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Published April 02 2012

Forum editorial: ND GOP declares 3rd is 1st

To hear North Dakota Republicans tell it, their endorsing convention last weekend in Bismarck was a triumph. To hear others who are not party types tell it, the convention was little more than a coronation bulldozer that shoved aside any dissent in the ranks.

The latter description has some validity. Here’s why.

Most of North Dakota’s 25 presidential convention delegates will trot off to Tampa this summer as supporters of current front-runner former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But how can that be? Just a few weeks ago North Dakota Republicans gathered in caucuses in every county in the state and (guess what?) handed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum a convincing win. The second spot went to Texas Congressman Ron Paul. And Romney, who was awarded all the state’s delegates at the convention? Where did the convention’s choice finish after caucus votes were counted? A distant third, that’s where.

Which raises two questions:

First, why conduct caucuses if the results mean nothing when delegates to the national convention are selected?

Second, how can convention managers even suggest they conducted a representative delegate selection process when Santorum and Paul supporters were disenfranchised?

Not only did third-place-caucus-finish Romney get the convention’s nod, but party Chairman Stan Stein refused to allow further debate. One delegate who tried had her microphone turned off. So went the party bulldozer.

Much of this stuff is inside baseball. That is, most North Dakotans don’t give a rip about infighting among Republicans. But among active Republicans, it’s a different story. It’s a rare state GOP convention when a significant number of delegates and other attendees go home angry. But mad they are, and it’s possible the anger will carry over into what surely will be a bruising primary tussle between endorsed U.S. House candidate Brian Kalk and the candidate who sees no value in the party’s endorsement, Kevin Cramer. And make no mistake about it: Cramer’s skip-the-endorsement choice comports well with Santorum and Paul supporters who were shut out of the national delegate selection process.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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