Every two years I start thinking that this is the time where Republican state delegates will be more like rank-and-file GOP voters.
This will be the year that the delegates actually represent the feelings of their neighbors who elected them as delegates to reflect their preferences at county and state Republican conventions.
In 2018, I figured that Mitt Romney, much beloved in Utah for saving the 2002 Winter Olympics and who won a huge victory here in his 2012 U.S. presidential race, would win the nomination for the U.S. Senate by getting 60 percent of the delegate vote in the state convention.
Nope, didn’t happen.
I’m like the Charlie Brown character in the Peanuts cartoon strip, who year after year believes Lucy will hold the football for him, not pull it away at the last second so Charlie kicks, misses, and falls flat on his back.
Why can’t I get this right?
Well, you guessed it.
In Saturday’s state GOP convention not only did Romney NOT win the nomination by getting 60 percent of the delegate vote, he actually LOST to newcomer, and relatively unknown candidate, state Rep. Mike Kennedy.
In the last round of voting, Romney got 49.12 percent of the delegate vote to Kennedy’s 50.88 percent of the vote.
Since no one got 60 percent, both officially advance to the June 26 primary.
Romney, actually, was already there. He successfully gathered 28,000 signatures of registered GOP voters and so – via SB54’s dual-route to the primary law – makes the ballot regardless of what happens to him in the convention.
I suppose you can say – as Romney did after his convention defeat – that the anti-signature-route delegates were punishing him for taking that outside-convention route.
And more than a few likely Romney voters had left the convention by the 7 p.m. ballot.
But look at this:
A March UtahPolicy.com poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates found that 75 percent of Republican voters favored Romney in the U.S. Senate race.
That’s three out of four actual, breathing Republicans – the very people the 4,000 delegates were supposed to be representing.
Now, I admit, Kennedy – a really smart, good legislator – had not yet announced to run in the U.S. Senate race when the poll was taken.
He wasn’t even on UtahPolicy.com’s – or anyone else’s – radar screen as a U.S. Senate candidate at that time. So his name was not on the poll.
But it wouldn’t have made much difference in the public’s opinion – another Utah House member was on the poll, and he got 2 percent of the GOP vote – compared to Romney’s 75 percent.
Now, one could say that Kennedy was SO impressive in his meetings with state GOP delegates, and in his floor speech Saturday, that he legitimately won over the hearts and votes of half the delegates.
OK, there was some of that.
But there was also a lot, and I mean a lot, of just plain old anti-Romney stuff going on in the convention.
I.E., the man who was more than good enough to win the national party’s presidential nomination race just four years ago WAS NOT good enough for half of Utah’s GOP delegates.
Once again (and why can’t I get this straight?), Utah’s Republican Party caucus/delegate/convention system provides us with delegates who are much more to the right, much more conservative, than Utah Republicans at-large.
There are 650,000 registered GOP voters in Utah.
And Jones’ recent poll shows that 75 percent of them, or 487,500 GOP voters, favor Romney.
But did the 4,000 Republican delegates reflect that choice?
Not even close.
So, again, this year’s crop of GOP delegates doesn’t reflect the will of the very people they were picked in the March caucus meetings to represent.
I think that one of these things happened (pick one):
1) The rank-and-file Republicans who actually showed up to the caucus meetings (around 45,000 statewide) didn’t really want Romney; they wanted this Kennedy guy who most of them had never heard of.
Or, 2), the delegates did their required due diligence, and after meeting the unknown Kennedy decided on their own that he was much better than Romney, so voted as their caucus-attendees would have, if they had been in their place.
Or, 3), the GOP state delegates, once again, are much more conservative than rank-and-file Utah GOP voters and really don’t give a damn about the folks who sent them to the convention, and Saturday voted their anti-GOP establishment, anti-government, archconservative beliefs.
So how in the world can anyone, with a serious face, argue that Utah’s traditional caucus/delegate/convention system is better than just allowing all candidates who get the required voter signatures go to the primary ballot, where voters, themselves, can pick their party’s nominee, instead of trusting the delegates who, year after year, prove they do NOT represent the folks back home.
I don’t know why I can’t learn this lesson.
Why, year after year, do I believe that maybe this time, this election, the Republican delegates will reflect the will of regular rank-and-file GOP voters.