The Presidential Primary That Almost Didn’t Happen (or The Terrible Embarrassment That Almost Did)

Republican presidential candidates will take an unprecedented interest in Louisiana’s presidential primary.

Already the state has been saturated with political mail, phone calls and television advertisements from the contenders aiming to replace Barack Obama and Super PACs “independently” advancing their cause.

More often than not, the Louisiana GOP contest is a rubber stamp ratifying a de facto nominee determined a few weeks prior.

In an attempt to bring a semblance of order to a frontloaded primary/caucus calendar, both national parties agreed to a set of general delegate allocation principles that 1) protected the “favored” status of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, 2) designated a proportional period of delegate allocation and 3) a winner-take all period of delegate allocation.

All three tenets of the presidential nomination system reform were disregarded and continue to be disregarded by several states, most infamously Florida which moved its presidential primary ahead of Nevada and refused to conform to a proportional delegate allocation system. Whether they actually pay a penalty or are compelled to follow the national rules remains to be seen.

Because Louisiana’s presidential primary had just moved to February (the exclusive reservation of the “favored four”) for 2008, it was necessary to move the date of the statewide election back to March in order to comply with the rules. The alternatives were to either lose half of the state’s delegates to the respective national conventions or hold a so-called “beauty contest” primary that would be meaningless in terms of awarding delegates with a caucus to be held later.

With the leadership of the Louisiana Republican Party unwilling to give up any of its delegates and a multi-million dollar “beauty contest” an exercise in fiscal insanity, the state GOP advocated for enactment of legislation returning the Louisiana presidential primary to March.

Except this time, the Louisiana Republican Party’s dance partner from 2008 stood them up.

For reasons that initially seemed perplexing, the Louisiana Democratic Party remained mute on moving the state’s presidential contest. With Obama drawing no credible opposition, it was somewhat understandable that state Democrats took no interest in a bill moving the Louisiana presidential primary back to March.

However as the clock ticked down on the 2011 regular legislative session, the face of the national Democrats reared its head in a mischievous manner.

After the bill sailed through House of Representatives, the legislative ringleader of the Democratic caucus quietly acted to have the bill killed in Senate committee with the assistance of a few Republican senators.

Democrats later argued, hypocritically, that the primary is a waste of money (they didn’t think so when Obama was fighting Hillary Clinton four years before) though at no time did any member of the state Democratic caucus introduce legislation to cancel the primary and thus actually save the taxpayers the expense of a statewide election.

In other words, they tried to orchestrate a multi-million dollar embarrassment for the Louisiana Republican Party, just as the Missouri GOP was mocked for their own beauty contest in February when their government didn’t move early enough to bring their primary into compliance with national rules.

The Louisiana Democratic Party’s antics were immature, irresponsible and churlish, though their tracks covered with the assistance of their fellow Republican senators.

Fortunately another committee meeting was conducted late into the session to reconsider the legislation that had been bottled up and the Republican legislators who assisted with the Louisiana Democratic Party’s national committeewoman’s chicanery suddenly found religion.

The bill left committee on a party line vote (a testament to why Democrats should never be allowed a fair shake on a committee that handles election matters) and passed the senate by a comfortable margin, with the legislative black caucus voting in the negative.

Thus Louisiana’s voice in the presidential election process was saved by a load of angry calls and e-mails from Republican activists to Republican legislators, a bare Republican majority on a critical senate committee and a sliver of a window in the legislative process.

Instead of being ignored at best or mocked at worst in what would have been a public relations debacle, Republican presidential candidates are spending time and money in our state, talking with voters (something generally reserved for the denizens of New Hampshire and Iowa) and learning about the federal issues that affect Louisiana.

And unlike four years ago, the consequences of the state’s Republican primary will not be lost in a political vacuum.

A win by ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would finally demonstrate strength in the Deep South, the bedrock of the national GOP, and perhaps end talk of an unresolved nomination going into Tampa.

Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich is fighting for survival. A victory by the Tulane grad would revive his flagging candidacy after coming in close seconds in Mississippi and Alabama. A second place or worse showing would end Gingrich’s candidacy through withdrawal or being marginalized to irrelevance.

Texas US Representative Ron Paul has yet to win a state. Ever.

That said, a Louisiana win would do less for him than winning the Powerball would do for me. The latter is far more likely.

For ex-Pennsylvania US Senator Rick Santorum, a big win in Louisiana would be meaningful in three ways- 1) further dampening Romney’s hopes of ending the fight for the party nomination ASAP, 2) potentially firing the kill-shot on Gingrich’s candidacy prior to the legal start of the winner take all period and 3) providing his campaign a major boost going into to the Wisconsin primary, the next major contest on the political calendar.

So when Republicans go to their precincts to let their voice be heard on Saturday, March 24th, I hope they remember two things- 1) your vote matters and 2) the Louisiana Democrats, who find disenfranchisement conspiracies lurking in every close Republican election victory, tried to rob you of your vote for president.

Do your homework and then go vote.

Disclaimer- The author is actively involved in Rick Santorum’s campaign for president. If you are a registered Republican in Louisiana and would like to become involved in the Santorum campaign, please e-mail your information to [email protected].



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