The PJ Tatler

RNC Puts Nail in Coffin of Unbound National Delegates

For many years, the national conventions of the two major political parties have served less as true conventions and more as coronations of presumptive nominees. While state, congressional, and local conventions frequently deal with contested races for party endorsement, they do not attract the same level of media attention as national conventions. Perhaps for that reason, the national conventions have increasingly become prolonged television commercials for the parties’ presumptive nominees.

Supporters of Ron Paul shook up the status quo during the former congressman’s two bids for the Republican nomination. In 2012, a significant delegation of Paul supporters made their way to Tampa. In particular, Minnesota sent a delegation of unbound delegates who overwhelmingly supported Paul. Coincidentally, the RNC made changes to their rules affecting future conventions that would restrict states like Minnesota from sending unbound delegates.

The Republican Party of Minnesota has sought a waiver from the rule change. A final decision has been made, as reported at MinnPost:

The Republican National Committee has ruled that the Minnesota Republican Party’s presidential preference poll — scheduled for March 1, 2016— must bind its national delegates proportionately to the winners.

This bit of intra-party arcana is important because it could help the state GOP’s efforts to be a bigger player in 2016 presidential politics, though it has also served to dismay activists who believe the rule imposes national control over grass-roots activities.

State Republican Party Chair Keith Downey says that conducting a binding poll at the Republican precinct caucuses will put the national spotlight on Minnesota along with other states holding caucuses that day – “a mini-Super Tuesday,” he calls it.

And since the ballot is binding proportionately, Downey believes, “it protects the upstart candidates who can sustain their candidacy without having to win outright.  My opinion is that this is actually a better situation for grass-roots activists … who may prefer an outlier.”

“All the Republican presidential candidates will take Minnesota more seriously,” he said.

It remains unclear how bound delegates will be disposed if the candidate they are bound to drops out of the race. There may still be unbound delegates at the national convention in that event. But how delegates will be bound and to which candidates remains a mystery, at least until the state party figures out the details.