And it is a meltdown.
For those coming in late, let me summarize*: both Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have been excluded from the Virginia Republican primary by the Virginia GOP. This has placed the VA GOP in an awkward situation, given that: they have excluded the current national and Virginian front-runner from their own ballot; have currently no write-in option on the ballot; do have an open primary that anyone can vote in; and generally have created an environment peculiarly suited for conspiracy theories involving Mitt Romney (and ones that won’t contain the word ‘Mormon’ anywhere in their description, by the way). The current defenses to all of this are “rules are rules” and “any campaign that couldn’t follow them are by definition poor campaigns:” I will leave it to the individual reader to decide just how either argument will play in, say, Peoria; I am frankly of the opinion that the above defenses are well-suited towards reassuring Romney and/or Paul voters – and will do very little to persuade the other 60-65% or so of likely Republican primary voters.
But since I’m telling Mitt Romney what won’t help his situation, it kind of behooves me to tell him what might.
There is one good way for the Romney campaign to get at least a little distance between themselves and the situation, and it involves the number of signatures. The VA GOP required 10K signatures (with 400 from each district); but they also declared that anyone who brought in 15K (with 600 from each district) would not need to have those signatures verified. If I was advising the Romney campaign right now, I would be telling them to publicly go to the VA GOP and make arrangements to have Romney’s votes certified anyway. This would allow them to simultaneously show evidence that the campaign had nothing to hide and to subtly reinforce the point that they got all of these signatures in the first place. Doing this will not kill the rumors, but it’ll provide a better defense than “the rules are the rules.”
That’s the best I can do for Team Romney. Whether they take that advice or not is up to them.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Sorry about the lack of links. It’s Christmas Eve Day, OK?