It was fun to watch the Michigan primary on Tuesday.
Michigan isn’t often associated with republican politics, it is rarely important when it comes to even the GOP primary. But watching the national news coverage of Michigan, on a night when it was really the only primary that mattered, was exciting.
What has happened in Michigan afterwards has been less exciting. There has been, what I consider, some dirty politics, some unethical behavior. It seems some of this happened even before the primary began. The Weekly Standard and RightMichigan have full break downs, and I’ll leave it to them to explain in greater detail exactly what happened, but I’ll give you a really crude Reader’s Digest version:
- Because Michigan moved up their primary from March 6, the national republican party penalized them delegates, previously they had 56, it is now 30
- The state party has a credentialing committee, who’s task it was to determine how the reduced number of delegates would be awarded
- On February 4th they met, made a decision, and produced a memo indicating that 28 delegates would be awarded to the winner of the 14 congressional districts (two per district) and two at-large delegates would be awarded proportionally to the winners of the popular vote, and that only candidates receiving 15% of the vote would be eligible.
Awesome, that’s all fine and dandy. If you watched Fox News or any other media outlet that night, they made it very clear those were the rules, congressional districts, proportional at-large delegates. After the vote, Romney and Santorum split the congressional districts, and the popular vote was close enough they split the two delegates. That’s how the media reported it, that’s how the campaigns understood it.
Until the credentialing committee met again, and came to this conclusion:
A March 1 memo explaining the final delegate count confirms that the at-large delegates will be awarded proportionally, but something isn’t quite right. Listed are 14 at-large delegates, 2 of which are labeled “voting” and 12 of which are labeled “non-voting.” Romney and Santorum do get awarded 7 delegates each, but Romney receives both voting delegates and 5 non-voting delegates, while all of Santorum’s 7 delegates are non-voting and thus meaningless at the national convention. So while the credentialing committee agreed unanimously on February 4 to calculate the at-large delegate allocation with 2 available delegates, the state party reversed this decision after the primary to calculate it with 14 delegates and arbitrarily awarding the only 2 delegates that mattered to Romney.
Okay, what? They met afterwards and reversed their decision?
It doesn’t totally seem that way, Saul Anuzis, an outspoken Romney supporter, was part of the credentialing committee, and has been going back and forth on Facebook claiming this was simply a restatement of the decision, and that the previous memo sent to the campaigns and the media was poorly worded.
So poorly worded was that memo, that even State Party Chairman Bobby Schostak didn’t understand the rules. Listen to this clip of him explaining the rules to MSNBC, and I’ll break down what he says:
- 30 voting delegates
- 14 congressional districts, 2 delegates each, total of 28 delegates
- 2 at-large delegates, awarded proportionally, rounded to the nearest delegate so there are no “half delegates or quarter delegates”
Notice how he said all 30 delegates were voting delegates. He never mentioned there “non-voting delegates.”
So here’s the situation. Anuzis claims this was the rule beforehand. He also claims everyone understood this rule. He even said in his statement on the matter that “There is no disagreement amongst the members that this was the intent of the Credential Committee.” If that’s the case, why did two members of the committee vote against the ruling after the primary? One of those was Mike Cox, a Romney supporter.
And call me crazy, but why are the members of this committee allowed to publicly support a candidate? Their job is to award the delegates, that should be a non-partisan job.
To me this comes down to terrible management and PR, which with my experience with the Michigan State GOP party, is nothing new. What’s more important? The actual rule that seems to only be understood by four members of that committee, or the way that rule was interpreted by the campaigns, the media, and the chairman of the state party? And if the rule was being misconstrued in the media, why didn’t Anuzis or someone else from the committee call up media outlets and clarify, or release a clearer memo.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but here’s my guess. Pretty much everyone at the GOP state party in Michigan are Romney supporters. That’s really not a state secret. At least three of the members of that committee are Romney supporters. They knew this race would be close, they also knew that memo was poorly worded, and they knew the media would misunderstand it. So they simply kept three options available.
- Option 1: Romney wins in a landslide, he gets more delegates anyway, they go with the memo version of the rule
- Option 2: Santorum wins by enough that even the tinkering with the rules wouldn’t make a difference
- Option 3: The race is close enough that it is a split between Santorum and Romney, and they ratify the non-memo rule to give Romney the delegate edge
If this rule change would have given Santorum an edge, they would not have made the change. Anuzis and others would be explaining the rule as the memo explained it, and would not have ratified it in any other way. I have no proof that would have been the case, just my hunch.
It’s a shame such an exciting primary that provided a fantastic opportunity for Michigan to be in the national spotlight, was partially tarnished by some backroom dirty politics in Lansing.
Same old, same old.