The irrelevancy of the Colorado Republican Party on the GOP presidential nomination process has apparently been exaggerated.
It’s been previously reported that after state Republicans eliminated their caucus straw poll last year, Colorado delegates could not pledge support to specific candidates prior to the Republican National Convention. In other words, Colorado GOP delegates would have to attend unbound to a candidate.
But this apparently isn’t true.
Republicans in Colorado can still pledge support for a Republican presidential candidate, if they state their intention to do so on a form that’s required to run for one of the 34 elected national-delegate spots. (Three additional Colorado delegates are determined by the Republican National Committee.)
The form, titled “National Delegate Intent to Run Form” must be submitted 13 days prior to the April 9 Republican State Convention or the April 8 Congressional District Convention, where delegates are selected for the national Republican Convention.
The form states:
I intend to stand for election as a candidate for National Delegate at the following convention(s):
□ Congressional District Convention – Congressional District #_
□ State Convention…
Full Name (please print): ___________________________
□ Pledged to Support Presidential Candidate: _____________
As the University of Georgia’s Josh Putnam writes on his blog about the presidential nominating process:
That pledge is much more important than is being discussed.
Colorado has been talked about as a state that will send an unbound delegation to the national convention. That would only be the case if all the delegate candidates who file intent to run forms opted to remain unaffiliated with any presidential campaign. If those delegate candidates pledge to a presidential candidate and are ultimately elected to one of the 34 delegate slots (not counting the party/automatic delegates), then they are functionally locked in with that candidate if that candidate is still in the race for the Republican nomination.
They would be bound to those candidates at the national convention because the Colorado Republican Party bylaws instruct the party chair to cast the delegation’s votes at the national convention “in accordance with the pledge of support made by each National Delegate on their notice of intent to run”. Anywhere from 0 to 34 delegates could end up bound from the Colorado delegation to the Republican National Convention.
That is a real wildcard in the delegate count in Colorado and nationally.
So, the pledge option on the “intent-to-run” form for delegates opens the door for a showdown among Republicans who have bound themselves to different candidates.
It also opens the door for fierce competition among the presidential candidates to push supporters to the caucuses, where they will vote for State-Convention delegates or Congressional-District-Convention delegates who are committed to pledging their support to a specific presidential candidate. (Ron Paul supporters managed to do this in 2012.)
The intent-to-run form also presents a public-relations opportunity for presidental candidates whose supporters are selected as county assembly delegates on caucus night–and then quickly announce en masse that they’ve decided to bind themselves voluntarily to a particular candidate.
Putnam writes on his blog that the March 1 Republican caucuses put a “premium on organizing — turning out as many supporters as possible for the precinct caucuses and then getting those supporters through to the county assemblies. It is only that group of county assembly participants who are eligible to be national convention delegates…. if a campaign is able to corner the market and move through to the next step a bunch of its supporters, that candidate will have a decided advantage in the delegate allocation process. They would dominate the pool of potential candidates and maximize the number of delegates the campaign eventually wins.”
Rather than being a state with no preference vote that no one pays attention to, Colorado becomes a real delegate prize for the campaigns who are able to organize there. Those that gain an organizational advantage — and that is much more likely in a low turnout election without the incentive of a presidential preference vote — have a real opportunity to get something out of the Centennial state. It will not necessarily entail candidates coming into the state over the course March and into April (because forcing delegate candidates through to the county assembly level is the true mark of winning there), but it may make the media outlets pay continued attention to Colorado as the process there resolves itself. And since there is no preference vote guiding the delegate allocation process from step to step, a candidate could dominate in Colorado and come out on April 9 with a significant majority of delegates.
…In the conventional sense, candidates will not necessarily come to Colorado to drive up support for a March 1 vote that will not happen. That is doubly true in light of the fact that Colorado shares its precinct caucuses date with primaries and caucuses in 13 other states. Functionally though, with delegates potentially on the line, Colorado is certainly not a non-event.
Colorado Republican Chair Steve House apparently affirmed this process here.
So, bottom line, Colorado could see a major fight among the Republican presidential candidates to influence the vote for 34 National-Republican-Convention delegates, who will be selected at the April 9 GOP state convention and April 8 GOP congressional district convention.
Republican sources tell me that only Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are showing any sign of a ground game here in Colorado. But this may change in the coming weeks.