The Blog

How Romney Supporters Changed the Rules to Get a Delegate

12:45 PM, Mar 3, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

There’s been scant reporting on the Michigan Republican party’s curious—some allege unscrupulous—clarification of the rules regarding the state’s two at-large delegates to the national convention. The folks at Right Michigan, a conservative blog, have a thorough explanation of the story. Here’s a summary.


Saul Anuzis

Because Michigan, like other states, decided to hold their primary before March 6, the Republican National Committee, per its own rules, penalized the state GOP by reducing the number of voting delegates it could send to the national convention in Tampa. That meant instead of the regular 56 elected delegates, Michigan would only send 30 to cast ballots for the nominee. Of the original 56, 42 were to be allocated based on congressional district (3 delegates for each of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts); this number of voting delegates was reduced to 28, or 2 for each district. The remaining 14 “at-large” voting delegates would be reduced to 2, bringing the total to 30.

These at-large delegates, per the state party’s rules, were to be awarded proportionally, based on the primary’s popular vote results. If a candidate received more than 15 percent in the primary, he would be eligible to receive his proportion of at-large delegates. When the Michigan GOP’s 6-member credentialing committee met on February 4 to figure out how the party would award its reduced delegates, it unanimously agreed on that process. The committee even produced a memo, for the benefit of the RNC, the media, and anyone else interested in how the process would actually work. Here’s the relevant portion from that memo:

According to Rule No.19C(2). of the State Rules, at-large delegates and alternates are allocated on a proportional basis of the statewide vote, to presidential candidates receiving at least fifteen percent (15%) of the statewide vote. This process of allocation will remain unchanged. Now, however, an at-large slate of two (2) National Convention delegates and alternates will also be selected to complete the "officially recognized" listing of 30 National Convention delegates and alternates from Michigan. The allocation of this "officially recognized" at-large slate of two (2) National Convention delegates and alternates shall be calculated in accordance with Rule No. 19C(2). of the State Rules by merely substituting "two (2)" for "fourteen (14)."

The interpretation of this decision was understood by the media, the Santorum campaign, and even the state party chairman himself to be that the remaining 2 at-large delegates would be awarded proportionally, rounded to the nearest delegates. Mitt Romney received 51.9 percent of the popular vote, while Santorum received 48.1 percent. Romney’s proportional allocation of the 2 delegates, then, would be 0.519 times 2, or 1.038. Rounded to the nearest delegate, that’s 1. For Santorum, the proportion is 0.481 times 2, or 0.962. Rounded to the nearest delegate, that’s 1 as well. (Kudos to Right Michigan for doing the math on this.)

So the media and the Santorum campaign both assumed that Romney and Santorum would receive one at-large delegate each. Since the two candidates split the 14 congressional districts evenly, each would also received 14 delegates (2 for each of the 7 districts won). That would mean, in terms of delegates, Romney and Santorum tied in Michigan at 15 delegates. That’s how the Santorum campaign was spinning, justifiably, the primary results after not winning outright.

But on February 29, the day after the primary, the credentialing committee met again. This time, on a 4-2 vote, it determined that the above interpretation was incorrect and that Romney would actually be awarded both of the at-large delegates, making him the outright winner of the Michigan primary in the popular vote and in the delegate count, 16-14. How could this be?

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers