Thursday, January 31, 2008
Namely, that he signed up to be Sen. John McCain's chairman in Montana -- and then didn't do a blessed thing for McCain. Didn't bother to learn the caucus rules, couldn't be bothered to contact and talk to the state GOP folks like every other campaign head in the state, didn't even bother to find out if he had a vote, and if not, how to get one.
Unless Lewis and Clark County is some gross anomaly (which we doubt,) Bohlinger was probably sitting right in a vacant precinct that he could have applied for. Did he ever contact the L&C County party to find out? Did he ever contact the state party to learn the caucus rules and whether he had a vote? We somehow doubt it.
Bohlinger not having a vote doesn't make him special, by the way. There are Supreme Court justices, district court justices, city council members and mayors and other non-partisan elected officials who probably consider themselves to be Republicans, but who weren't elected with an "R" beside their name on the ballot. And unlike the Lt. Gov., most of these folks in non-partisan offices who consider themselves to be Republicans have furthermore probably worked for and contributed to Republicans and have probably never worked to defeat Republicans at the ballot box. None of these elected officials get a vote in the GOP Presidential caucus, though, because they weren't elected as Republicans.
Do we wish that there were a way to have a larger group of caucus voters? Yes. But it is certainly understandable why the GOP arrived at the solution that they did. One way of putting it is that everyone in the state who is on record with the government as being Republican is going to vote in this caucus.
We hope that there will be changes made in the future -- for starters we'd like voter registration by party that would allow for a broader group of Republican caucus voters, or we could have an agreement with Democrats to caucus on the same night (so people would have to choose that night whether to be a Republican or a Democrat,) or we could pass the legislation proposed by Republicans in the last session to move up the Presidential primaries for both parties.
But ultimately, the rules for determining a political party's delegates are -- according to Montana law -- made by the parties themselves. Lt. Gov. Bohlinger of all people should have been sophisticated enough to find out what those rules were, especially if he aspired to lead a Presidential campaign effort in the state.
Bohlinger has announced that he plans to appear at his local caucus to make a speech for McCain and then make a stink about not getting to vote (does he want to make doubly sure that McCain doesn't get any votes? What does he have against poor Sen. McCain, anyway?)
He did this several days after the deadline had passed for certifying voters at the caucus -- which indicates either that someone in the governor's office knew exactly when the deadlines were that everyone else had to follow and then made a point of waiting until after they had passed, or it means that the Lt. Gov. couldn't be bothered with finding out the caucus rules.
GOP Chairman Erik Iverson handled the situation well by sending Bohlinger a letter that (much more diplomatically) explained the above to the Lt. Gov.
Iverson personally invited Bohlinger to come to the caucus in Helena and to speak on behalf of John McCain, although he pointed out that he couldn't give Bohlinger a vote without breaking rules that everyone else in the state GOP has had to follow and ignoring deadlines that everyone else in the state GOP had to meet.
Still, perhaps the Montana GOP could have been a little more proactive about dealing with Bohlinger and the GOP caucus. Couldn't we see this one coming from 10 miles away? This was a wedge tactic that one didn't need a crystal ball to see coming.
Someone at state party central could have written Bohlinger long ago, spelling out the process and offering to guide him through it. The party could have offered to show him how to sign up to being a precinct committeeman, a position where he could work for Republican victory and with which he could have a vote at the caucus.
Regular readers of MH will know that it is not a new opinion around here to advocate being more active and less reactive when it comes to the Lt. Gov.'s attempts to play the Republican game.
But again, Iverson responded politely and positively, inviting Bohlinger to work with him to elect Republicans here in Montana. No word yet on whether Bohlinger has offered to take Iverson up on his invitation.
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.