Dysfunction, confusion over the concept of parliamentary procedure, and a lack of decorum in some places (especially St. Charles County) have turned the Missouri Republican Party's attempt to play by the national party's rules into a potential PR disaster and once again diminished the state's potential in determining who appears on the ballot. Power struggles from the get go and motions to sway the county's support were all to claim (get this) zero Tampa-bound delegates today.
In some counties (including McDonald, whose caucus I observed this morning and recount below), the selected slates of delegates to the state and district conventions didn't express a preference or make a commitment, and under the state's rules were under no obligation to do so. No commitments for candidates are made until April 21 at the district conventions, and even then only 24 will be designated. 25 more will be committed at the state convention June 1-2 in Springfield, and three will be filled by statewide officials.
Of course, this wouldn't have happened had Missouri's elected officials agreed to move the primary date back a month, from February 7 to March 6. Unfortunately, in typical political fashion, the Republican-dominated General Assembly saddled it with provisions unpalatable to Democrat Governor Jay Nixon, Nixon didn't want to give up the right to fill vacancies in statewide offices (thus keeping the same power that Rod Blagojevich used only to find himself a new home in Colorado), and then the Republicans fractured over job-creation measures and as a result didn't bother to move the date back a month. By not doing so, Missouri risked losing half their delegates.
(I should note that I agree with by-elections for vacancies of any kind, and find it a bit odd that people would push for this while at the same time move to eliminate calendar dates & write-in opportunities in the interest of saving local election officials money. Electing state leaders in by-elections costs money to, as Nixon noted in his veto letter, but sticking to principles are worth the added cost.)
But in a twist that was bound to happen, Democrats blamed Republicans when they decided to waive the delegate penalty for Missouri, and their primary went on with Obama winning 88 percent of the vote. The RNC, recognizing the need for Missouri's bellwether to remain red, could have easily done the same. And in hindsight, the continued resurgence of Rick Santorum's campaign has proven Missouri's worth.
Even if the RNC hadn't waived the penalty, the 26-delegate penalty now looks like a small price to pay for this dragged out process that's only going to put a blemish on state Republican efforts to reclaim the governor's mansion, the Senate desk once occupied by John Ashcroft, and offices of secretary of state, treasurer, and attorney general, all while maintaining their near veto-proof majorities.
Observations From PinevilleThis morning I observed the caucuses in McDonald County, and compared to what's happening around the rest of the state, this went smoothly. 147 credentialed voters participated and within an hour elected their slates of eight county GOP leaders to the district and state conventions. No action was taken on the party platform, with the crowd informed that any suggestions they had were to be submitted in writing by Monday. The slate selected did not express a preference for a candidate and did not poll participants for one, though in last month's boutique primary, 45 percent of the 973 votes cast went to Rick Santorum, 25 percent to Mitt Romney and 22 percent favoring Ron Paul.
Proportionally, Paul's supporters were present at the caucus and ready to make their mark. However, their efforts did not come to fruition, as their slates and nominees for caucus leaders were voted down by a generally 11-to-3 margin. Twice representatives from the group addressed the crowd and attempted to read a prepared statement to the effect of saying that Paul best represented McDonald County's values. However, they were promptly cut off after one minute, as stipulated in the rules that were proposed by the state party and adopted without opposition by caucus goers. Although one Paul supporter called it rude to be cut off without allowing to finish, they could have easily organized an assertive tag team much like what fourth-graders at the nearby elementary school do when they popcorn read.
There were three hitches to note: first, the new community center was brimming full with participants and not enough places to park. The caucus had to recess briefly after a Pineville marshal entered and asked four participants to move their cars out of private driveways. Second, several people were having trouble hearing the sound system, and I would attribute that to the microphone used.
Third (and perhaps most critical) was a move to close off nomination of the slate before Paul's supporters could submit theirs. Firstly the parliamentarian determined that the woman seeking to name the slate didn't stand up quick enough to be recognized. Then there was a delay as to figure out whether two-thirds of the caucus voted to close the nomination, with 97 voting in support and 98 being the threshold. For a moment (perhaps by way of mental miscalculation rather than duplicity), the motion was set to pass after someone suggested that 94 was the threshold. After the chair declared the motion defeated, the Values slate was submitted and, like all their other proposals, defeated by the same 11-to-3 margin.
In the end, McDonald County's Republican leadership implored participants on several occasions to remember the one thing that they had in common: defeating Obama in November. However, even among some participants there was quiet disagreement as to whether the candidate chosen to carry the GOP banner would be any different than the current resident of the White House.