Day Two of the Great VAGOP Meltdown.

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?

18 thoughts on “Day Two of the Great VAGOP Meltdown.”

  1. Stupid question, but I’m coming to this late – why is this VAGOP’s fault, rather than the various campaigns’ fault? The number of signatures required?

    1. The short version, UtahMan, is that a lot of people are suddenly coming to the realization that the VA GOP’s rules for putting candidates on the primary ballot have somehow eliminated the guy currently leading both nationally and in Virginia. And, from what I can tell, those people are not reacting well to what are becoming the standard defenses of ‘rules are rules’ and ‘it’s the campaigns’ fault for sucking so bad.’ That this may not be particularly fair is largely, well, irrelevant: both Romney’s and Paul’s supporters seem largely determined to use the arguments that would work for them, rather than for the rest of the GOP electorate.

      Trying to explain all of this to well-meaning types elsewhere has proven to be surprisingly difficult. 🙂

  2. I don’t know that it’s anyone’s ‘fault’, as such, but the rules are definitely designed to help ‘the next person in line’ get the nomination, as the Republicans traditionally do. It’s just that in this case we’ve had two election cycles in a row where ‘the next person in line’ was despised by a good chunk of the base. Unfortunately a few more cycles of this and the GOP will destroy itself.

  3. Thanks Moe & Skip. I was trying to understand this. The real question is how to fix this without the VAGOP looking like they’re making it up as they go.

  4. It is utter baloney to say these “rules are definitely designed to help ‘the next person in line’ get the nomination,” as Skip does above. They were the same for decades, written when Democrats ruled the state and there was no viable GOP at all. You might as well blame the Illuminati for the conspiracy.

    The ONLY change was to say “no verification over 15K” which was a way for all the campaigns to qualify. It made it EASIER.

    EVERY candidate in either party is always advised to get at least 15-20K and 600-800 in each district because signatures always get thrown out. They must match registration rolls exactly and people sign all the time who aren’t even registered (it makes no sense, but they do).

    They had since July 1 to collect signatures. Anyone who couldn’t do it is not a leader worthy of high office.

    But Moe is right. Mitt should have his signatures verified (they will: he and Obama had petitions outside polls in the November election, a smart way to get registered voters). Paul’s were submitted earlier and have been verified.

  5. Not saying they will, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the VAGOP eventually lets both Perry and Gingrich in to save face and preserve a sense of fair play. If Perry and Gingrich really failed to raise the signatures needed, they won’t be a factor in the primary anyway. The lessor candidates will cry “Why not us?” but they didn’t even clear 10,000 pre verified signatures.

    Just having Romney get his signatures verified won’t help really. People opposed to Romney want to be able to vote against him and not want to use Ron Paul as a vehicle to do so. If I still lived in VA, I’d be livid that I’d have to choose between Romney and a Lunatic.

  6. The way I see it (speaking as a Virginia voter who is feeling fairly disenfranchised) is that the purpose of having a signature requirement in the first place is to keep dozens of total non-entities and nut jobs from spamming the ballot and making voters have to filter through them all to find the real candidates. It is NOT to serve as a test for the “seriousness” or “dedication” of actual presidential campaigns. If only two out of seven of the genuine campaigns manage to get on the ballot, THEN THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN AND NEEDS TO BE FIXED. The fact that one of the two guys who did make IS a nut job just emphasizes that point.

  7. I will say that I do NOT believe the VAGOP did anything sneaky or underhanded. The campaigns that didn’t make the ballot did indeed fail. That, sadly, doesn’t do anything to relieve the problem that the VAGOP has now.

    1. I don’t think that it’s likely that there was anything sneaky or underhanded, myself. I do think that the VAGOP utterly f*cked up the way they handled this, though: from the lack of control over the messaging, to the website being down for most of the evening, to the way that people reporting on developments could always find somebody willing to anonymously talk trash about the candidates. Essentially, the VAGOP couldn’t have given people more of an excuse to think that there were shenanigans if they had been actively trying.

  8. Argues and MikeCG: I’m kind of surprised that there are people saying the system is broken and needs to be fixed, or that any sense of fair play needs to be preserved. The problem at hand was child’s play, and the system was more than fair. All you had to do was get 15,000 signatures and they wouldn’t be verified. You could haven gotten 15,000 signatures that included such notable Virginia residents as Mickey Mouse and Darth Vader, and you’d still be fine. Frankly, the fact that the other campaigns didn’t even TRY TO SHOOT for 15,000 is disturbing to me — almost as disturbing as that “and they won’t be verified above a certain mark,” which is just WRONG. And speaking as a Gingrich supporter (for the moment, anyway), that someone of his caliber couldn’t get a staff in Virginia who knew better than to collect JUST ENOUGH signatures does not bode well.

  9. Up until recently I did not think Obama would win a second term, but I am coming to the conclusion he will because the GOP is hell bent on nominating Romney. Now, Va has also increased Obama’s odds because the more conservatives learn of this debacle the more of them that will stay home next November. The Va GOP better do something quickly to fix this.

  10. My point isn’t that that people will think that shenanigans robbed them of their chance to vote for their desired candidate (but there is a not insignificant number of people who have drawn that conclusion). It’s that the GOP voters are now stuck with a choice between a guy they don’t like much and a lunatic. It’s in their interest to have both Gingritch and Perry on the ballot so the non Romney voters have legit candidates to vote for and not use Paul as the vehicle for a protest vote. Paul winning primaries in in NO ONE’s best interest.

    Gingritch and Perry totally blew it. The VAGOP really should give them a mulligan.

  11. Demosthenes, I understand the point you are making, and I agree, it doesn’t bode too well for the campaigns that didn’t make the cut, but here is what I am saying: if the campaigns just plain suck at organizing, they aren’t going to win the primary. The primary is where this thing needs to be decided. I’m not subscribing to any conspiracy theories here, I just happen to think that Virginia voters deserve to have a choice of more than Romney and Paul on March 6. If the Romney and Paul campaigns are so head and shoulders above there competitors, then they should have no trouble turning out the vote and winning. But let the issue be decided where it should be: at the ballot box, not at RPV headquarters in Richmond.

  12. I agree with both of you about a lot. I’m not a Romney fan, though I’d vote for him over Obama. And I’m not a Paul fan, and I would stay home rather than vote for HIM over Obama. (The odds I’ll get a chance to cast a protest vote for anyone in the general should Doctor StrangeGold actually win — not great.) Where we don’t agree is over the whole mulligan issue. Yes, the voters deserve to have a chance to choose from more than two candidates. But it’s the responsibility of the various candidates to give them that opportunity. The rules were clear, they were public…and so that should be that. There are 49 other primaries and caucuses for Perry and Gingrich to compete in.

  13. Moe,

    As a long time Perry supporter from the 90’s – I’m not surprized. Perry might have made the decision on expenses, he uses strategic planning and budgeting and may have allocated “x” amount of dollars to invest in VA. He’s running a long game (or was at the time of the implementation of the VA plan) and isnt going to expend a disproportionate amount of dollars on a state that has an arrogant policy of forcing candidates to spend extra dollars to get access to the ballot.

    People are correct that its a states right, but its also a right of potential candidates to ignore them depriving VA a ballot of choices.

  14. I don’t have a horse in the race yet but doesn’t this say something about how well campaigns are organized—which, in turn may indicate how well a president will govern?

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