Michael Schroeder is the former chair of the California GOP, and presided over the rewriting of the California GOP delegate selection rules. He joined me today to explain what the rules are governing the distribution of California’s 171 delegates:
HH: The dust has settled after Super Tuesday. Donald Trump appears to have about 678 delegates, Ted Cruz about 418, John Kasich about 125. Conservatives gathered, conservative activists, you wouldn’t recognize many of their names, gathered at the Army-Navy Club in Washington, D.C. today to plot an anti-Trump strategy. Meanwhile, the anti-Trump superPAC gathered in Florida. Meanwhile, most analysts have come to the conclusion no one’s going to get to 1,237 delegates by the opening of the convention, so we’re going to have an open convention, a contested convention, that may go many ballots. And it will depend on very greatly what happens in California on June the 7th, when California holds 54 different elections, one for every one of its Congressional districts, 53, and one for 10 statewide delegates, number 54, and then there are two national committee people, so 171 delegates. To explain those rules, I turn again to the man who oversaw their rewrite more than a decade ago, Michael Schroeder, highly successful practicing attorney, former chairman of the state Republican Party. He joins me now. Michael Schroeder, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MS: Hey, Hugh, it’s good to be back on with you.
HH: Thank you. I want to make sure everyone understands the rules. The Washington Post today admitted that it’s coming down to California, highly unlikely that Trump gets, even if he does very well in California, that he gets enough to get to 1,237, but let’s talk about the rules. First of all, when were they rewritten?
MS: They were rewritten when I was state party chairman in 1998, but I put an eight year fuse on them so that no one would think I was trying to get an advantage for any particular candidate. So they didn’t end up taking effect for eight years.
HH: And so they kicked in, in 2006, then.
HH: How do they work?
MS: It’s pretty straightforward. We will have 53 separate elections, one for every Congressional district. It’s winner-take-all by Congressional district. If you win Dana Rohrabacher’s district, you get three delegates. If you win Diane Watson’s up in Downtown L.A, which may only have three or four thousand people voting, you also get three delegates. And those will total up to 159. Then, there will be another three that are the committee man, committee woman and state party chairman. That takes you to 162. And then the only other thing is whoever wins the statewide vote gets 10 delegates. And that takes you to 172. And that is, in fact, the total number of delegates California will have this year.
HH: So we know for sure that Jim Brulte is going, since he is the party chairman.
HH: And the national party committee man, Shawn Steel, I don’t know who our other party committee man is.
MS: Linda Ackerman is the national committee woman, and she’d be the other person.
HH: Okay, so those three are definitely going. The other 169 are divided as you said. Now given all that, and you’re a Ted Cruz supporter, what’s your advice to candidates who want to campaign and win those 53 different elections? How would you do that, Mike Schroeder?
MS: Well, what you do is you treat them as a separate campaign, with your own separate volunteer structure, and appreciate the differences in the districts. And the reason I use the example of those two districts, Dana Rohrabacher’s district as 240,000 people. That’s likely to be something you’d try to approach maybe by TV or direct mail or that sort of thing. On the other hand, if you have a district, you know, in South Central L.A. that has 3,000 Republicans, many of which are African-American, why in the world would you buy TV and have 97% of the people you talk to be Democrats who can’t vote for your candidate under any set of facts. That’s probably run like a small mayor’s race, with, you know, door knocking, phone banking and that sort of thing.
HH: Now obviously, in this era of slate mailers and slate door knockers, slates will mean a lot on June 7th. They’re very particularly important in the California race. But I don’t know that anyone could have reserved a slate given the craziness of the election thus far.
MS: Well, no one except Trump would have the resources to reserve the slate. He hasn’t done it. I don’t think he’s focused on California, yet. And I’m not sure slates will be as important as they have been in the past for this reason. You know, most slates statewide mail less than to a million voters. It’s high propensity Republicans in high-density Republican areas. So they don’t mail into South Central L.A. They don’t mail into Diane, they don’t mail into Pelosi’s district up in the Bay Area. So you’re going to have to go with a much wider select, and I don’t know that the slates are set up, and they won’t be able to make money unless they can get other campaigns to buy onto them in those neighborhoods, and there probably aren’t any other Republican campaigns. So it’s going to be interesting.
HH: So Mike Schroeder, now tell me what the delegate, who gets to be running for delegates? So the ballot will appear. I haven’t got my ballot, yet. But it’ll appear, and there’ll be three slates of three delegates, right? There’ll be three Ted Cruz delegates, three John Kasich delegates, three Donald Trump delegates. Am I correct about that?
MS: That’s right, but you will not see that on your ballot. You’ll just see the names of the campaigns. Like you’ll see Ted Cruz. You’ll see, and you’ll see, actually, everybody who qualified. You’ll see Carly Fiorina, who’s a great lady, but she’s not running anymore. And so you’ll see all the names on there. Now if you vote, let’s say, for Ted Cruz and Ted Cruz wins your district, then the three delegates and three alternates that he filed with the Secretary of State and with the Republican National Committee, those delegates will be the ones that get sent to the Republican National Convention.
HH: Now what is the strength of the bond? Are they required by state law under any penalty to vote for the person to whom that district went?
MS: Well, there’s a bit of a conflict with that. The RNC rules require that everybody has to stay loyal to their candidates on the first ballot. So if we have what people are talking about, which is an open convention where nobody has the required 1,237, then what happens at that point is you probably would have a first ballot that would not pick a nominee for the first time in our political lifetime. And then on the second ballot, they would be allowed to start voting their preferences. There’s another thing to keep in mind, though, which is California state law, interestingly enough, has a whole elections code that purports to put all these restrictions on how, what state parties can do and what national parties can do. Many years ago, it was ruled that all of those laws were unconstitutional, but nobody took them off the books. And California actually has a state law that says that delegates are bound for the first two ballots. So someone could try to enforce that, and there could be court hearings or all kinds of things about the California delegation on that point.
HH: Now can John Kasich, let’s say he wins a couple of districts up near the Oregon coast, or way up north in the Lava Cave district, I love that place, Tulare, I think it’s called. Let’s say Kasich picks up three delegates there. Can he direct his three delegates, if he so desired, to vote for Ted Cruz on the first ballot without them violating state law?
MS: Yes, because what can happen is that if a candidate drops out, it’s not quite direct them, but he can, the RNC rules permit a candidate to drop out and release their delegates, and he can tell them who he wants them to vote for. But if they’re released, they can vote for anybody that they want.
HH: So that, then, goes to the nature of each of these individual delegates. They are free agents across the country, don’t you think, on the second ballot? They may be cajoled by the candidate they originally arrived supporting, but they aren’t controlled.
MS: That is absolutely correct, but here’s the explosive thing that I don’t think anyone has really focused on, which is Rule 40. Rule 40 says that you have to be nominated by more than 50% of the delegates from eight states. So all this talk about Romney, for example, he doesn’t have, I don’t think he has the ability to get his name into nomination, because…
HH: Well, I don’t think Romney wants to be, but I also think Rule 40’s going to be erased on the week before the convention. It was created in 2012, Mike, so it’s going to be erased in 2016, right?
MS: Well, yes and no, because first off, I wasn’t really thinking more of Romney. I was thinking of Kasich.
MS: Kasich has to have eight states, and I don’t think, he has no path to get there. But keep in mind Rule 40, if they want to change it, they can’t just do it by, at the Republican National Convention. The Republican National Committee can’t do it. They can pass something asking the convention to do it, but it still has two more hurdles. It has to go through the RNC Rules committee. Now if California, if Cruz control, for example, a majority of the delegates in California, it will pick the two Rules Committee people from California. If Trump does, Trump does. But then the Rules Committee would have to agree to abolish Rule 40. And on top of that, the convention would. And you start thinking about it. Okay, if Rule 40 basically says the only two people that can be considered to have their name put into nomination would be Trump and Cruz, and, by the way, they control, they’re going to control two-thirds to three-quarters of all the delegates between them, why in the world would they let their delegates vote to change Rule 40, because it would have to go to the convention floor.
HH: Only if John Kasich had a deal with Cruz, or with Trump, to allow his name to be put in so he could enjoy a home state welcome.
MS: That’s correct. But they’d have to agree to abolish Rule 40 to do it.
HH: Right. It’s going to be fascinating, Mike. Don’t you…
HH: Are you already talking with people about this?
MS: Oh, yeah. I mean, it is just, it is all, it is like a political science exam. I’ve gone my entire life, and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s just unbelievable.
HH: Have the networks found you, yet?
MS: Not yet.
HH: When they do, please continue to come back on the Hugh Hewitt Show once you’re a TV star.
MS: I’m looking forward to it.
HH: Thank you, Mike Schroeder, the man who oversaw the rewriting of the California state rules that make them both easy to understand and vitally important for every campaign.
End of interview.