Guest Post :  Chip Muir is the former 3rd District Representative to the RPV State Central Committtee and former Richmond City Republican Committee Chairman.

Has the Grand Compromise of 2015 Worked (So Far)?

In the summer of 2015 I published three opinion editorials with Virginia Virtucon, through the late Terrence Boulden, that proposed a State Central Committee compromise on the nomination process RPV would use over the next two years. The compromise proposed a primary for the Presidential nomination in 2016 and a party-run statewide Gubernatorial nomination in 2017. The SCC passed the compromise on June 27, 2015.

People in politics should be accountable for their positions on issues and their leadership. They should assess the results against the promises that were made to the voters. I’m going to do that in this blog post.

Before I do, though, one note: I’m not going to lie to myself or to you. I’m not going to put spin on it. I’m going to use objective numbers and facts rather than the “if only this had happened” wishful thinking, the political version of a football fan saying, “If only the ref had called that pass interference, we would have won!” We have scorecards in politics. We know who objectively won and lost based on vote counts. Spinning the narrative can comfort people whose candidate lost, but in the end, the candidate lost. Arguments about process, about which candidate might be the strongest candidate if only he faced the leader alone, implicitly acknowledge that you are losing. This scorecard, based on objective measures, is necessary for actual, objective winning. The final answer to whether the Grand Compromise worked won’t be known until November 2017. There are four checkpoints: after the 2016 primary, after the 2016 general election, after the 2017 convention, and after the 2017 general election. We are at the first of the four checkpoints.

Scorecard Point 1: Participation in the Primary

The total number of voters in the GOP primary: 1,022,087. Is this a victory? (I can’t believe I have to ask that.) Hell yes. Opponents to the compromise made specific arguments against the primary. First, I was told that the primary wouldn’t have good participation. I was told that the number of 2016 voters would be lower than the 2012 number of voters. In the 2012 GOP primary, 265,521 voters cast ballots. The compromise primary produced 3.85 times as many voters! We eclipsed the all-time turnout record, set in 2000, by over 200,000 votes.

Second, I was told our Presidential candidates wouldn’t qualify for the ballot, that we may only have two to four candidates make the ballot. We had 13 candidates qualify for the ballot. Third, it was said candidates would not visit Virginia. All of the candidates visited Virginia, to massive crowds. And fourth, I was told the primary would hand the nomination to Jeb Bush, a point which underscores the difficulty with predicting political outcomes. Bush withdrew from the race before the Virginia primary, and received 3,645 votes (0.36%).

Thus the four leading projected criticisms of the Presidential primary have been proven to be false, objectively. What can be demonstrated, objectively, is that the primary, from a participation standpoint, was an unqualified, smashing success. All of the arguments against the primary based on how the public would react to it have been objectively and irrefutably proven wrong. You cannot argue otherwise unless your intent is lying to yourself. There is a separation between what political leaders want and what the public wants. Over one million Virginians participated in the GOP primary. The Presidential primary more than fulfilled public demand. On this point, public participation, the Presidential primary was the right choice.

Side notes: A secret cabal of Democrats seeking to throw the election to Hillary Clinton did not inflate those numbers. Every state except for the worker’s paradise of Vermont has set records for participation in GOP Presidential primaries. The people are motivated, and they are motivated to vote for a Republican candidate. The only truly blue state that has voted thus far had lackluster Republican turnout. Every state that has been deemed red or purple has had extraordinary turnout. The inference is clear, Republicans are motivated and showing up to vote. And independents and the last of the right-leaning Democrats are looking into the GOP field as well.

More on this point. The primary has been blamed for giving us Trump. But Kentucky hosted a closed Republican caucus (done because Rand Paul was, last summer, running for both President and Senate, further underscoring how difficult it is to make long-range projections in politics). Trump did better in Kentucky’s closed caucus than he did in Virginia’s open primary. In both he received 17 delegates, but in Virginia he beat his closest competitor by 1 delegate, and second closest by 9. In Kentucky, he beat his closest competitor by 2 delegates and second closest by 10. The point is this: even the most carefully-calculated process can produce counterintuitive results. Virginia’s open primary produced better results than Kentucky’s closed caucus. It’s just that Kentucky’s process included 229,667 people to our 1,022,087…and as a must-win swing state,

those extra voter contacts are of critical importance for November.

My preferred candidate is Marco Rubio. He didn’t win. My second favorite candidate is Ted Cruz. He didn’t win. Am I kicking myself for the primary, then? Am I mad that I didn’t use my influence on State Central to steer the result to Rubio, or to Cruz? Hell no. I am just 1 of 1,022,087. Who am I to tell over one million people that I know better than them? I cast my ballot for who I thought was best for Virginia and for the nation. Others did as well. And then they counted the votes.

RPV provided a fair process. It was so fair that over one million people felt compelled to participate. And I didn’t get my way. That’s life.

Scorecard Point 2: Delegate Allocation

I pushed for a strict proportional allocation of delegates. Party rules said we couldn’t be winner take all (because our primary date fell before March 15), and taking that option away, strict proportional allocation was the best method. Why?

Because it’s fair. Donald Trump won Virginia last night. He received 17 of the 49 Delegates. That means, if you’re entirely disgusted by Donald Trump, Virginia’s process found a way to prevent him from capturing 32 additional delegates. Congratulations, you can celebrate being part of the overwhelming turnout of voters that kept the frontrunner from running away with the one metric that matters in a nomination contest, delegates. Your preferred candidate lives to fight on in more states, hoping to survive long enough that he becomes the Trump alternative. You helped your candidate! Oh, you voted for Trump? Congratulations! By participating, even with an enormous turnout, you provided more delegates to your preferred candidate than any other candidate received. You expanded Trump’s lead.

Did the delegate allocation work? Yes. The most popular candidate expanded his lead, by picking up one (one!) delegate more than the second place candidate received. One!

Side note: Revisionist History: Would a Virginia convention have changed the outcome of the national Republican nomination? That is the pass interference call excuse of 2016. We won’t know. We won’t know because 50 states have a say in nominating a President, and we are just one of them. None of us can say on March 2 how many candidates would still be on the ballot on the date of the Virginia convention. (Ben Carson dropped out between the first two drafts of this editorial.) There are too many variables at play. But the pro-convention talk today centers on how we missed our opportunity to block a candidate that 356,868 Virginians supported, and the electorate of a majority of other states have supported. This is precisely the talk that gave rise to this insurgent campaign that conservatives, myself included, are frustrated with. But I am not arrogant enough to think I could have blocked a candidate through a different process, and if the GOP nominee wins in November, I will not try to convince myself that I saved the Republic. The results speak for themselves all across our great nation. So the bottom line is this: over one million people participated in a process in which the big winner pulled ahead by one delegate. It’s almost as if the GOP electorate is deeply divided and we are working things out in a slow, measured pace. It’s kind of like how the Constitution was set up to actually govern the country. Many people come together to filter changes through a number of entities until one very slow, steady result is achieved.

The allocation of delegates worked. Conservative, anti-Trump folks are mad at me because we missed an opportunity to send 49 delegates to the perceived conservative choice. The electorate has not figured out if that is Cruz or Rubio. So the consolation prize for that group is that you sent 24 delegates to the two perceived conservative candidates and only 17 to Trump. No one can say whether Trump, Cruz, Rubio, or Kasich would have won a convention. What we do know is that we would have selected the delegates to the convention in January, and a lot would have changed from that moment through today. Would the Bush delegates have attended? Would the Paul delegates, Christie delegates, etc.? Who would they have voted for if they did? Anyone that says the know the answer probably projected Jeb Bush would win the Virginia primary.

Scorecard Point 3: RPV Strength

The role of the State Central Committee is to advise RPV on policies that will strengthen the party. That’s it. RPV does not exist to guarantee processes or election outcomes from those processes. It exists to help Republican nominees win office. Here’s what the primary allowed RPV to accomplish. In January of 2015 RPV had $265 in the bank and over $200,000 in debt. A convention would have required a $40,000 loan made to the party by a private individual, which would have had to have been paid back, in order to reserve the convention space one year in advance. The total cost of the convention had been budgeted at just over $250,000, all of which would have been borrowed by an entity (RPV) that had maxed out its available lines of credit, and had been in the process of negotiating debts with vendors.

Point 1: if you make any claim to being a fiscal conservative, you don’t like debt, and you can’t in good conscience allow an entity buried in debt to go even further into debt.

Where is RPV now? Pete Snyder and Curtis Colgate led a fundraising effort that brought in over $200,000. John Whitbeck has paid off every dollar of debt RPV owed to creditors. That’s right, the party of fiscal conservatism has practiced what it preaches. The free cash flow has allowed us to build an infrastructure that the nominee, whoever that is, will be able to inherit immediately. The GOP won both the Virginia Senate and the Virginia House in 2015, and anyone watching the General Assembly can appreciate the importance of those victories.

From a fiscal standpoint, RPV has not been this strong for almost a full decade. From an electoral support standpoint, RPV has not been able to assist campaigns to this extent in, well, it’s never been able to support campaigns at this level.

Did the Compromise work to make RPV stronger? Yes. RPV is stronger in every single objective measure. And we know this is true because the Chairman of RPV is running for a full term unopposed. That fact alone speaks volumes about the success of RPV in the past 12 months.

Think about that: in the most bitterly contested, soul of the party, nomination contest of our lifetime, the Chairman of RPV is running for re-election unopposed. Objective successes beget objective successes.

Has the Compromise worked so far? Yes, because more candidates qualified for the ballot than ever before. Yes, because over one million people voted in the GOP primary in Virginia. Yes, because the delegate allocation reflected the strength of all of the candidates. Yes, because RPV avoided incurring $250,000 in debt, and is now entirely out of debt and investing in election resources for November.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Alright, a simple yes would have been sufficient.”

But these are the objective facts, and they need to be known.

 

The Compromise going forward:

November 2016: I cannot say whether the compromise will give us a Republican president. I don’t know who the nominee is. My top two candidates have been Rubio and Cruz, and Trump has 67 fewer delegates than the two of them have combined. But I can say that if a Republican candidate is to win Virginia, he will need the infrastructure that RPV has been building from their stronger financial position, and that gives the nominee his best chance to win the Presidency this November. In the end, RPV must get Republican nominees elected in November.

Spring 2017: I’m excited for the 2017 RPV Convention, and I hope SCC reserves the convention space for it soon. Why am I excited? Because Virginia Republicans control the nomination process. Unlike the Presidential, where 50 states weigh in on who should be nominated, Republicans in Virginia will control the outcome of the 2017 nominating convention. This is a convention in its best form, where the winner is the winner, and we go forward as one party. A Virginian will seek the highest office in Virginia based upon the votes of Virginia Republicans. I’m cool with that.

I can’t guarantee the outcome of the 2017 Gubernatorial Nomination. I don’t know who all is running, or how many delegates we will have, or who those delegates will be. But I do know two things: 1) the process will be fair, and 2) the people that don’t win will complain that it wasn’t, and that my compromise was the wrong path to follow. Because winners objectively win, and losers look for someone to blame. If you’re disappointed, like me, that your preferred candidate lost in Virginia, don’t make excuses, don’t look for blame. Go work for your candidate and get him an actual victory.

So far, the Grand Compromise of 2015 has been a winner. And I hope, and expect, that it will continue to produce wins.

Guest Post : Chip Muir is the former 3rd District Representative to the RPV State Central Committtee and former Richmond City Republican Committee Chairman.

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