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.
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?
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.
One of the members of the credentialing committee, Saul Anuzis, has told the press, including the New York Times, that the intent of the original memo was misinterpreted.
“It is clear now that the memo did not properly communicate the intent of the committee,” Anuzis told the Times. “Could you interpret it both ways? Yes. But this is what we decided.”
What the Times fails to note is that Anuzis is a committed and open Romney supporter. Fellow credenitaling committee member Susan Wise is a top aide to Michigan congressman Dave Camp, also a Romney supporter. Another member of the committee, state party chairman Bobby Schostak, is publicly uncommitted, though Michigan GOP insiders confirm that he privately supports Romney as well.
These connections are what have led the Santorum campaign to suspect foul play. As Mike Cox, the former attorney general, a Romney supporter, and one of two dissenting members of the credentialing committee told the Associated Press, "I have this crazy idea that you follow the rules. I’d love to give the at-large delegates to Mitt Romney, but our rules provide for strict apportionment."Given that the other committee members who voted against the post-primary “re-interpration” was Eric Doster, the party’s general counsel who drafted the original February 4 memo, the Santorum campaign’s concern about dirty tricks appear increasingly well founded.