Supporters of Presidential candidate Scott Walker have gotten their way in the North Carolina General Assembly in their maneuvers to make the NC presidential primary a winner take all affair for the first time in the state’s history, something that does not go down well with many GOP activists in the state. The General Assembly had passed legislation in a previous session to set the primary for February, creating an RNC rule violation that would have led to punitive measures greatly reducing the size of the NC delegation. That set up a drive within the party to move the date to avoid that loss of delegates. The legislation to make the change created an opportunity to otherwise change the rules.
The legislation that passed in the General Assembly set the primary for March 15, but also made the change to a winner take all format.
Leading the charge for a winner take all system was State Senator Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg), a supporter of Walker who is a key member of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s leadership team, but who is personally ideologically to the left of the conservative Berger. As CBS News tells the story:
Sources told CBS News that the Walker campaign also made it known to allies in the state legislature — namely state Sen. Bob Rucho, a powerful state Republican — that a March 15 winner-take-all contest would be its preference. According to one source, Walker “put the squeeze” on Rucho to make North Carolina an early winner-take-all primary.
“The 15th was communicated to Senator Rucho as the preferred date by the Walker campaign,” said another GOP source involved in the maneuvering. “If you’re Walker, you’re not going to go to Florida – why would you spend money there? You got Kasich’s Ohio on the same day. You’re not going to put a lot of resources there. North Carolina is a big fish.”
Moving the primary to March marked a change of heart for Rucho, who was locked in a dispute earlier this year with national Republican officials over his desire to move the primary to February – showcasing the state early in the nomination process. But that would have been in flagrant violation of Republican National Committee rules protecting February for the first four voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
The Walker campaign declined repeated requests for comment.
Though multiple North Carolina Republicans said Rucho has been pulling the strings for Walker behind the scenes, Rucho denies being an outright supporter of the governor, despite heaping praise on him.
“I was very pleased to watch and see Governor Walker and see the message he put out,” Rucho told CBS News, praising Walker’s conservative record in Wisconsin. “My feeling is lot of people can talk about what they would like to do, but very few of them can actually achieve it.”
To see how a winner take all primary can distort the results from the Republican voters of North Carolina, one only has to look at the comments of Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie), a normally conservative legislator who co-sponsored the bill to change the primary:
“There is real opportunity here,” said State Sen. Andrew Brock, a co-sponsor of the bill moving the primary to March. “You can win with 15 or 16 percent of the vote. You’re going to have to run a campaign. And it doesn’t benefit one candidate or another in this race who is looking in our state.”
Get 15% of the vote and win ALL of the delegates? That is not the North Carolina way, and Walker faces a backlash among GOP voters as more learn why it is that our tradition of proportional representation has been destroyed. Some of the legislators behind this may also feel a backlash in their primaries, especially since more and more Republican activists are becoming disillusioned at multiple actions of the present legislature.
Unfortunately most of the other campaigns were asleep at the switch, as only [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ]’s campaign made any effort in the legislature to preserve the proportional representation in the presidential primary.
This is particularly a concern among Republican activists after a bid to close North Carolina Republican primaries failed earlier this year. Not only could someone with 15% of the vote win all of the delegates, but what puts them just above a rival with 14.9% may be extensive support by non-Republican voters. The state, under procedures that will be in place for 2016 could see support from non-Republicans push a highly unrepresentative presidential candidate over the top to get all 72 of the state’s delegates. Thanks a lot, Governor Walker, Bob Rucho, (and Brad Dayspring?)