State Republicans in Washington are set to start electing delegates to the Republican National Convention this afternoon. And though Mitt Romney won the state's caucus straw poll in March, this was just a preliminary step in a long process to allocate delegates to the candidates. Ron Paul supporters still hoping to have a significant presence in August.
Thirty delegates are elected on Friday during the congressional district caucuses, and 10 are elected Saturday. Three additional are automatic delegates, and include the state party chairman.
Republican leaders are bracing for a combative Washington state party convention as supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul look to seize more delegates from presumptive nominee Mitt Romney.
Paul supporters have fared well in caucus states, recently seizing control of state conventions in Maine and Nevada. The Washington offers yet another chance to add delegates so that the campaign can have more influence at the national convention in Florida.
UPDATE: Saturday 5:48 PM: Mitt Romney Backers Secure 10 Delegates: The Seattle Times has reported that Backers of Mitt Romney "swept" the last delegates up for grabs at the state Republican convention Saturday in Tacoma.
Romney supporters won all 10 at-large delegate slots, rebuffing calls from some Ron Paul supporters to give them two or three of those delegates.
The elections were to determine Washington's representatives to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer, where the GOP will formally nominate their candidate for president.
Romney had already wrapped up enough delegates nationally to win the GOP nomination, and has been endorsed by most of his former rivals.
But many Paul backers have continued to "scrape for delegates," insisting the race is not over.
In all, Romney won 34 of the 40 delegates up for grabs in Tacoma. Paul won five and Rick Santorum came away with one delegate.
Saturday 5:17 PM: From The Green Papers:
"Republican Party Caucuses meet in each precinct at 10 a.m. Participants are required to sign a form stating they are Republicans (voters do not have to declare political party membership to vote in the state's regular primaries or general elections).
Each Precinct Caucus chooses the precinct's delegates to the County Convention or Legislative District Caucuses [WSRP rules 14, 15, 16]. The County Conventions will, in turn, choose delegates to the State Convention.
There is no formal system applied in the Precinct Caucuses to relate the presidential preference of the Caucus participants to the choice of the precinct's delegates. The participants at each Precinct Caucus alone determine if presidential preference is to be a factor in such choice and, if so, how it is to be applied.
The Precinct Caucuses will conduct a non-binding Presidential straw poll. Since no National Convention delegates are bound to Presidential contenders, these caucuses do not violate the RNC's Tuesday 6 March 2012 timing rule."
Saturday 4:37 PM: Most Paul loyalists acknowledge that delegates bound to vote for Romney at the national convention would have to break their pledges en masse in order for Paul to win — a development that borders on inconceivable.
It would mean that delegates, many of whom are GOP activists who have backed Romney for a long time, would take repercussions from the party for violating the rules of the process and then throw their support behind Paul instead of another alternative.
Matt Dubin, a Paul delegate and organizer in Washington state, said it was both unlikely and something he is not advocating. Still, he said, it's something he would like to see happen. If that turmoil somehow occurred, Paul would also likely have to recruit disgruntled supporters of Santorum and Newt Gingrich to back him.
Saturday 3:18 PM: Matt Dubin, a leading local Paul organizer, told the crowd the GOP presidential race will not end until delegates select the nominee at the Tampa convention. Dubin urged the Republicans to "take a look around" at the Paul delegates in the crowd. "They are the future of our party, and they are not going to go away," he said.
Dubin drew boisterous cheers from the pro-Paul crowd when he indirectly questioned Romney's conservative credentials on issues from abortion to health care and gun rights. "Do you want to send a delegation to Tampa that will give the nominee a blank slate ... or hold his feet to the fire?" Dubin asked.
Later Friday, Dubin was one of three Ron Paul supporters elected as delegates to the national convention from Washington's 7th Congressional District — a clean sweep for the Paul forces. Still, as the voting continued Friday, it became clear the Paul supporters would not capture anything close to a majority of the Washington delegates.
Saturday 1:05 PM: Santorum Skypes: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that earlier in the day, roughly 2,300 convention attendees at the Tacoma Convention Center listened to several speakers, including Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is running for governor against former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee; state Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane, who's running against U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell; and Santorum, who spoke via a taped message.
Paul's state chairman, Matt Dubin, was one of the Paul delegates elected from the 7th Congressional District caucus. He said the campaign wants to maximize the number of delegates at the GOP convention in hopes that it would be able to influence the party's platform toward the Texas congressman's strict message of limited government.
"The Republican Party needs to be shaken up," he said.
Saturday 9:45 AM: Romney's Son Reportedly Booed by Paul Supporters: According to the Seattle Times, as the Washington state Republican convention opened in Tacoma, Romney’s son Josh “was greeted with boos by Paul supporters when he spoke to the convention Friday morning.”
Paul supporters allegedly also booed other speakers who suggested it was time for the party to unite behind Romney as the nominee to ensure Obama’s defeat.
Forty delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa are up for grabs in Tacoma this weekend. As we’ve seen before in Nevada and Maine, Romney’s wins in earlier state showdowns don’t necessarily translate into national delegate victories.
Friday 4:00 PM: Matt Dubin encouraged a crowd of more than 200 delegates supporting Ron Paul to “go forward from Tacoma to remake the Washington State Republican Party,” at the Landmark Catering and Convention Center where Paul supporters will try to gain as many delegates as possible to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
Friday 1:30 PM: Kirby Wilbur, the state GOP chairman, said Paul has strength in the 7th Congressional District anchored in Seattle and the 3rd District that stretches from Olympia to Vancouver. He expects Paul’s campaign will pick up a minimum of six to nine delegates in Washington out of 40 possible.
Paul spokesman Gary Howard said in an email that campaign officials can’t really project how many delegates they expect to win “until the process plays itself out.” However, the libertarian-minded Paul is the main alternative.
The Texas congressman will start with the support of at least a quarter of the more than 1,600 delegates on the floor of the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, Wilbur estimates, while Romney starts with about half the delegates supporting him.