Romney Already Paying Price For Hard Line On Paulites

At the RNC in Tampa, the Romney campaign forced through rules changes to make it more difficult for anti-establishment candidates like Ron Paul in the future and kept Paul from being formally nominated from the floor. This avoided a lot of stir at that time. After all, it meant that an extended floor vote and nominating process would not push Chris Christie’s keynote speech on Tuesday from prime time and that the convention would run roughly on schedule for its television audience of undecided voters. While this may hurt Romney with hardcore libertarian voters on Election Day, it is now presenting other complications for him.

The AP reported Wednesday that at least three Republican electors may vote for Paul in the Electoral College if Romney wins their state in November. Electors are normally party activists selected through a similar process as delegates to the national convention and as a result, a number of Republican state parties picked electors with libertarian sympathies this year. These die-hard activists were not pleased with what happened at the RNC and the result is to make the GOP appear unorganized. As the article reports:

The electors — all supporters of former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul — told The Associated Press they are exploring options should Mitt Romney win their states. They expressed frustration at how Republican leaders have worked to suppress Paul’s conservative movement and his legion of loyal supporters.

“They’ve never given Ron Paul a fair shot, and I’m disgusted with that. I’d like to show them how disgusted I am,” said Melinda Wadsley, an Iowa mother of three who was selected as a Republican elector earlier this year. She said Paul is the better choice and noted that the Electoral College was founded with the idea that electors wouldn’t just mimic the popular vote.

Although Wadsley has already resigned her position under pressure, the other two potential faithless electors, one from the safe GOP state of Texas and the other from the swing state of Nevada still hold their positions. It’s difficult to conceive of a scenario where the Presidential election is decided by two electoral votes but it has happened in the recent past (the 2000 election).

If the race between Romney and Obama ends up being tight in the last few weeks, there will likely be even more speculation about potential faithless electors. This would not be to Romney’s benefit. News stories about Ron Paul and the electoral college in the election’s home stretch both push Romney off-message and can only dampen GOP turnout. It shows the price of the GOP over-managing its convention. After all, even one elector out of 535 likely to make far more of an impact on an election than the most eloquent speech by Chris Christie.

Ben Jacobs

Ben Jacobs is a journalist living in New York. He is a former reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and contributor to the Boston Globe editorial page. Follow him on Twitter @bencjacobs.