Such a fascinating, uplifting, boring, depressing game of intrigue politics is. One on the outside just gets hints here and there of behind the scenes action. Last week, just before Saturday’s county convention, I saw for myself.
On Thursday, I received an email from the county coordinator of the Paul campaign urging me, as an alternate delegate, to come to a critical meeting on Friday, the night before the convention.
Upon arrival at that meeting, many people were there whom I did not recognize, and the leader of that group, from the Santorum campaign, had just flown in to town specifically for this strategy meeting. Following his introduction, he proceeded to explain that there had been a meeting two nights earlier, orchestrated by the Romney campaign, of Romney, Santorum and Gingrich people to formulate a strategy to strip Paul of any chance of winning any delegates at the convention. Agreeing on this strategy, the campaigns came up with a “Unity Slate,” a list of candidates to go to the state convention – and thereby vote for delegates to the state convention, delegates who would primarily represent Romney, but also Santorum and Gingrich. The directive was that delegates on Saturday were to vote for the Unity Slate, which included no Paul people.
Unfortunately for the Romney campaign, the Santorum campaign realized, once they saw that the Unity Slate would not give Santorum many votes, that Romney would roll to an easy win in the county and Santorum also would be effectively shut out.
So Santorum personally called Ron Paul.
That conversation resulted in their directive to their respective campaigns to work together to form an “Open (national) Convention Slate,” consisting of Paul and Santorum (and a couple of Gingrich) delegates, proportional to their showing in the county caucus 4 weeks earlier. Either Gingrich never heard of Romney’s strategy, or he didn’t care. In any case, he had won few delegates in the caucus, and did not bless this meeting.
This was a tough sell, and the meeting was rife with drama and many upset people – particularly Santorum people – asking why they should vote for someone other than their candidate. “Because if you don’t, Romney will sew up the nomination and your candidate will be finished; that’s why,” they were told.
Many Santorum people had been told Paul people were a bunch of ne’er do well misfits and anarchists, and could not be trusted. Any attempt to work with Paul people would certainly be rewarded by treachery. Nevertheless, eventually, everyone was warily on the same page and the concept was approved by a vote of all attendees.
The heads of the respective campaigns stayed up all night to negotiate the names and order of the 32 Paul and Santorum delegates who were to be voted for in the Open Convention Slate.
Saturday morning, the convention started out badly. Whereas 600 people had come four years ago, this year 1000 people came out of the woodwork, unified and excited, to oust Obama. Those who ran the convention weren’t ready for the onslaught and disorganization – some would say chaos – reigned.
Four years ago, all business at the county convention was completed by mid-afternoon. This time around, voting started around 4pm. In my district, at the completion of the first ballot, the Paul people were shocked to see that every one of the 12 successful delegates were Santorum people. Had the Paul people been betrayed? It certainly seemed so, but with time so short and the second ballot coming right away, there was no time for the Paul people to say anything other than, “Vote the Slate.” So they did. The Santorum people, seeing from the first ballot that the Paul people were true to their word, voted entirely for Paul people, and a collective sigh of relief followed. The third ballot elected mostly Paul but some Santorum people, consistent with the slate, with one thrown in for Gingrich.
The final tally of all delegates for all four districts in the county was: Paul – 38; Santorum – 27; Romney – 6 and Gingrich – 2. So Romney’s strategy to shut out Paul resulted in his nearly being shut out, and the county GOP leadership, eager to tell the state and national party that they had delivered for Romney, were mad as hell.
Is politics fair? Probably not. But it still provides lessons on how to treat others. It also teaches that backhandedness sometimes bites back and that turnaround is fair play.