Thursday, January 31, 2008

Clarifying the MH GOP Presidential primary proposal

Over at LITW, there seems to be some confusion about exactly what the MH post recently was proposing regarding the June GOP presidential primary. Jay seems to think that we were advocating making the primary binding. Not so.

The idea was this: leave the February caucus in place just as it is, with the winner getting all 25 delegates on the first ballot at the Republican convention. No change whatsoever.

This gets the advantage of an early vote -- a say in how momentum develops early in the season, and committed delegates on the first ballot (which most years is the only ballot.)

The MH twist was this: instead of turning Montana's delegates loose to vote for whomever they please on 2nd and subsequent ballots in the event of a brokered convention (which is how it is now,) the party could pass a rule that commits our delegates on the 2nd and subsequent ballots to the winner of the June primary.

Nothing would be taken away from the caucus voters -- they still have the early influence and reward for getting involved at the precinct level, namely, 25 delegates committed to the candidate of their choice on the first ballot. We would still have the party-building grassroots effects of the caucus.

By committing the delegates on the second and subsequent ballots to the June primary winner, it would ensure that in the off chance that the June primary is actually still relevant (something that now appears unlikely, with McCain on a serious roll,) there would be a motivation for candidates to come and campaign in Montana for the June primary -- namely, getting Montana's delegates on the second and subsequent ballots when the nomination would be decided in a brokered convention.

With these added rules, there would also be no change from what Montana has experienced in the past -- in other words, in most years the Montana Presidential primary would be an irrelevant afterthought, just as it is today. Some people are apparently fond of the idea of keeping it that way, so they would get their wish.

But on the rare year when the nomination battle was still going in June, our Presidential primary would still be just as relevant, since by definition a race that is still going in June is a race where the nomination won't be decided on the first ballot.

It would be the best of both worlds, as we said in our original post. We would get the early say and the party-building effects of an early caucus (which could be expanded to include straw polls, etc.) -- at no expense to the taxpayers.

And we would have the back-up of a meaningful primary in that odd year of a brokered convention.


Jay Stevens said...

Thanks for the clarification...

Mike said...

As a Caucus voter (and potential delegate), I would think that ethically I am bound on the 2nd round to vote for whomever the people chose in the primary - unlike the caucus itself where I will vote my preference.

So I can somewhat agree with your suggestion. However, what if that candidate is no longer in the race? What then? I propose they vote the 2nd round per the primary (and not winner take all!) and then be released from any obligation and allowed to vote for whomever they want.

Montana Headlines said...

It would be unthinkable for a candidate to be competing in the last primary of the season, in June -- only to drop out between that last primary and the convention.

Presumably anyone who is competing in Montana in June has made the decision to go all the way to the convention. The only reason a candidate would drop out would be to throw the weight of those delegates to another candidate -- and again, having them committed to that candidate for several ballots would be worth something.

It has been a long time since a brokered convention, but they typically wemt for more than 2 ballots. So for Montana to be a real prize worth coming to Montana to campaign for, it would seem that our delegates would have to be commited for more than just the second ballot.

These are all ideas worth kicking around.

Regarding caucus voters, in an ideal situation, a precinct committeeman would know and canvas his precinct, taking the opinions of the precinct he is representing into consideration.

Ultimately, every vote is up to an individual conscience, but that conscience should be informed by the will of the people the voter is representing and serving.

In this particular year, most precinct committee members have been chosen and will vote before they have had the chance to get to know their precinct.

In the future, that will, one hopes, not be the case.

Mike said...

My precinct is quite small with less than 200 registered voters. I know the vast majority of them. Now, granted I don't talk politics with a lot of them, but, the ones I do see on a regular basis and talk politics with support the same candidate as I do.

In my opinion, The Central Committees could have started filling the vacant precinct positions much earlier than they did. My precinct was about 90% vacant in early December and it is still only about 35% filled.

100% of the people I have talked to in the last 60 days had no idea that the Republicans had switched the rules in August from a Primary to a Caucus.

Montana Headlines said...

You are absolutely right that the caucus should have been much more aggressively explained.

You are right that very, very few people even know what is happening.

There is real potential for blowback from Republican voters once they find out after the fact what has happened, and we all need to brace for it.

You are lucky in having such a small precinct. Heck, you can have every Republican in your precinct over for a barbeque!

Mike said...

"You are lucky in having such a small precinct. Heck, you can have every Republican in your precinct over for a barbeque!"

It would be much cheaper (but less fun) to invite all the Democrats over :-)