Newt Gingrich’s campaign says it will challenge Florida’s delegation to the GOP national convention, and at least one member of the Republican National Committee thinks it has cause. According to party rules, any primary held before April 1 “shall provide for the allocation of delegates on a proportional basis.” Florida’s primary, however, was a winner-take-all contest, so Mitt Romney is currently entitled to all of the state’s 50 delegates.
Because Florida broke the rules by going early, it has lost 50 percent of its original delegates already, as provided by Rule No. 16. But Gingrich’s allies argue this penalty doesn’t absolve the original sin: Florida’s winner-take-all status. On top of losing 50 percent of its delegates, Gingrich’s camp contends that Florida should also reward its remaining delegates on a proportional basis.
Bill Crocker, general counsel to the RNC, and John Ryder, chairman of the GOP’s Presidential Nominating Schedule Committee, recently wrote a memo to members on the dispute, in which they argued that the RNC had fulfilled its duty. As Politico reported, the memo maintains:
With regard to proportionality, the RNC does not have the authority to intervene in a state’s primary plans beyond the imposition of the Rule 16 penalties. A contest procedure exists for challenges to a state’s delegation or delegates. The RNC cannot consider any issue regarding Florida’s delegation unless and until a proper contest is brought. If a contest is properly and timely filed, the Committee on Contests and the RNC will have the opportunity to hear the contest and determine if there are any further steps to be taken beyond the penalties that have already been imposed.
Gingrich’s campaign says it will bring a challenge to the Committee on Contests, and Ryder, in an email to NRO, says he thinks the campaign has cause.
“I have not seen the challenge,” Ryder writes, “but a challenge is in order, as the method of allocating delegates used by Florida is in violation of Rule 15(b)(2); The matter will be taken up in due course by the Committee on Contests. It is my opinion that the Committee on Contests has the ability to bring the Florida delegation into compliance with the Rules by imposing proportionality on the delegation.”
Gingrich’s campaign cannot file a challenge until Florida actually selects its delegates, and the likelihood of such a move seems small. (The last contested GOP convention was in 1948, when Tom Dewey won on the third ballot.) A campaign would go through the hassle of filing a challenge only if the nomination depended on a few dozen delegates, and the vast majority of primaries and caucuses have yet to occur. In other words, it remains to be seen whether Gingrich’s campaign will actually go through with this threat.