If one were to simply listen to Jamie Allman and the interview he did this morning with Brent Stafford, one might believe that Stafford last night pulled off the greatest coup in Missouri Caucus history.
On March 17th, during the originally scheduled St. Charles County Caucus, chaos reigned. Ron Paul supporters, led by Brent Stafford, circulated lists of proposed caucus rules among the 2000-odd attendees. They failed to inform attendees that the papers being handed out were not the official rules, or even that there were official rules which had been posted at least three days prior to the caucus on the Missouri GOP website. They then continued to facilitate confusion by drowning out caucus organizer Eugene Dokes when he tried to bring the meeting to order, contesting everything from the previously posted rules to the proposed caucus chair. Some charged the podium where Eugene Dokes stood, causing the off-duty police officers who were present to provide security to confer with Dokes, resulting in a premature end to the caucus. Everyone was told to clear the area. Brent Stafford, upon being directed by police to leave the area, instead went to the Ron Paul supporters outside and told them to stay and attempt to reconvene the caucus. He was subsequently arrested, along with one other, for trespassing.
Flash forward three weeks to last night’s caucus, and take an objective look at what happened:
A rules committee was convened last week to set temporary rules governing the start of the caucus. The fact that there were preset rules was one of the main points of contention at the last caucus, but since Stafford and some of the other Paul-backers made up the committee this time, they seemed to have fewer problems with the new preset rules.
The memory of the last chaotic caucus (which some attendees felt threatened their physical safety) combined with the loss of Rick Santorum as a candidate dropped attendance at St. Charles to less than half its original attendance. (just over 900)The question is how many of the 1200 or so who did not come back stayed home because their candidate was out and how may stayed home because they were afraid of another near riot?
Brent Stafford, according to this morning’s interview, was the indisputable choice for caucus chair, winning an easy victory after his nomination. Reality reminds us that the vote count was 480-402, with some abstentions, and his opponent was the default chairman appointed by the state GOP just to get things rolling. There was also a motion to recount the vote and count the abstentions, which was later defeated.
Jamie’s main comment on the whole thing was that through superior organization and a knowledge of how to work the system, the Ron Paul supporters were able to win the caucus. If you read between the lines, what he is actually saying is that Ron Paul’s people are so adept at manipulating the system that they are able to win caucuses even though they don’t have anything close to a majority.
The indisputable fact is that Ron Paul took all of the delegates from St Charles last night. But questions still remain:
Should Brent Stafford, after being arrested for basically inciting a riot at the last caucus, have been banned from attendance of this one? Was he allowed in simply to avoid a costly lawsuit? Was caucus attendance down in part because people knew Stafford was involved and were afraid of a repeat performance?
If Santorum had not dropped out of the race, would more people have come to the caucus, possibly allowing for the selection of a different chair?
Should Brent Stafford and the Ron Paul supporters be congratulated for a “win” that only came about due to their sabotage of the first caucus and the fact that delaying a few weeks was enough time for the only other legitimate candidate to drop out?
How can this caucus be counted as an accurate measure of the voting preferences of the county of St. Charles (which Santorum won handily in the primary – along with every other county in Missouri) when it is likely that the events at the prior caucus constituted voter intimidation, causing voters to stay home for fear of their own safety?
How can Missouri voters be expected to make informed decisions about events such as this when the people giving the radio interviews allow their own political preferences to color the way they present the available information?