It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I oppose state-run, taxpayer-funded Open Primaries, where we lack Party registration.[read_more] I have been actively involved in electing members to the Republican State Central Committee who support conventions in lieu of primaries because of the advantages to our Party and to the grassroots.
Many people have sincerely asked why the method of nomination matters in a presidential election. I thought I would take some time to outline a few of the key reasons why it is critically important that we have a convention to choose our presidential nominee, rather than a state-run primary like we have done the last three presidential cycles.
- No Run-Off means Conservatives split the vote. Under Virginia law (Code 24.2-545), a Presidential Primary, like all Virginia Primaries, has no run-off provision. That means in a crowded field, someone can win with a very small plurality. This is particularly important when we could be facing a ballot with 8-16 candidates! (That is, if they can all meet Virginia’s primary ballot access requirements, which are still the most onerous in the nation). At this point, likely choices already include Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina, with many others expected to announce soon. It is very conceivable that one presidential candidate could win Virginia with just a small plurality, say 25% — frustrating the other 75% who voted for a different candidate – and most likely the moderate wins over a conservative in this scenario. For example, imagine a possible outcome: Jeb Bush 25%, Scott Walker 20%, Ted Cruz 20%, Rand Paul 20%, Marco Rubio 10%, Mike Huckabee 5%. Under VA law, the winning candidate would take all 16 of Virginia’s at-large state Delegates, and 3 Delegates in each Congressional District by which he also carried a plurality. In other words, 25% could take virtually all — if not all — Virginia’s 49 Delegates. This is a VERY real possibility. Imagine how upset Virginians and conservatives would be if that happened. Only a Convention allows us run-off capability to ensure a consensus candidate emerges with a majority support of Republicans.
- No Party Registration – Democrats Vote! As always in Virginia, Primaries are open to Democrats and other non-Republicans participating. (Sure, the State Central Committee can vote to require the State Board of Elections to require a “loyalty” oath, but we always get negative press that we never require it). Votes by Democrats and other non-Republicans “cancel-out” the votes of our Republican rank-and-file – the ones who should really be determining our nominee. If we held a Presidential Primary next year, we would have to hope that the Democrats have a very competitive Primary in order to “suck up” all the Democrats and persuade them not to vote in our Primary. At this point, it still looks like Hillary Clinton takes it in a cakewalk. We all remember “Operation Chaos” in 2008. Perhaps the Democrats do that to us in a Presidential Primary this year if Hillary continues to dominate the Democrat field. Do we really want NOVA Democrats tinkering with Republican politics?
- We have to hold Conventions ANYWAY in 2016. In 2016, we are required to hold District and State Conventions to elect our Party Leadership and our Delegates to the Republican National Convention. It makes little sense to hold TWO processes: one to elect Delegates and then an entirely separate one paid for by the taxpayers to bind them/instruct them how to vote at the RNC.
- A Presidential Primary is no silver bullet for a General Election win. The Virginia Presidential Primary winner in 2008 was John McCain. The Virginia Presidential Primary winner in 2012 was Mitt Romney. These candidates did not excite our base and we lost Virginia in both General Elections for President. Even though 2008 and 2012 were critical elections to stop Obama, the Presidential Primaries in those years did nothing to help stop him in Virginia. In fact, it can be argued that the Primary process nationwide in those years split the conservative vote and allowed the more moderate, weaker candidates to win with only pluralities. Why not try something different?
- A Presidential Primary generates no $$ or activists lists for the Party. Our Party makes NO money in a Primary (although the taxpayer gets billed to host our shindig) and we are unable to build an activist list off a Presidential Primary. Anyone who has worked in the grassroots for the last twenty years and done any amount of door knocking knows we never have enough help on the ground for all the homes we need to knock in a statewide election! You can’t just import thousands of teenagers from out-of-state and think it will have the same impact as neighbors reaching out to neighbors. We need to do a better job identifying and activating Republicans in Virginia. A Convention will help us identify, motivate, and integrate new grassroot Republicans into our Party who can help us turn VA red again. We also have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to raise needed revenues to fund the Party’s grassroots operations in 2016 and 2017 by holding a Presidential Convention – especially since we are seen as a “competitive” state.
There are, of course, many other reasons why a Convention is preferred over a Primary for the 2016 presidential race, but these are just a few of the strongest. Given these factors, it’s a no brainer. We need to make sure that we can build a stronger and bigger grassroots team to win in 2016–and that can only happen with a Convention, just like it did in all the years before 2000 when the Presidential Primary was first tried. We need to raise lots of money to thwart Hillary/McAuliffe cash–and that can happen only with a Convention. And we need to make sure that someone like Jeb Bush doesn’t win Virginia with only 15-20% of the vote–and that potential madness can only be stopped with a Convention.
Make your desire heard by contacting the Republican Party of Virginia and telling them you support a Republican Convention in 2016. They will be voting on this very issue shortly.