TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney’s campaign has stepped back from a major confrontation with fellow Republicans who were irate over what several ranking party officials had called a “power grab” by the presumptive nominee.
The Romney campaign had won approval earlier of a change in the party’s presidential nominating rules that would allow Mr. Romney, if elected president, to veto already elected delegates from the 50 states and five territories to the next GOP nominating convention in 2016 and beyond. Even if Mr. Romney were not president come January, the rules change would have allowed future presidential nomination candidates the same vetting powers.
National Rifle Association President David A. Keene said on a Washington Times webcast from Tampa on Monday that the Romney rules changes were unnecessary, and wrong politically and in principle.
The Romney campaign’s aim was to avoid seating delegates who they said were flying under false colors — supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul serving as “Romney delegates” in states Mr. Romney won during the nominating battle.
Under the current rules, states hold primaries and caucuses to determine how many delegates will be awarded to each candidate, but state parties convene at a later date at state conventions to name the actual delegates. Under the proposed rules change, individual delegates would not be chosen for the convention unless they had been certified by the presidential nominee for whom they were bound to cast their vote.
In an emergency meeting on Monday, Republican National Committee Vice Chairman Jim Bopp negotiated agreements with three representatives of the Romney campaign to prevent an embarrassing floor fight on Tuesday, at the very time when Mr. Romney will be trying to project the image of a united party bent on defeating President Obama on Nov. 6.
The agreement, as explained by Mr. Bopp, rescinded the proposed changes and was an unalloyed victory for those who wanted to preserve the old rules governing delegate selection and seating.
But another Romney-instigated change that angered moderates and conservatives alike was left in place — from now on the delegation selection and seating rules can be changed any time before the 2016 convention and any time between conventions in future cycles.
The practical effect of the change could be major revisions of the party’s rules that would not need to be approved by the full convention’s more than 2,200 elected delegates.
Asked why he didn’t hold out for the restoration of that part of the old rules, Mr. Bopp said, “I am a politician seeking to address these grass-roots concerns and get something accomplished — and keep this party a bottom-up, not a top-down organization.”
Not part of Monday’s negotiations was Romney campaign chief counsel Ben Ginsberg, who pushed for the proposed Romney changes that had angered many conservative activists, RNC members and delegates to the convention.
Former RNC General Counsel David Norcross, one of those upset by the proposed revisions, said the changes pushed by Mr. Ginsberg and the Romney’s campaign were “over the top.”
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