Republican presidential candidates are not done fighting for delegates in Washington state.
Far from it.
And if what happened at Snohomish High School on Saturday is any indication, next month’s state Republican Party confab in Tacoma may be a real humdinger.
Roughly 2,000 people showed up for the Snohomish County Republican Party convention to figure out which men and women should move on as delegates for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul at the statewide event.
Gathering by legislative districts, supporters of each candidate displayed unbridled enthusiasm and an unending patience as the process of electing 161 delegates carried on all day and well into the night. Voting in two districts didn’t end until nearly 11:30 p.m.
“It was very energetic, very positive,” said party chairman Bill Cooper. “No disruptions. No disturbances.”
Not for everyone. Some of the day’s politics did stir frustration and anger.
“I will be outside today shoveling chicken manure, a welcome relief from what I experienced yesterday,” Sandra McCaig-Allen concluded in an email sent to The Herald on Sunday.
The 70-year-old Arlington woman said she had never attended any type of convention before and might not again. A Paul supporter, she came as a volunteer and left so enraged by “sleazy lies” made against her candidate by backers of other GOP hopefuls that she said won’t vote this fall unless Paul is the nominee.
She said she was particularly incensed about the fliers on every chair misrepresenting Paul’s views on the issues and urging people to vote against his supporters for delegates.
What she encountered resulted from the continuing fierce competition for delegates.
While Romney won the straw poll at Republican caucuses last month, Washington 43 delegates won’t be bound to any candidate until the state convention.
Paul’s campaign knows this means it can win the state if his backers are organized and focused. And if he wins Washington and a couple other caucus states he could wind up with enough power to force a brokered Republican National Convention.
That’s not something the other candidates want to see. So a few weeks ago the Romney, Santorum and Gingrich campaigns in Washington forged a Unity Slate with the goal of locking out Paul by getting only their supporters elected as delegates at county conventions.
But then Santorum changed course and decided to put his energy into denying Romney delegates by any means necessary. On a conference call last week with top supporters in Washington, he urged them to team with Paul’s troops to elect a different slate at county gatherings including the one at Snohomish High.
On Saturday, a couple of paid professional operatives were at the high school to cajole and verbally strong-arm backers of the former Pennsylvania senator to follow this new strategy.
Some did, many didn’t because of distaste for the tactic of their candidate or dislike of the ideas of the one they were suddenly supposed to help. For a few, the idea of going back on their word to friends and neighbors involved in the Romney and Gingrich campaigns didn’t sit well.
A similar drama may play out at the state convention if all four men are still in the race next month.
Kirby Wilbur, the state Republican Party chairman, said he’s working to minimize the animus without impeding each candidate’s pursuit of delegates. He expects heavy lobbying, procedural fights and wall-to-wall politicking.
“We’ll be practicing for a brokered convention,” he said. “We’ll be looking for a chairman to run the convention with the patience, strength and courage to make sure we don’t kill each other.”
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.