Will Rick Perry supporters get the old Tom Double Cross tonight?

By DOUG IBENDAHL • September 6, 2011


Blogger Greg Hinz reported last week that Rick Perry’s campaign is “wooing” Tom Cross for support in Illinois.


I can believe it. Perry can’t be expected to know all the players in all 50 states. It’s understandable that a presidential candidate would assume that having the support of a state’s House Minority Leader would be a good thing.


We all know that Illinois is a special case requiring extra due diligence for any outside Republican looking for leadership here. All of us in Illinois also know that Cross and Perry have almost nothing in common. Cross brings more baggage than benefit.


But again, it’s hard to expect Perry’s folks to be up to speed on exactly who is good or bad in 50 states. Plus, some can play pretend all they want, but the fact is Illinois is not high on the radar screen for any candidate. Several key states have their primaries before we do and it’s highly likely that a presumptive nominee will have emerged by the time our primary comes around in March. My strong sense is that will be Rick Perry.


Until Republicans get serious about rebuilding the GOP in Illinois, our state will continue to be viewed by the national candidates as just a cash cow, an ATM.


Greg Hinz also reported that Perry has already locked-in the support of State Representative Jim Durkin.


Durkin led John McCain to a 25 point loss against Obama in Illinois last time, and earlier this year Durkin was one of only three House Republicans helping the Chicago Democrats squash reasonable concealed carry legislation for Illinois. We’re now the only state without some form of concealed carry law.


Unless Durkin is leaving the country for the duration I’m not sure how a guy like that “supports” Perry exactly. But I’m just relaying what’s been reported.


This brings us to the proposed changes to the delegate selection procedures that will be voted on late this afternoon at a special meeting of the Illinois Republican Party’s State Central Committee.


What we have in Illinois is a situation where everyone wants to be in the winner’s circle, but almost no one wants to bet on a horse.


Dan Rutherford has committed himself. He’s in charge of Mitt Romney’s campaign here, just like he was four years ago. So other Illinois “names” have to find someone else to glom-onto. The hope is that a little national Rock Star status will rub off and add a little shine to the incredible dullness that permeates most of our GOP incumbents in Illinois.


It’s worth repeating that the State Central Committee will be considering two big changes tonight. Pat Brady and others might lead you to believe otherwise, but in fact these are separate and independent changes. The first could be adopted and the second rejected. That’s what I would do.


The first change has to be adopted – in some form at least. The national party, the RNC, is requiring all states holding their primary prior to April 1st to adopt proportionate allocation of delegates. The only leeway our State Party has is in some of the details. The current proposal says the allocation will revert to winner-take-all (the system our party uses now in Illinois), if any candidate attains at least 50% of the Primary vote.


Note that’s the lowest cut-off the RNC is allowing. We could just as easily specify 80% or 90% as the hurdle. A higher hurdle would obviously be beneficial to second and third place candidates, but that’s not in the cards.


But as I’ve said before, I’m not going to quibble about the proportionate allocation change. That part’s fine. And again, the RNC is forcing the Illinois GOP to adopt proportionate allocation – at least in some limited circumstances. The RNC mandated this change over a year ago. Most Illinois Republicans are just now finding out about it.


The more significant change deals with the selection of the specific delegates. And this part is not mandated by the RNC. Instead our State GOP is seeking to sneak it in at the same time they adopt the proportionate allocation change tonight.


And trust me – it’s a power grab.


Basically by this change the old guard will be doing for the selection of delegates – the same thing they did for the selection of the State Central Committee two decades ago. The role of Republican voters is going to be minimized.


Under the latest proposal, the March Primary becomes purely a beauty contest. The delegates, the persons with an actual say in choosing the nominee at the Republican National Convention next August, won’t be chosen until after the Primary. And at that point, Republican voters are out of the equation.


The proposal has been tweaked from the original distributed behind closed doors at the State GOP’s August 18th meeting. The original plan said the State Central Committee would choose the delegates after “conferring” with the campaign(s).


The current proposal says “the campaign” will choose the delegates which must then be certified by the State Central Committee.


This is largely a distinction without a difference. As a legal matter, the State Central Committee still has the final sign-off. The certification arguably provides veto authority over anyone the members deem “unacceptable.” And in any case, “the campaign” in Rick Perry’s case is going to be defined as Tom Cross or Jim Durkin or whoever is pushed on the Perry folks to head-up the Illinois effort. Perry himself obviously has better things to do than micro-manage Illinois. His Texas-based operation will defer in large part to the powers-that-be in Illinois when it comes to Illinois.


Everyone knows Obama is going to win his home state. But you’re crazy if you think the Denny Hastert/Mark Kirk/Pat Brady/Tom Cross wing is going to leave any loose ends in terms of who is going to be the Illinois liaison to the next occupant of the Oval Office.


The biggest problem with this change is it will kill energy in Illinois going into next year’s historic election. There will be no delegate candidates out on the street pushing their candidates and getting petitions. The candidates themselves still have to get on the ballot of course, but the exposure and sweat equity involved compared to running a full slate of delegates is small.


My assumption is that the State Central Committee adopts all the changes tonight. I don’t see why they wouldn’t. The persons with the only say in the matter are the same persons who will be voting to give themselves a lot of new power and control. Plus there is little to fear since the members of the State Central Committee aren’t accountable to Republican voters in a real election.


But no matter what happens, we’re already declaring victory at Republican News Watch. While other outlets have been busy helping Pat Brady and others muddy the waters and sow confusion, we’ve done our best to present the facts in an understandable way. We’ve provided sunshine that’s helped force the State Central Committee to make a few tweaks to the original proposal. We’ve also helped open up the process a bit – although a 5 p.m. workday meeting in the suburbs is unrealistic scheduling for most. (It’s also incredible that our State Party still has absolutely no information at all about this issue on its website. In other states making changes to their party rules, this is a given.)


I am disappointed that so many Republicans and tea partiers – and not just party officials – chose to play games with this issue. So much misinformation has deliberately been put out there, it’s clear that a lot of people will remain hopelessly confused regarding the way our presidential nominee will be chosen in Illinois. Maybe some immature souls think that will help the power grab get through, and they are probably correct about that. But it’s not right.


I’ve never claimed to have all the answers. But I know one thing. The Illinois GOP is headed for another disappointing year at the polls and no one should be surprised.


When you’ve got a State Party Chairman and others around him who seem to think that the biggest problem with the Republican Party in Illinois is that Republican voters are voting too much – then yeah, it’s probably not wise to get your hopes up.


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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