Gingrich to challenge Florida's "winner take all" rule, demand proportional award of delegates

He’s got a case, I think. Simple rule: Every state that goes before April 1 is required to award its delegates proportionally. Florida was supposed to go after that date but moved up its primary in defiance of the RNC’s wishes. They were penalized by having half of their 99 delegates taken away — but for some reason, their “winner take all” rule was allowed to remain in effect despite the date change. So Romney ended up with 50 delegates last night while Gingrich got squat.

But maybe not for long:

The Newt Gingrich campaign is gearing up to challenge the results of the Florida Republican presidential primary based on the Republican National Committee’s own rules which state that no contest can be winner-take-all prior to April 1, 2012…

Fox News has learned exclusively that on Thursday, a Florida Gingrich campaign official will begin the process of trying to have the RNC rules enforced so that the Sunshine State delegates are distributed based on the percentage of the vote each candidate got.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus warned Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry of the violation in a December letter quoting the rule, “…’winner-take-all’ states cannot hold a primary or caucus before April 1, 2012.”

Newt’s goal here, of course, is to signal to his supporters that he’s in the race for the long haul by scrapping for every available delegate. If Florida used the simplest possible proportional rules instead of “winner take all,” Romney would win 23 delegates from his 46 percent last night and Newt would win 16 — reducing a 50-delegate margin to just seven in one fell swoop. Problem is, the RNC’s already punished Florida once for moving its primary up by taking half its delegates away; if they forced them to go proportional on top of that, it would be an additional sanction. So, to compromise, they could in theory restore all of Florida’s delegates and then award those proportionally. That would mean, obviously, 46 for Mitt and 32 for Newt for a margin of 14. Team Mitt will battle to preserve the current “winner take all” scenario, but as we get closer to the convention, Florida pols will inevitably start demanding that all of the state’s delegates be seated notwithstanding its violation of RNC rules. (The same thing happened in the 2008 Democratic primary between Obama and Hillary, you may remember. Eventually the full Florida delegation was reinstated when the results of the primary became immaterial to Obama’s overall victory.) It’d be hard for the RNC under any circumstances to ignore claims that it’s disenfranchising swing-state Floridians by penalizing the state, but the convention this year is in … Tampa. Good luck telling half the Florida delegation to go home when they already are home. Which means if Mitt and Newt end up battling to the bitter end, the proportional scenario may be the compromise solution.

Update: Ed e-mails with a good question: Why didn’t Gingrich raise this complaint before the primary? Did he think his South Carolina win was going to carry him to a “winner take all” victory in Florida too?