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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
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What a Strange Little GOP Election

The New York Times and the Washington Post reported that Mitt Romney won the Virgin Islands Republican caucus on Saturday, yet Ron Paul got more votes.

According to unofficial returns issued by the V.I. Republican Party, Paul’s candidates for delegates to the GOP convention collected 112 votes compared to 101 for Romney’s.

But since the Romney people were more disciplined, and had the support of the territorial GOP leadership, they secured seven delegates to one delegate for Paul, and one uncommited, Gwendolyn Brady. The Virgin Islands has nine Republican delegates.

How did all this happen?

Well, it was typical of the Romney vs. the field contests in the rest of the United States. He did not get a majority of the votes – he rarely does – but he got a big majority of the delegates – as he often does.

And it was all played out in miniature.

Here are the ground rules: the Virgin Islands, like the other territories, gets nine votes at the convention.

Three of these go to the GOP territorial chair, the National Committeeman and the National Committeewoman. All three of these are Romney supporters. The other six delegates are elected by caucus goers, at large, and all nine seem to have a full vote, as opposed to the partial votes which sometimes happens.

People voting in the territorial caucus get up to six votes each, one for each of the delegate slots. Since there were 384 votes cast, as few as 64 voters may have participated (384 divided by 6 = 64). Probably there were a few more, as every voter probably did not cast all six votes, so maybe 80 or 90 people voted.

So each of the islands’ nine delegates at the Tampa convention represents about nine or ten people.

Why did Romney do so well? And why did the winning candidate, Ron Paul, do so badly?

There were three variables: 1) the fact that the three party leaders all wanted Romney; that took care of fully one-third of the delegation; 2) the Romneys were organized enough to field only three candidates thus concentrating their vote on these three, while there were six Paul candidates, and the Paul votes were spread around in an unstrategic way; and 3) one elected uncommitted delegate, Warren Bruce Cole, the local party’s executive director, immediately committed to Romney after the votes were counted.

The non-Romneys were further divided with two Santorum candidates and one for Gingrich; the latter candidate came in last with a grand total of three votes, all on St. Thomas. Further there were ten uncommitted candidates. There were 22 candidates in all, three for Romney and 19 for someone else.

When the ballots were counted there were six winners, as follows (according to the GOP website):

April Newland (Romney) 41
Ms. Brady (uncommitted) 37
Mr. Cole (uncommitted) 31
John A. Clendenin (Romney) 31
Robert Max Schanfaber (Paul) 29
Luis R. Martinez (Romney) 29

Had the 83 votes for the losing five Paul candidates been concentrated neatly on two of those candidates, both of them probably would have won.

Now I am operating without any inside knowledge, and that fact that the Romneys put up just three candidates may not have been brilliant strategy, but simply luck, because that is all the Romney faction could recruit.

Attending the convention, typically, is something that the individual delegate finances; and given the crowds attending conventions, hotel and travel costs are higher than they would be otherwise.

There was a little more interest on St. Croix than on St. Thomas (which also included St. John); the highest number of St. Croix votes were 34, cast for Ms. Brady, and the highest number of St. Thomas-St. John votes, 18, were cast for Mr. Schanfaber.

Both Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (which is just north of Guam) added nine delegates each to the Romney total on Saturday. In the CNMI, which has far fewer voters than the Virgin Islands, 848 Republican primary votes were counted, 87 percent of them for Romney. Guam elected its nine delegates in a convention on the same day. The Republican governors of both territories were in the Romney camp.

Editor’s Note: David North, a retired Department of the Interior official and resident of Arlington, Virginia, writes about government and money from time to time.

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