See below for story updates.
While the Republican National Convention (RNC) is intended to be a unifying rally for the party's presidential candidate, it seems there is some intense infighting brewing. The debate, which appears to be heating up just as the convention is commencing, involves a fair bit of angst over party rules surrounding Republican delegates. This morning, TheBlaze spoke with Gilbert Vasquez, a delegate from Denton, Texas, about the intense controversy.
Members of the GOP's National Committee from across America are up in arms over a new party rule that opponents are calling "the biggest power grab in the history of the Republican Party." At the center of the debate is whether a candidate should be able to select the delegates who attend the convention. ABC News has more:
Last week, the RNC Rules Committee approved a controversial change to the delegate selection process. Currently, states hold primaries and caucuses to determine how many delegates will be awarded to each candidate, but state parties generally meet later at state conventions to actually choose those individuals.
The new rule, however, gives presidential candidates veto power over their own delegates, representing a big boost in power for the candidates and a reduction for states. If Mitt Romney, for instance, didn’t like a delegate slated to cast a vote in his favor at the convention, Romney could throw him out and choose an alternate.
In essence, the debate is surrounding whether the states should maintain their rights in selecting delegates -- or whether the candidate should have that power. It's akin to the big versus small government debate, which is evidenced in the reaction that is coming from some figures within the Republican Party.
In an interview with TheBlaze, Vasquez explained why he is less-than-pleased with the regulatory proposal. When asked for his views on the matter, he was candid.
"My reaction, like many of the other people that are involved in grassroots -- kind of betrayal, kind of fear, more or less because I know if these rules were in place this year I wouldn't be here," he said, going on to claim that wealth and elitism play a major role in the decision.
Vasquez described the move as contrary to the Republican Party's platform, as it is "supposed to be for and of the people." The rule change, he claimed, rejects the tenets of grassroots activism and crosses a line into elitism, shutting everyone out aside from those "from the highest echelons."
"The whole power of the Republican Party gets concentrated down into one man or woman...a dictatorship over the party," Vasquez proclaimed. "When you combine that with the rule over vetoing delegates -- that candidate hand selects the people he wants -- not the platform that the people want."
Politics is a dirty game, he contended. But, he took particular issue with the notion that peoples' voices are purportedly being shuttered.
"When you start seeing things like this, it's not just suggested that you shouldn't speak your voice," he said. "It's almost mandated that you vote how you're mandated to vote and give money when they tell you. It really makes you think about what you're fighting for."
Vasquez, who said he wasn't planning on supporting Romney before he learned of the change, made it clear that he's a Ron Paul supporter. Based on these views, Vasquez said he won't back down nor will he toe the party line.
"I'm not going to sacrifice my principles just because someone tells me to. I'm going to come here, do my job -- and come hell or high water, stick to them," he continued.
And Vasquez isn't alone. Consider Jim Bopp, a Republican National Committeeman from Indiana. In an e-mail to other committee members, he recently noted his view that the new-found regulation "would make the Republican Party a top-down, not bottom-up party." Bopp, like many others aligning with him, believes that the regulatory alteration is an "overreaction to the problems in a few states where Ron Paul delegates threaten to not support the winning presidential candidate," ABC News reports.
Now, here's where the situation gets interesting. Bopp and fellow RNC members who disagree with the delegate rule were originally proposing a measure to block its inception. They referred to their counter plan as a "minority report." A press release put out by ConservativeHQ.com explains:
"Grassroots conservatives have launched an unprecedented rules fight against an attempted coup by Mitt Romney's agents at this year's Republican National Convention," announced Richard Viguerie, Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com.
"Principled conservative Republican Party leaders Morton Blackwell of Virginia and Jim Bopp of Indiana are spearheading the drive to gather the votes necessary to adopt a Minority Rules Report and defeat the proposed rules changes on the floor during Tuesday's procedural sessions," said Viguerie.
Delegates from Virginia, Indiana, and other states, along with some of the Republican National Committee's longest-serving members, are fighting the proposed rules changes, instigated by Washington's Republican political class, that would ensure that local GOP activists are permanently frozen out of influence at the Republican National Convention and the Party apparatus.
While these individuals were prepared to engage in some infighting, it seems some Republicans sought to temper the storm -- and, according to sources, they've been successful.
Vasquez told TheBlaze that, while 29 states were said to be against the rule "through arm twisting" he has been told that the "minority report" is now off-the-table. In the end, he said the talk among the delegates is that "some sort of deal was made," but he said he could not definitively confirm that the matter was settled.
On Monday night, Bopp did confirm that a compromise has been reached and that concerns held by him and other committee members have been addressed.
"The leadership of the Republican National Committee and the Romney for President campaign has heard the concerns of the conservative grassroots voices in our party and has crafted an amendment to the Rules adopted on Friday to address these concerns," he said in an email to Republican National Committee members."
The compromise, as ABC News noted, states that delegates are required to vote for the candidates that they are bound to. If they do not do so, they will be kicked out of future conventions and will have votes cast on their behalf.
Here's the text of the compromise language (neither the original nor this compromise, if adopted, would go into effect until the 2016 convention):
For any manner of binding or allocating delegates under these Rules, if a delegate
(i) casts a vote for a presidential candidate at the National Convention inconsistent with the delegate’s obligation under state law or state party rule,
(ii) nominates or demonstrates support under Rule 40 for a presidential candidate other than the one to whom the delegate is bound or allocated under state law or state party rule, or
(iii) fails in some other way to carry out the delegate’s affirmative duty under state law or state party rule to cast a vote at the National Convention for a particular presidential candidate, the delegate shall be deemed to have concurrently resigned as a delegate and the delegate’s improper vote or nomination shall be null and void. Thereafter the Secretary of the Convention shall record the delegate’s vote or nomination in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under state law or state party rule. This subsection does not apply to delegates who are bound to a candidate who has withdrawn his or her candidacy, suspended or terminated his or her campaign, or publicly released his or her delegates.
Vasquez, though, doesn't seem happy with the changes.
"I'm amazed that the same people who have the 'don't tread on me flags'...they're still supporting Romney," Vasquez continued. "I don't understand the mentality that you could be kicked out of your own house and thank the man who did it."
The delegate went on to say that he's heard some of his fellow members claim that they're planning to leave, while others have maintained that "these are the kind of rules that create third parties." We'll have to wait and see how the battle unfolds.
UPDATE: While Rule 16 (also known as Rule 15) was certainly contentious, the negotiated terms to rectify it do not address Rule 12, a separate proposal that is equally troubling to grassroots activists. The rule would purportedly allow for the regulations governing the RNC to be changed between conventions. These amendments would be able to be issued so long as 3/4 of the 168-member body votes in favor.
Erick Erickson has more about the proposals (both Rule 15/16 and Rule 12):
The first rule to be proposed is one that would give the Republican National Committee the power to change rules between conventions with a three-quarters vote of the RNC. One source tells me, “With a Republican President, of course this is doable. Everybody will roll over if a President Romney asks them to. They’ll be able to get Ben Ginsberg’s proposal [Rule 15/16] next year.”
In other words, if Team Romney prevails in this rules change, they don’t have to worry about Ben Ginsberg not getting his way today on the delegate changes. They’ll be able to do it later when the press and grassroots are not watching.
The second rules change would front load winner takes all primaries. Grassroots conservatives point to both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as reasons to stop this rule. Had there been front loaded winner takes all primaries, neither the Gingrich nor the Santorum campaigns would have been able to get any traction.
This story has been updated.