Santorum Delegates Up For Grabs

April 13, 2012
By
WEBN-TV / Foter

DENVER – With Rick Santorum out of the race, the burning question for the GOP faithful attending this weekend’s Colorado Republican State Assembly and Convention is: Now what?

Will Santorum’s legion of Colorado supporters switch to Romney, the all-but-certain nominee, in order to boost their chances of punching their ticket to the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Fla.?

Will they bounce to Newt Gingrich, viewed by many as the second-best conservative candidate? Or will they form an alliance with the small but intense band of Ron Paul supporters as part of a Paul-for-President slate?

Republican state Sen. Kent Lambert, a pledged Santorum delegate, gave what may be the only correct answer: Who knows?

“We’re going to have to see what happens,” said Lambert. “This Friday’s ballots are already printed, so I’ll be on there as a Santorum delegate. But anybody can vote for any delegate they want to go to the national convention. So who knows? I don’t know how they’ll vote, I don’t know what the mood’s going to be.”

This weekend was supposed to be a celebration for Santorum supporters. The Pennsylvania senator pulled off a huge upset in Colorado at the Feb. 7 caucus, capturing the state with 40% of the vote to Romney’s 35%.

No sooner had Santorum suspended his campaign Tuesday than the phones began ringing at the homes of his pledged Colorado delegates. The Ron Paul campaign is actively recruiting Santorum delegates for a slate. The Romney camp has countered with robocalls from Republican stars like Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. John Thune asking the delegates to throw in with the frontrunner.

While Santorum’s announcement was not entirely unexpected, the timing could have been better for Colorado Republicans.

“It makes it difficult in Colorado because there are a number of delegates pledged to Santorum, and they want to go to the convention,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “So that throws them in a big of a quandary: Do they try to go as a Santorum bloc of conservatives, or do they switch to Romney? They’re going to have to strategize.”

The two-day Denver assembly could be a record-setter. More than 3,800 Republicans are expected to attend for a chance to choose among the 859 delegates running to serve as national delegates, an increase of about 30% from 2008, said state Republican Party chair Ryan Call.

Colorado is sending 33 delegates and 33 alternates to the Aug. 27-31 convention, fewer than in 2008. The state lost delegate slots after it went for Democrat Barack Obama in the last presidential election.

Colorado Democrats are also holding their assembly this weekend in Pueblo, although the outcome with a Democrat in the White House is hardly in doubt.

Mark Baisley, Douglas County Republican Party chair, predicted that Santorum delegates may find a comfortable fit in the Gingrich fold.

“Most of the Santorum-pledged folks I’ve spoken with are jumping over to Newt Gingrich,” said Baisley. “There’s a renewed vigor there.”

Kristen Grazier, a pledged Santorum delegate from Larimer County, said she’s leaning toward standing by her man Rick.

“I think it’s important that we have representation for his position of conservative renewal, and that we have a strong conservative platform with a conservative running mate,” said Grazier. “Rick Santorum did win Colorado. Because I believe in the man and his mission, I’m honoring him at this point.”

She said she can envision a scenario in which Santorum delegates cast their ballots for him on the first ballot at the national convention.

“There are a lot of people I know who are Santorum supporters who are going to be there [at the assembly],” said Grazier. “It’ll be interesting to see if they’re swayed by the same people who’ve been calling my house.”

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