lunes, 26 de marzo de 2012

La batalla por los superdelegados

The Wall Street Journal:

In a competition largely hidden from view, the Republican presidential candidates are intensifying efforts to win over a small but potentially powerful band of unbound delegates, who collectively hold more sway than most individual states.

The 117 delegates, who will go to the party's convention in August in Tampa, Fla., due to their position as state party chairmen or members of the Republican National Committee, are free to support whomever they choose. Many said they have been getting more calls in recent weeks from campaigns eager to win their backing.

(...) Bill Armistead, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said he had been contacted many times by three of the presidential candidates and their representatives. He has chatted with Mr. Romney, Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker.

"It matters that they expend this effort. Certainly, if someone asks you and is sincere about it, you respect that," Mr. Armistead said. He has not publicly endorsed a candidate.

Shawn Steel, a RNC member from California, said he has had several lunches with a representative of the Romney campaign. Mr. Steel said he has focused his questions on Mr. Romney as a person.

"I want to know about his soul. I want to know the nitty-gritty of his character,'' Mr. Steel said. He said he is now leaning "strongly'' toward Mr. Romney and hasn't yet heard from the Santorum campaign.

While each state and some other entities, such as U.S. territories, send a party chairman and two committee members as delegates, only some states direct those delegates to support the winner of their contests.

That leaves the 117 delegates—from 39 states—free to follow their own course.

There's no formal tracking of the 117 free agents' preferences, and some won't state their views publicly. But it appears most remain uncommitted.

Katie Biber, the Romney campaign's general counsel, said Mr. Romney so far has won endorsements from 34 RNC delegates. The Santorum camp declined to specify how many commitments it has won, saying only that "several" of these delegates had pledged support.

Many delegates say they are hearing far more from the Romney campaign than the other Republican hopefuls.

"We approach everything with a plan," said Rich Beeson, Mr. Romney's political director. "We have a plan in place, and we're implementing it."

Matt Pinnell, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, said he got a call from Mr. Beeson last week. The pitch wasn't a "hard sell,'' he said, more an invitation to open a dialogue. Mr. Pinnell hasn't yet pledged his support to any candidate.

The Santorum campaign said it is also doing all it can to woo the unbound delegates. Mike Biundo, Mr. Santorum's campaign manager, said every delegate matters. "They become spokesmen for us, and they help bring along other delegates for us," he said.

Most days, Mr. Biundo spends time working the phones, placing calls to RNC delegates. Pitching in are other delegates who are supporting Mr. Santorum.

The candidates and their surrogates tend to target people they know. Borah Van Dormolen, a national committeewoman from Texas, said she got a call last week from Saul Anuzis, a Romney supporter from Michigan who is also a delegate. She said that she had supported Mr. Anuzis in a previous bid to become chairman of the RNC.

"He gave his sales pitch,'' she said. "It's harder to say no to someone you know.''

Damond Watkins, a national committeeman from Idaho, is also courting unbound delegates on behalf of Mr. Romney. He said the campaign keeps a tally of people on the fence, and Mr. Watkins is focusing on undecided delegates in the West. "I try to give a personal side of Romney," he said.

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