by Gary Marbut, Republican Candidate, Montana House District 99
After-Action Report, Montana Republican National Delegate Convention
The net result is that the Montana GOP may have won a battle and lost a war. Please stick with me while I explain.
First, let me get some facts and conditions on the record.
1) The Delegate Convention was all about selecting delegates to support presidential candidates at the National GOP nomination convention in Tampa, Florida, this coming August. There are only two candidates left in this race, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
2) The credentialed delegates to the Montana Convention were divided generally into two camps, those supporting Mitt Romney (delegates spoken of here as the GOP “Old Guard”), and those supporting Ron Paul.
3) The delegates supporting Ron Paul had about 47% of the voting strength at the convention.
4) The important part of the process was the election of 20 “at-large” (not alternate) delegates to Tampa.
5) The state GOP Nomination Committee received 70 applications for nomination as Tampa delegates, and selected 20 of those. According to GOP rules, nominations were also open from the floor of the convention.
6) Ron Paul won 17% of the total of Primary votes cast for Romney and Paul. As a result, those of us supporting Paul were told that the Nominations Committee would nominate five Paul supporters to go to Tampa.
7) The state GOP Chairman appointed ONLY Old Guard GOP personnel (Romney supporters) to the Nominations Committee.
8) The Nominations Committee actually put the names of ZERO Paul supporters into nomination to be Tampa delegates at the Convention. All 20 Nomination Committee nominees were Romney supporters, including many so disinterested that about half of them didn’t even bother to show up at the convention to introduce themselves to delegates or speak for themselves.
9) At the convention, the Old Guard imposed a process to use ballots that had the nominees of the Nomination Committee that was clearly skewed to favor the nominees of the Committee (* see below for a description of the ballots and ballot rules asserted).
10) From the floor of the convention, 23 persons were nominated, mostly Paul supporters.
11) The GOP Bylaws would have allowed the names of all nominees to be printed alphabetically on the ballot, and such a motion was offered, but the Old Guard prevailed in maintaining the separation and enhanced status of the nominees nominated by the Nomination Committee.
12) ZERO supporters of Congressman Paul were elected through this unbalanced process to be delegates to Tampa.
So, what actually happened and what does it mean?
Political gurus explain that while the number of people supporting a candidate is important, the energy of a candidate’s supporters is even more important. The Paul supporters were highly energized, exactly the type of people the GOP desperately needs to carry GOP candidates in important upcoming GOP races.
There was Zero organized effort in support of Romney at the Convention. No Romney booth. No Romney signs. No Romney stickers. However, there were two Paul booths, and scores of Paul signs. The energy and effort of the Paul supporters was high. The energy of the Romney supporters was absent.
Had the Nominations Committee done what Chairman Deschamps promised and put five Paul supporters on the Nomination Committee slate, the Paul supporters would not have been excited, but would have been satisfied.
Had the Old Guard-controlled GOP insiders printed the ballots in the fair way that all other ballots are printed, in some randomized order, the Paul supporters would have been satisfied, even if not elated.
However, the Old Guard leaned heavily on the scales in two critical ways to force an outcome that deliberately and completely shut out Paul supporters.
Was this done “legally”? Yes. What was done was within the GOP rules.
Was the conduct by the Old Guard smart? Decidedly not. In fact, it was stunningly shortsighted.
Why? This said to the most highly energized faction of the Republican Party, “We don’t want you. We have the power to shut you out, and we do.”
Whether or not this was intended is immaterial. In politics, perception is reality. This is how the Paul supporters invariably perceived the heavy-handed Old Guard sweep of all delegates.
Why is this important? The GOP has candidates running for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and other important races. Most of these races will be won or lost by narrow margins. By treating its most energized faction in such a disrespectful and dismissive way, the Old Guard has certainly cost every one of these candidates some percent of the pro-GOP election effort available, and thereby some percent, even if small, of the November vote.
Most of these candidates simply cannot afford for the Old Guard to thoughtlessly squander 1%, 3% or 5% of the candidates’ November vote. Any of these candidates who lose their races in November by 1% or 3% have the GOP Old Guard to thank for having been so shortsighted as to run off critical Republican support in the Old Guard’s lust for power and control.
The Montana Republican Old Guard had the opportunity to be inclusive and to live their unity rhetoric within the Party. Instead, it chose to play poorly-considered power games.
The real losers (more so than those energized, Paul-supporting Republicans who sought inclusiveness and fairness, but who were rebuffed) will be Montana Republican candidates, especially those for major office. And, the people of Montana may lose.
This is why the overall conduct of the Montana GOP Old Guard was stunningly shortsighted and far worse than simply inept. One may hope that the major Montana Republican candidates will be successful in November.
But, if they are to win their elections, they must now do so without the active involvement of a whole lot of Paul-supporting of Republicans who have been most highly energized among the GOP, until they were so summarily excluded by the entrenched Montana Republican Old Guard.
To win, these major candidates will need rely solely on the active support of those whose nominees at the convention demonstrated their level of commitment when roughly half of them couldn’t even be bothered to show up to introduce themselves.
Let me be clear about one point. Although a few of the rejected, Paul-supporting people will now vote for third party candidates or stay home on election day, the majority will go to the polls and probably cast votes for Republican candidates in November.
However, they will almost certainly not work with candidates putting up signs, stuffing mailers, making phone calls and all the other myriad of volunteer things essential to a winning campaign.
It is the loss of these highly energized Republicans, people who could have been kept at the oars of the Republican ship, that will make winning the November election incrementally more difficult for many Montana Republican candidates.
This is why the Montana GOP Old Guard may have commanded a petty win of a single battle, but may well have lost a war. Best of luck to the affected candidates.
Note to candidates (Rehberg, Daines, Hill, Fox, Johnson, Welch, Skees and others):
If five (or even all 20) of the Montana delegates to Tampa had been Paul supporters, it would have made no difference in the outcome of the national GOP convention in Tampa. None. So, the divisive, destructive and expensive (to you) antics of the Montana Republican Old Guard was done for no valid strategic reason.
The MT GOP Nominations Committee was comprised of Will Deschamps, Debby Barrett, Jean Johnson, Jon Bennion, and Cory Swanson (according to Deschamps).
Reported and submitted by:
Montana House of Representatives District 99
* The ballots. Printed on what was designated as the “front side” of a standard sheet of paper was a large black border box that took up much of the front page. Printed center-justified inside this box was the list of 20 Romney-supporting nominees recommended by the Nominating Committee. In the upper left corner of this large box was a small check box a state convention delegate could check in order to vote for the entire slate of Romney-supporting, would-be Tampa delegates offered by the Nominating Committee. One check mark would cause a vote for 20 candidates.
In a similar 2008 contest a similar ballot was used where those nominees nominated from the floor of the convention were printed on the designated “back side” of the ballot. There were complaints about that unfairness then.
Ostensibly to correct complaints of unfairness in 2008, the 2012 ballot had the 20 names of the Nominating Committee nominations printed AGAIN on the back side of the ballot, on the top half of the paper. On this designated back side, the nominees’ names were left-justified, with a short underscore to the left of each name that could be checked to vote for the Nominating Committee nominees individually.
On the bottom of the back side, the last space on the ballot, were printed the names of the 23 nominees nominated from the floor of the convention (mostly Paul-supporting nominees).
These were also left-justified, with a short underscore to the left of each name so the nominees could be voted individually. There was no way offered on the ballot for state convention delegates to vote for a full slate of Paul nominees with one check mark, as was done with the Nominations Committee’s Romney-exclusive slate on the front of the ballot.
Then there were the instructions. The instructions from the conference chairman AND printed on the ballot declared that if a person checked the full slate box on the front and ANY candidate or candidates on the back, the ballot would not be considered a spoiled and invalid ballot because of more than 20 votes, BUT it would construed simply as a vote for the entire Nominating Committee’s slate on the front. Conversely, it was declared, that if a person mistakenly voted for more than 20 nominees on the back of the ballot (without a slate-check on the front), the ballot would be considered spoiled and invalid. There was a bitterly-fought but successful motion (opposed mostly by Romney supporters) to make the back side of the ballot the default side, rather than the front, if there were marks on both front and back.
A motion to print all nominees (both Nominating Committee and floor) in one alphabetized list, a motion made and supported by Paul supporters, was defeated by Romney supporters.
Because of the way it was printed, and the instructions for voting, the ballot was clearly rigged to favor the nominees (all Romney supporters) of the Nominations Committee.
Added material: On 6/17/12, Montana Republican Chairman Will Deschamps responded to my After-action Report (above) by saying:
“Please remove me from your e mail list. You have blatantly lied and you and I will never speak again.”
I think Will means he thinks I lied about his promise to me that a number of Ron Paul supporters would be included on the slate proposed by the Nominations Committee proportional to how Paul and Romney fared in the Primary Election. But I’m not sure. Will’s email is unclear on that point.
So, on 6/17/12 I responded to Will with this email, the subject of which was”
SUBJECT: “Just suppose I lied …..”
It’s easy to dismiss my report because of a challenge to your honor, but that still leaves in question the competence of those who conceived and drove the shutout of Ron Paul delegates.
Just suppose I lied, that I’m a trouble-causing (pejorative deleted) for doing that (although we both know that’s not so). Let’s get that off the table so more relevant discussion may occur. (BTW, I hear that you actually asked the Nominations Committee to put five Paul supporters on its slate [thank you], but that the Committee rejected your suggestion.) So, just suppose I lied.
That still leaves the elephant in the room that needs recognition and discussion. That still leaves the question of the political competence of the GOP insiders who so deliberately set out to shun a Republican constituency sufficiently energized to account for 47% of the voting strength at the convention, in a year when the GOP desperately needs every soldier it can get (especially the energized ones) to get its major (and minor) candidates elected in what are quite likely be very narrow races.
How is it that those who engineered this deliberate shut-out should not be sent packing by the rest of the GOP for so frivolously squandering Republican resources that could well make the difference between winning and losing in November? How does it aid the “unity” that party leaders so desperately seek (or so they say anyway) to so deliberately manage this shut-out and spurn this significant group?
These are questions the GOP establishment will have to answer, if not from me then from others such as Denny, Steve, Rick and more. You can’t duck and dismiss these questions by just saying that I lied. The carefully-engineered shut-out is now a matter of a video record that will soon be on YouTube for everyone to view. Whether it was deliberate or accidental, it was avoidable for anyone with a modicum of political sense.
Try this. Romney got 83% of the Primary vote between Romney and Paul, yet Paul supporters delivered 47% of the voting strength to the convention. How can anyone with political savvy not see that these numbers tell something very important, especially to Republican candidates in Montana who actually hope to get elected? To so deliberately spurn the Paul supporters with such an obviously engineered shut-out must meet anyone’s definition of a very bad call (to use the mildest of words).
My frustration is this: That those who will pay the price for this terrible judgment will be the major GOP candidates in Montana, and the citizens of Montana who may be saddled with the likes of Tester and Bullock only because of the arrogance of a few GOP insiders who insisted on taking all the marbles for themselves.
Finally, it may be attractive to try to dodge these questions and issues with a “shoot the messenger” approach. Sorry, that won’t work. The genie is out of the bottle. I didn’t create this controversy – the GOP insiders did with their poorly-conceived rejection of the 47% Paul contingent. I only report what happened and point out the likely fallout.
Whether or not you respond to this, these are things you really should be thinking about. Sincerely, Gary
I have had NO response from Will to this email. I suspect he may be part of the head-in-the-sand, circle-the-wagons crowd. After thinking about this, I have the following additional to offer:
A Thought Experiment
Imagine that Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch (a lifetime Democrat) prepares an odd ballot for the November elections.
First, imagine that Linda puts a check box at the top of the front page of the ballot that, if checked, would be deemed to cause the voter to commit his or her votes to every Democrat on the ballot, without any further checks.
Second. As a part of this imagination, also imagine that there is no similar check box to allow the voter to vote for all Republican candidates with one simple check, but that to vote for Republican candidates the voter must search them out and vote for them individually.
Third, imagine that for every occurrence of a Republican on the ballot, McCulloch put the competing Democrat on the ballot five times.
Fourth, imagine that the name of every Republican on this ballot is printed in a smaller type size than the Democrat candidate.
Fifth, imagine Linda arguing that she and her staff had put a LOT of hard work into formatting the ballot, so it should be accepted just because of the expended effort.
Now that this situation is fully imagined, here is a question. Would Republicans accept this arrangement?
Suppose further that the Republicans made a complaint about the inequity of the ballot. In response, McCulloch agrees to compromise by listing Democrat candidates only twice on the ballot for each Republican. Having made that generous concession, she asks Republicans to accept the revised ballot (still including front page top check box to vote for all Democrats with one check, and a smaller type size for Republican candidates).
Will Republicans accept this ballot now?
Republican leaders expected supporters of presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul to swallow exactly that arrangement at the recent Republican Delegate Convention. That is, Republican leaders expected Paul supporters to accept a skewed system that they would (and should) never tolerate if it were applied to them.
In support of their scheme, establishment Republicans argued that they’d put a lot of work into coming up with the preferred list, so the unequal scheme ought to be accepted (and considered “fair”) just because of the time they’d invested in coming up with the list of preferred candidates (right – makes no sense).
Is it time to suggest to the Secretary of State that she adopt for the General Election exactly the same system that the establishment Republicans deemed “fair” for their own Delegate Convention? Wouldn’t that be interesting?
One might hope that this thought experiment will open the eyes of some people about how very improper the balloting process was at the recent Montana Republican Delegate Convention. However, it is presumed that the ringleaders and supporters of this scheme will simply circle their wagons, make excuses, and hope the story of their shenanigans will fade away.
Those with a sense of fair play that outweighs misplaced loyalty to the perpetrators will admit that the process was improper, designed to obtain a predetermined outcome, and will ask what might possibly be done at this point to right this considerable wrong (waiting for contact from Will, but not holding my breath).
One more short thought experiment may be illustrative.
Suppose in the scenario imagined above, McCulloch were to identify a theoretical neutral party from out-of-state to assure all that fairness would be observed throughout the process. To aid in administering this neutrality, suppose McCulloch provided the theoretically neutral observer with office space in her suite of offices.
Finally, imagine that leading Democrat strategists were seen going repeatedly into the observers office for conversation with the observer.
Would Republicans perceive from those visitations that the theoretically neutral observer was not actually neutral, and that he was actually collaborating with Democrats to obtain the outcome desired by Democrats?
Remember that in politics perception IS reality.
During the Republican Delegate Convention, Mitt Romney Montana leaders Mark Baker and Scott Reichner were seen to repeatedly go to the Parliamentarian imported from Texas and engage him in head-to-head collaboration. It is entirely unknown what they discussed, but the appearance to the audience was that they were collaborating to achieve the outcome desired by Baker and Reichner, or at least that Baker and Reichner were lobbying the Parliamentarian aggressively for something. It is NOT alleged that anything improper was actually done, but this repeated collaboration clearly created the perception of collusion in the minds of many members of the audience.
Republicans will understand that not only is it necessary to avoid actual impropriety, but also to avoid the appearance of impropriety. In their zeal to obtain election of a complete slate of Romney supporters, Baker and Reichner forgot to avoid the appearance of improper conduct inherent in their several visits with the Parliamentarian imported from Texas.
End of thought experiment.
For anyone really interested in a fairness standard, there is one that, although it may not apply directly, may be used as a gauge to measure the propriety of the way the ballots were prepared for the recent Republican Delegate Convention. It is in Montana law (bold added):
13-12-202. Ballot form and uniformity. (1) The secretary of state shall adopt statewide uniform rules that prescribe the ballot form for each type of ballot used in this state. The rules must conform to the provisions of this title unless the voting system used clearly requires otherwise. At a minimum, the rules must address:
(a) the manner in which each type of ballot may be corrected under 13-12-204;
(b) what provisions must be made on the ballot for write-in candidates;
(c) the size and content of stubs on paper ballots, except as provided in 13-19-106(1);
(d) how unvoted ballots must be handled;
(e) how the number of individuals voting and the number of ballots cast must be recorded; and
(f) the order and arrangement of voting system ballots.
(2) The names of all candidates to appear on the ballots must be in the same font size and style.
(3) Notwithstanding 13-19-106(1), when the stubs are detached, it must be impossible to distinguish any one of the ballots from another ballot for the same office or issue.
(4) The ballots must contain the name of each candidate whose nomination is certified under law for an office and no other names, except that the names of candidates for president and vice president of the United States must appear on the ballot as provided in 13-25-101(2).
Also, transcribed from video of the convention floor, in an interchange between David Hart and Chairman Will Deschamps:
HART: David Hart from Flathead County. Just a quick question for clarification for my own sake. I seem to recall that in 2008 when this process was taking place that the nominees were nominated from the floor. When the final ballot was presented to the body the nominees from the floor were on the back side of the ballot. I’m just inquiring what your plans are for this convention.
DESCHAMPS: You will see the ballot when you see the ballot, but we’re going to try to be as fair as we can. We don’t want those sorts of concerns people had four years ago, and I’m … I’m acutely aware of those concerns.
Recent posts on the Internet about this: David Johnson of Manhattan Montana
Jeff Whiteside of Missoula, Montana
From a Forbes commentary piece:
“Booting the Paul people from the GOP might gratify some neoconservatives, it’s not possible to expel them without performing a full libertarianectomy — and any Republican who’s willing even to risk that outcome just isn’t serious about winning elections (to say nothing of any fealty to Reagan Republicanism).”
Just the beginning. There will be more.
More coming soon – check back.