Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On the Binding of Missouri Republican Delegates

Over the weekend, FHQ had a few thoughts on the apparent binding of county-level delegates to the Republican congressional district and state conventions in Missouri. But that elicited one very interesting question from an anonymous reader/commenter:
"Does the RNC rule [15.b.1] prevent the State Convention to bind National Convention delegates to the results of the February primary?"
FHQ will put on its RNC thinking cap for this one. The easy answer is, well yeah, any attempt by Missouri Republicans to bind delegates to the national convention based on the results of the non-binding February 7 primary would open the Show Me state delegation to penalties from the RNC. But the key to this is that there is a discrepancy between that answer -- a rules-based answer -- and the question above.

The RNC rule only refers to the binding of national convention delegates; not state (or congressional district) delegates. There is nothing in the rules -- whether RNC rules or Missouri Republican Party rules -- about the binding of state or congressional district delegates based on the results of the February primary.  Now, of course, this would mean -- if every delegate to the state or congressional district convention was bound according to the results of the primary -- that the Missouri delegates to the national convention would be bound based on what would be a non-compliant contest.

...but only indirectly.

The entire Missouri delegation to the national convention in Tampa -- all 52 delegates -- is bound, but bound based on the decisions made at the state convention or the congressional district conventions; not the February primary. Now sure, logically, if the state and/or congressional district delegates are bound at the county-level caucuses based on the results of the primary, then any decision those bound delegates make during subsequent steps of the caucus/convention process is also bound based on the results of a non-compliant (too early) primary.

...but, again, only indirectly.

FHQ gets it. That is a bit of a cop out. But honestly, I think that is how this particular situation would be interpreted by the RNC. The catch here is that it isn't likely to be all that problematic anyway. Notice that I added that italicized "every" to the sentence about bound state/congressional district Missouri delegates above. From the look of it, the Santorum folks telegraphed their binding strategy during the Thursday night caucus in Brunswick County. Campaigns', and more importantly campaigns' strategic, decisions are not made in a vacuum. And that fact appears to have been highlighted by the reality that during the Saturday round of caucuses across Missouri (the day with the largest number of county-level meetings), Romney and Paul supporters prevented or attempted to prevent the passage of similar binding rules that would benefit the Santorum campaign.

What we are left with, then, is the potential for some delegates from the Missouri delegation to be indirectly bound according to the results of the non-binding -- and what would be a non-compliant -- primary. The RNC rules don't really address that, and unless a challenge to a handful of delegates is all that consequential within the context of this race, it probably isn't going to matter all that much.

But as always, there is a chance. It isn't impossible; just very, very improbable.

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