For the moment, it looks like the Republican Party has nothing to fear over Tropical Storm Isaac — but they’re taking no chances. Instead of waiting until the third day of the convention to formally nominate Mitt Romney for President as would be customary, the roll call will take place on Monday. It’s not just to avoid having a hurricane disrupt the convention, either:
Republican delegates will begin the roll call vote to officially nominate Mitt Romney for president on Monday at the national convention in Tampa, which could allow Romney to accept the GOP nomination earlier in the week than has occurred at previous conventions.
The formal presidential nomination process will begin earlier than past years in part because of concerns about supporters of libertarian Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Republican officials said Thursday. Officials are also discussing the impact that Tropical Storm Isaac could have on the convention.
Republican candidates have typically been nominated a day ahead of their convention speech. Roll call votes have typically begun later in the convention proceedings than will occur this year, a convention official said. Romney is slated to speak next Thursday.
The move answers the question asked by our own Steven Den Beste last night: what happens if the convention had to disband before the formal nomination takes place? The RNC would probably have to hold a vote over the phone, but the time to make and execute those new arrangements would delay the nomination — and therefore delay the moment when Romney can start using his general-election funds.
Technically, this change makes that even better for Romney, because the campaign should be able to start tapping those funds Monday night rather than Wednesday. Practically speaking, the extra two days make little difference, but if the GOP nomination had been delayed another week, that could have been significant. The campaign needs to hit the airwaves heavily as soon as Romney’s voice stops echoing from the dais on Thursday night to build momentum out of the convention, and a delay in accessing the funds could have ended up wasting all of the effort from the convention.
Plus, the new arrangements have another benefit — sidelining Ron Paul:
Using a mix of charm and procedural hardball, Mitt Romney’s campaign and his allies who control the Republican National Committee have ensured that the Texas congressman will neither speak nor be formally nominated at next week’s convention. It’s a significant victory for Romney, who could have been faced with a raucous rebellion from the Paul crowd if he hadn’t extended an early, and diplomatic, olive branch to what’s become a key constituency.
The libertarian septuagenarian controls the state delegations from Nevada, Iowa and Minnesota. But a candidate needs five states to be officially recognized on the floor. Paul supporters have made claims to Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Oklahoma and Maine. But Romney’s coterie of lawyers skillfully used the rules and interpersonal negotiations to peel each away.
The 168-member Republican National Committee approved a report Thursday by the Romney-friendly “committee on contests” that invalidated Paul delegates elected in Maine based on irregularities at the state convention. The RNC voted to split the at-large delegation in half, effectively depriving Paul of control.
Paul’s supporters seem uncharacteristically sanguine about the defeat:
“We knew we were walking into a snake pit, but you’ve got to put up the fight,” said Virginia delegate Christopher Stearns, who worked closely with the Paul campaign on the convention platform and the rules. “You’ve got to have a discussion. Otherwise, it appears as though there’s nothing going on.”
“It was a fair hearing, and I thought it was an acceptable environment,” Stearns added. “The majority rules, and the will of [the] minority shall be heard. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the circumstances we have right now.”
There are two reasons for such easy acquiescence to the kind of intra-party brawling that Paul supporters usually decry, and they’re not mutually exclusive. One is that they realize that any hint of division will throw the election to Barack Obama, and that’s worse than a defeat for Paul at the convention. The other is that Team Romney has quietly made some significant concessions to appease Paul and send him into a happy retirement. I’d guess that to be Rand Paul’s speaking slot and higher-than-expected profile as a Romney supporter.
So far, the news is all good for the Republican convention.