Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Do the RNC Rules Allow a VP Selection to Be Dumped by the Convention?

Sure they do.

But of course, that won't happen in Tampa. And FHQ is not suggesting that it is a possibility. Rather, this is in answer to Jonathan Bernstein's follow up to Seth Masket on the influence of party over the vice presidential selection.

First the rules:
In the 2008 Rules of the Republican Party -- the rules governing the 2012 nomination process and convention -- Rule 40 covers nominations. Yes, the same Rule 40 that came up back in March and was the basis for all the talk about Ron Paul controlling a plurality of delegates in at least five states. The same is true for vice presidential nominations, but the procedure there is less regulated than for presidential nominations. By that I mean that delegates are not bound on the vice presidential roll call votes in the same way that they are on presidential roll call votes for nomination (...something Jon Ward covers here). I am not suggesting that there will be any Ron Paul delegate mischief or any other efforts to second guess Romney and oust Paul Ryan from the ticket in Tampa. Instead, the point is to show that it is possible.

Now the implications:
Within the framework of the party -- writ large -- influencing the selection of a vice presidential nominee, this merely adds another layer. But that is certainly a layer that strengthens the party's hand. It really is not unlike a president's decision in selecting a nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. There is a more than adequate supply of able jurists in the pool, but only a constrained number of them will ever be considered by any given president. There is a calculus to the decision and presidents can push the envelope -- ideologically speaking or in some other manner -- but the extent of said pushing goes only so far as the administration's perception of what/who is likely to get the requisite 60 votes in the US Senate for confirmation.

Similarly, Presumptive Nominee Romney wants/wanted to select a running mate that was palatable to members of the Republican Party. Any of the finalists -- Ryan, Portman, Pawlenty -- would have accomplished that. Additionally, there was a reason certain trial balloons failed: They weren't passable in a convention setting. FHQ has attempted to raise the issue of breaking from the script moments at the Republican convention in Tampa. Mostly that was within the context of the role of Ron Paul delegates. But the same rule applies in this case. Selecting, for example, a pro-choice running mate like Rice or Sandoval would have been vetoed -- in Bernsteinian? Berenstain? terms -- by the convention. It may not have been enough to derail the ultimate nomination of that type of candidate, but it definitely would ruin the harmonious party atmosphere with which the two national parties like to leave conventions.

The last thing any party or nominee wants is discord within the party before, during or after a convention. And that is the power of party in this particular political decision.

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