Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia’s Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli,  has decided to get involved in the matter of ballot access for the primary elections in his state.  It’s something of an oddity to see this happen because while one could certainly make the case that the late rule changes in the way petition signatures are validated, it’s likewise true that “rules are rules.”  The funny thing about this is that when it was revealed that only Ron Paul and Mitt Romney would be on the ballot, many in the GOP establishment figured they had it all sewn up.  This way, they’d be able to exclude Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann and Perry, and thereby have a virtual walkover.  Not so fast, as I pointed out:  This opened up the possibility that Ron Paul could win that state’s primary, either purely on the basis of Virgina Republican voters in disgust at the party, or because with nobody opposing Obama in the Democrat race, they’d be free to cross over and vote for Ron Paul just to muck things up a bit for Romney.

That realization finally settled in, and then we saw the preposterous “loyalty oath” business, whereby voters in the GOP primary were to sign an oath promising to vote for the GOP candidate in the general election.  That clearly turned into an embarrassment for the Virginia GOP, and rightfully so, but thereafter they were left with no way to stave off the Ron Paul disaster they now feared they would face.  Now enters the Attorney General, who will propose to the assembly that they enact a change to ballot access, that will effectively allow all of these candidates in.  It would require only that the candidate had met the criteria and was in fact receiving federal campaign matching funds, and that would enable them to be on the ballot.

This hasn’t yet been accomplished, of course, but this is the general direction in which it’s now being steered.  The intent in this case seems to be the attempt to deny Ron Paul a shot at outright victory, and to keep the conservative side of the field otherwise diluted, in order to permit Romney to walk with the lion’s share of delegates.  Some is better than none, which would be the result if Paul won in a two-candidate race. (The primary is “winner take all” unless none obtain a majority, in which case there’s some sort of apportionment.)

This entire spectacle is a stunning revelation about the electoral process in Virginia, but it also demonstrates how disconnected the GOP is from its base in Virginia. “Loyalty oaths?” That absurd work-around should never have seen the light of day, but in the reflexive attempt to retain control of the results, they tipped their hand and showed the people of Virginia how thoroughly dominated by the party establishment the Virginia Republican Party really is.  This story really does deal a serious black eye to the Virginia GOP, and Cuccinelli’s attempt to salvage it is really too little, too late.  Besides, these are “rule of law” proponents, aren’t they?  Who changes rules in the middle of a contest?  Imagine playing blackjack with these people.  Imagine trying to carry out anything under the rules, knowing they could change at any moment.  This is as much a problem of credibility for the national party as it is for their Virginia operation, and they’ve tried to settle this quickly with minimal bad press.

Too late.

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