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Romney Games GOP Rules to Benefit His Campaign... in 2016 | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

Breaking news and analysis of politics, the economy and activism.

Romney Games GOP Rules to Benefit His Campaign... in 2016

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says the platform crafted by a committee on which Tea Party–inspired delegates and social conservatives drove the process “is the platform of the Republican Party; it’s not the platform of Mitt Romney.”

Say what? Aren’t the Republican Party and Mitt Romney somewhat connected at this point?

Preparing to accept the nomination for president creates linkages that have traditionally been thought of as definitional.

So what’s Priebus really saying?

That’s easy. What he’s really saying is that Romney intends to play the Tea Party crowd for chumps.

When Romney aide Avik Roy was asked the other day how much influence Tea Party activists would have on the Romney White House, he answered “very little.”

“I think it is a statement of what activists in the party, the consensus among activists in the party believe should be the core of activist conservatism,” replied Roy. “But that is different from what a candidate who is appealing to the center of the country is going to try to do.”

Translation: Thanks for the votes, now go away.

It is no secret that Romney’s team has little taste for the Tea Partisans—a point made abundantly clear when the revised post-Isaac convention schedule was released. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senator Rick Santorum, both of whom savaged Romney when the primaries were dragging from winter into spring, have speaking slots. But Tea Party favorites Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain are excluded from the stage.

More significantly, the Romney camp is reworking the rules of the party so that Romney will not feel pressure from the Tea Partisans.

Specifically, Romney’s backers used their control of the convention’s rule-making apparatus to develop a new set of rules that would allow him to see off any primary challenge from the right in 2016.

According to conservative critics of the move, the Romney rule changes would:

* allow presidential campaigns to, in essence, “fire” duly elected delegates they don’t like and replace them with individuals of their own choosing;

* allow changes to the Republican Party rules between Conventions, without a vote of delegates elected by the grassroots of the Party; and

* undo the rules regarding the primary calendar that were designed to stop the trend toward front-loading the primary season and preserve the opportunity for Republicans across the country to have a say in who their presidential candidate would be.

Richard Viguerie, the veteran Republican strategist, decries the Romney-sponsored rule changes as “an attempted coup by Mitt Romney’s agents at this year’s Republican National Convention.”

With conservative stalwarts such as Morton Blackwell of Virginia and Jim Bopp of Indiana, Viguerie is promoting a challenge to the proposed rule changes, which must be approved by the convention Tuesday. When the Rules Committee report is debated, they want delegates to endorse a Minority Rules Report in order to defeat the proposed changes.

“Grassroots conservative and Tea Party activists should call or e-mail their delegates to the Republican National Convention to tell them about this attempted power grab by DC’s political elite,” says Viguerie, who argues that it is vital for the right “to oppose this power grab by Washington’s permanent political class.”

He’s right about the “permanent class.” Often, the fight is not so much right-versus-left as it is inside-versus-outside.

It is not necessary to be a Tea Partisan to recognize that a power grab is taking place in the GOP. Nor is it necessary to be a political pundit to recognize why Romney is doing this.

The soon-to-be Republican nominee does not want to be bound by his party’s platform, or its rules.

That does not make him a courageous moderate foe of the resurgent right; he’s on the corporate side economically, and he’s willing to bend to the right on most social issues.

Nor does it does it make him a responsible player who is just trying to update complex rules.

It makes Mitt Romney a candidate who is more interested in consolidating and keeping power than in playing by the rules of his party.

That marks Romney as a political opportunist of an unsettling sort. If he would try to game his own party’s rules in his favor, what wouldn’t he do to acquire and retain power?

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