lead over his ri­vals, but falls shy of se­cur­ing the 1,144 votes needed to win on a first bal­lot in Tampa, Fla.

“Bet­ter chance that I am go­ing to be the start­ing quar­ter­back for the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots next year — and I am 58 and was a medi­ocre high school quar­ter­back,” Mr. Duprey said. “Gov. Rom­ney will win even if he goes in with less than a ma­jor­ity, in my view. I think the pri­maries have shown that nei­ther Sen. San­to­rum nor Speaker Gin­grich can ap­peal to in­de­pen­dents and mod­er­ates, and del­e­gates to the con­ven­tion will know that.”

den­tial nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion in Florida.

Mr. Gin­grich an­nounced Tues­day that he was “down­siz­ing the cam­paign, not sus­pend­ing it. I am in Mary­land, North Carolina and Delaware next week. We have events al­ready sched­uled in Penn­syl­va­nia, Texas, New York, Mis­souri.”

Ac­cord­ing to a source close to the Gin­grich cam­paign, the two GOP ri­vals met early on the day of the Louisiana pri­mary at Mr. Rom­ney’s ho­tel in New Or­leans.

On Tues­day, the for­mer House speaker sig­naled that he is ton­ing down the anti-rom­ney rhetoric he has used on the cam­paign cir­cuit, telling re­porters while cam­paign­ing in An­napo­lis that, “Ob­vi­ously I will sup­port [Mitt Rom­ney] and will be de­lighted to do any­thing I can to help de­feat Barack Obama.”

But Wed­nes­day, the for­mer con­gress­man from Ge­or­gia struck a de­fi­ant note again. “Rom­ney has to earn this. It’s not go­ing to be given to him,” he told Washington-based ra­dio sta­tion WTOP.

If the cash-strapped Gin­grich cam­paign goes for­ward on a bare-bones bud­get, the can­di­date is likely to limp into Tampa with lit­tle more than his wife, Cal­lista, and his daugh­ters as cam­paign staffers.

As part of the down­siz­ing, Mr. Gin­grich no longer will use a cam­paign plane or the two cam­paign buses with Gin­grich lo­gos em­bla­zoned on the sides.

The cam­paign also will do with­out a paid ad­vance team to check out and choose stump desti­na­tions and no longer will have a full-time pro­duc­tion team to set up those sites, said Gin­grich com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Joe Desan­tis.

Mr. Desan­tis, em­pha­siz­ing that he was of­fer­ing “es­ti­mates,” said “ap­prox­i­mately 20 full-time staff” re­main af­ter the cash-strapped cam­paign cut a third of its staff Tues­day.

That was a drop from 35 full-time staffers, Mr. Desan­tis said, and down from 45 full-timers at the height of the Gin­grich cam­paign.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est As­so­ci­ated Press del­e­gate count, Mr. Rom­ney, still un­beloved by some core GOP vot­ers and ac­tivists, has 568 del­e­gates, Mr. San­to­rum has 273, and Mr. Gin­grich, with only two pri­mary state vic­to­ries to his credit, has 135. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, with no pri­mary or cau­cus wins, has 50.

Mr. Gin­grich, who was cred­ited in 1989 with lead­ing Re­pub­li­can ef­forts to over­throw Demo­cratic House Speaker Jim Wright, is con­sid­ered one of the ar­chi­tects of the mod­ern Re­pub­li­can Party. But his vow to shake up the Re­pub­li­can race with a dead­locked con­ven­tion in Tampa has some in the party ques­tion­ing the for­mer House speaker’s mo­tives.

Mr. Gin­grich would need a plu­ral­ity of del­e­gates from each of five dif­fer­ent states just to qual­ify for a place on the first bal­lot of a dead­locked con­ven­tion at which no can­di­date had the req­ui­site 1,144 del­e­gates for nom­i­na­tion. In 13 states and ter­ri­to­ries, del­e­gates are not bound to vote for any can­di­date, even on the first bal­lot.

If the fight moved to a sec­ond bal­lot, any­body could walk in from the out­side to be­come an in­stant com­peti­tor, even if he or she had not par­tic­i­pated in a sin­gle GOP nom­i­na­tion pri­mary.

So GOP stars such as New Jer­sey’s Gov. Chris Christie and Florida’s Sen. Marco Ru­bio could stride into the con­ven­tion hall and the­o­ret­i­cally wind up as the party’s nom­i­nee to face Pres­i­dent Obama on Nov. 6.

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