After months and months of hostility to changing their nominating process, they are holding an emergency meeting of the state party’s Central Committee to consider proposals to their neighborhood caucus meetings.
Why the sudden change? Why is this so urgent that they are holding an emergency meeting?
I was in the Central Committee meeting at the state party convention earlier this year. The hostility against the “Count My Vote” group was palpable. It was even greater in the convention hall when delegates debated making some changes to the nominating system.
What has changed in the last few months? Why is altering the caucus system now an urgent action item?
The cynic in me thinks it’s because they realize they are going to lose the battle against “Count My Vote,” which aims to replace the caucus system with direct primaries.
Cynical me thinks some sort of data exists, polling or anecdotal, that shows the push for direct primaries is a very real threat.
Cynical me looks at this news and surmises it’s nothing more than a face saving attempt – a way to show the public they’re open to change without really changing. It’s just pure coincidence that “Count My Vote” is about to head into the field to gather the signatures they need to get on the 2014 ballot.
Something got the attention of Utah Republicans. That’s why they’re moving so quickly.
A quick sports analogy. A coach gets fired and the media starts speculating about possible replacements. Usually the list is four or five really good candidates. Maybe the team brings some of them in for an interview. Then, someone who seems like a good fit for the job will suddenly announce they’ve “taken their name out of consideration.” What really happened is they were told they weren’t going to get the job and this is a way to save themselves the embarrassment of not being hired.
The Utah GOP is attempting to do a similar face saving maneuver here. They want to show the public that they tried to be reasonable, that they tried to make changes, but “Count My Vote” went ahead with their citizen’s initiative anyway.
It allows them to play the victim. Everybody has sympathy for the victim.
Making these changes accomplishes one other thing. It gives Republicans a logical springboard to launch a counter initiative to “save” the caucuses – and maybe confuse voters in the meantime.
If the Central Committee adopts the proposals, they will have a better narrative in this fight than their current one. “We tried to change, but they’re not letting us” works a hell of a lot better with voters than “They won’t change.”
The proposals up for debate in this weekend’s meeting are much less expansive than what the Utah GOP was considering back in April.
But, it's more than what they were willing to consider just a few months ago.
In soccer, when an attack bogs down on one side of the pitch, you’ll see a long, looping pass to the other side in order to “switch the field” and gain a quick tactical advantage and more room to work.
The Utah GOP desperately needs that room because they’re close to getting trapped in a corner, and they need a new path out.
(Editor's note: UtahPolicy.com publisher LaVarr Webb is on the board of Count My Vote.)