Supporters of Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul and Mitt Romney combined forces to pitch a shutout at Rick Santorum in Saturday’s Jackson County GOP caucus.
After four hours of sometimes grinding debate, roughly 1,000 caucus goers awarded Paul a majority of the county’s delegates to Republican congressional district conventions in April and the state convention in June. Romney got the rest.
The caucus-approved slate contained no delegates for Santorum or former House speaker Newt Gingrich.
And backers of the former senator from Pennsylvania — who won Missouri’s non-binding primary in February — didn’t like it.
“We were totally railroaded,” said Mary Jane VanBuskirk, a Santorum caucus voter. “And it’s not fair.”
Caucus goers in both the Paul and Romney camps said they began to discuss an alliance last week, after the Clay County caucus Mar. 17. In that meeting, Romney and Santorum backers joined together to reject a slate proposed by the Paul campaign, leaving the Texas congressman without delegates from that often contentious gathering.
The Paul camp said they learned their lesson.
“We cut a deal because if we didn’t cut a deal we’d be cutout
of a deal, and it would have gone like Clay County did last week,” said Paul Trask, a Paul caucus goer. “We didn’t want to be left out this time.”
Romney supporters said they also saw a strategic advantage in joining with Paul and cutting out Santorum, who is considered Romney’s most serious remaining GOP presidential challenger.
“It assured us the delegates from the 5th District, and from the Ron Paul point of view it assured them of a place at the table,” said Jack Craft, a Romney supporter. “So both campaigns are pleased with it.”
Santorum supporters — many decked out in red shirts, or wearing red bandannas — tried to convince the caucus to award delegates in proportion to their support at the session. They also pointed out Santorum won Jackson County’s popular vote in the February primary.
But Paul and Romney caucus goers said the vote was clearly understood as a beauty contest and shouldn’t affect Saturday’s caucus decision.
The final slate awarded 63 delegates to Paul and 81 to Romney for the 5th Congressional District convention in April. For the 6th District, Paul won all 35 available delegates.
Twenty-four of Missouri’s national convention delegates will be picked at those congressional district conventions.
Twenty-five national delegates will be picked at the Missouri GOP convention in June. There, Paul will have 140 Jackson County delegates, while Romney will have the other 39, caucus officials said.
Saturday’s caucus in Lee’s Summit was not as bitter as the Clay County gathering in Liberty, but it went much longer. Indeed, few Republicans at either meeting seemed completely satisfied with the elaborate machinery of the caucus, which required lengthy votes and sometimes confusing disagreements over rules and procedures.
“I think we should have a contested primary like so many states do,” Craft said. “We should make sure we have a good process.”