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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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GOP’s Prez Primary

New York State’s registered Republicans will go to the polls on Tuesday, April 24, to choose who they’d like to see as the GOP’s presidential nominee, even though the outcome is no longer in doubt.

The news last week that former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was suspending his campaign gives former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney a clear path to the nomination, although Long Islanders who pick up a ballot at their regular polling place on April 24 will see four candidates’ names listed. Besides Santorum and Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas also filed delegate slates in each of the state’s 29 Congressional Districts (CDs).

Nassau is home to all, or parts of, four CDs, including Rep. Steven Israel’s 2nd CD, Rep. Peter King’s 3rd CD, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s 4th CD, and Rep. Gary Ackerman’s 5th CD, with each Republican presidential candidate backed by two delegates. The presidential candidate receiving the most votes in any given CD is awarded both of the CD’s delegates, according to the state board of elections’ website. This group of 58 delegates will be joined at the Republican National Convention in late August 2012 in Tampa, FL by the at-large delegates chosen under rules governed by the state Republican committee.

Having been elected a presidential delegate pledged to U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona in 2000’s New York Republican primary (from the 4th CD), I was pleased to see the state GOP return to the CD-oriented delegate selection process. This system allows presidential candidates who don’t win the statewide vote to secure delegates if they carry certain CDs in New York State. Senator McCain, for instance, lost the statewide race to then-Governor George W. Bush in New York in 2000 but McCain had widespread support among Republicans on Long Island and parts of upstate, too, thereby picking up 20-plus delegates. The state GOP wasn’t pleased 12 years ago with this outcome because they subsequently changed the delegate allocation rules, a decision that came back to haunt the party’s leadership.

New York State’s Republicans in 2008, for example, made the presidential primary a “winner- take-all” affair. In other words, whichever presidential candidate won the popular vote in New York’s GOP primary statewide would be awarded all of the state’s publicly elected delegates. Every establishment figure in New York who wanted to attend the 2008 Republican National Convention as a delegate eagerly lined up behind former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. In a scenario few could have imagined in late 2007, when most of the delegate slates were finalized, Senator McCain easily won the 2008 New York GOP presidential primary. As such, all of the McCain delegates, not just a few of them, became the publicly-elected members of the New York convention delegation four years ago.

I believe Governor Romney is a terrific candidate, by the way, and I’ll find ways in the months ahead to highlight, or counteract, some of the unrelentingly hostile coverage Romney has received in the media. One laughable example: The New York Times published one of its own editorials under this headline in February: “Romney Wins, the Middle Class Loses.”

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net