Newt Gingrich to challenge Florida winner-take-all delegate rules

February 2, 2012

LAS VEGAS -- Two days after a resounding loss in Florida’s Republican primary, former House speaker Newt Gingrich has decided to petition the Republican Party of Florida to allocate its national convention delegates proportionally rather than on a winner-take-all basis, spokesman R.C. Hammond said Thursday.

“The RNC set out rules last winter that stated any contest held before a certain date must award its delegates proportionally,” Hammond said to a group of reporters after Gingrich participated in a Hispanic roundtable here. “Florida moved its primary inside of this date, so therefore we’re asking the state party of Florida to enforce the existing rules.”

Hammond said the campaign would not have asked for proportional allocation if Gingrich had won the Florida primary. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, won the primary resoundingly with 46 percent of the vote; Gingrich came in a distant second with 32 percent.

At stake are 50 convention delegates that all go to Romney under the state party’s rules. If Gingrich were to prevail, Romney’s lead in the delegate count race would be significantly narrower and would open a wider path for Gingrich to stay in the race until the GOP’s national convention in August. The candidates are battling to amass 1,144 out of a total of 2,286 convention delegates to secure the party’s nomination.

Hammond’s announcement followed news reports that Bill McCollum, the former Florida attorney general and Gingrich’s Florida campaign chairman, had begun lobbying party officials to revert to proportional allocation. In addition, the campaign circulated a memo laying out why Florida’s rules should be changed.

However, the state party chairman, Lenny Curry, gave no indication that a change of plans was likely. Curry said in a statement that the Florida GOP executive committee’s decision to award delegates on a winner-take-all basis was made unanimously in September, and that the time to protest that decision has past.

“All campaigns and the RNC have known since then that Florida was winner-take-all,” Curry said. “RNC’s legal counsel has, on numerous occasions, noted their understanding and acceptance of Florida’s rule.”

“Florida was winner take all before Election Day, we were winner take all on Election Day, we will remain winner take all,” Curry continued. “As Bill McCollum confirmed to Fox News today, had the outcome been different on Tuesday he would not be seeking publicity for a challenge to the rules adopted by Florida’s Republicans. It is a shame when the loser of a contest agrees to the rules before, then cries foul after losing.”

Some Republicans said the door remains open to require Florida to award its delegates proportionally. John Ryder, a Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee who served on the committee that helped draft the rules governing this year’s process, said the rules allow any eligible Florida primary voter to challenge the delegate award. The challenge will be considered by the RNC’s Committee on Contests, which will meet right before the summer convention.

“This will be relevant--or it won’t be,” Ryder said. “If one candidate has amassed a clear majority of the delegates , none of this will matter. If it’s a close contest, the committee of contests will be the focus of a great deal of attention, I’d expect.”

Staff writers Rosalind S. Helderman and Aaron Blake contributed to this report.

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