Are you wondering what happened in Missouri yesterday? There were supposed to be caucuses. Rick Santorum went there a bunch of times. It sort of seemed like delegates were at stake. But what really happened was chaos. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:
In St. Charles County, which was to have been the biggest single prize of the day, the caucus was shut down before delegates were chosen after a boisterous crowd objected to how the meeting was being run, including an attempted ban on videotaping. Two supporters of presidential hopeful Ron Paul were arrested.
At other caucuses, participants gathered outdoors as the appointed locations turned out to be too small to accommodate crowds or waited for hours as organizers worked through procedural questions.
Even before the day’s events took a rancorous turn, state Republican officials said the winner of the caucus would not be officially known until next month. But with the confusion surrounding St. Charles, and many more delegates available in a pair of caucuses next weekend, the primary picture for Missouri may have only become murkier Saturday.
“It was a joke. It was a complete joke,” said David Nelson of St. Peters, who participated in the St. Charles County caucus.
In fact, they were only choosing (or not choosing) delegates to another meeting. (“They were selecting delegates who will appear at two larger meetings in April and June, who will in turn select delegates to the national convention in Tampa.”) Got that?
Well, Iowa, Nevada and Maine Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief that none of those caucuses will win the “worst-run contest” title in the 2012 nominating process.
It’s a disgrace, actually, that in location after location the state parties are unable to run an efficient election for the presidential nominee. The Republican National Committee should seriously consider penalizing these states for 2016 and/or getting rid of caucuses altogether.
The mess also raises a question: If this was not going to be a definitive contest anyway, why was Rick Santorum spending so much time there? Frankly, it’s not even clear that Santorum had “his” delegates organized to be selected for the later party meetings.
In any case, Santorum (who won in the earlier, nonbinding straw poll) gets nothing out of this. If, as expected, Mitt Romney wins Puerto Rico today and Illinois on Tuesday, his supporters may wonder why he squandered time in Missouri.
Instead, Santorum’s problematic TV appearances are the story of his day. On CNN’s “State of the Union” he refused to give a straight answer as to whether he was shooting for a brokered convention. Why the secrecy, and why not level with voters? Perhaps it sounds too destructive to admit he’s going to try to hang up the party for months and force the selection of someone who didn’t win the most delegates. (But why should people support a candidate who won’t divulge what he is up to?)
His outing on ABC’s “This Week” was worse. Finally pressed on why he supported the liberal, pro-choice Arlen Specter for president in 1996, he essentially conceded it was just business-as-usual political back-scratching: “Well, you know, when your colleague is running for office, and, you know, I was his colleague in the United States Senate, he asked me to stand with him. That certainly wasn’t one of my prouder moments I look back on. But look, you know, you work together as a team for the state of Pennsylvania and I felt that Senator Specter stood up and supported me when I was running in 1994 and I did likewise.” Yikes.
Not surprisingly, the Romney camp pounced, releasing a statement that read: “Rick Santorum once again has reminded us how he played on the team with liberal Arlen Specter. Rick Santorum is just another Washington politician. Someone who was part of the problem cannot be trusted to be part of the solution.” And, for good measure, the Romney folks sent around Specter’s cringe-inducing presidential kick-off speech (Santorum sits up front applauding enthusiastically) where he touts his pro-choice credentials.
The problem is not merely that Santorum supported Specter; it is that he has been hypocritically portraying himself as a holier-than-thou conviction conservative and decrying his main rival’s deviations from conservative orthodoxy. So when Santorum’s record is brought to light, Santorum has to plead his unconservative actions were a “mistake” or that he “took one for the team.” In fact, he was just a Republican pol. The problem with admitting that is that the new Rick Santorum has become popular decrying the kind of behavior that, in fact, the old Rick Santorum practiced. Hypocrisy will get you every time.