The Virginia primary is a mess. The state has 49 delegates to hand out on Super Tuesday, but only one candidate has traveled there recently to try and win them. That candidate was Ron Paul. His opponent is Mitt Romney. No one else is on the ballot.
In theory, Paul has a chance to take Romney on and humiliate him. It'll be tough, because the rules give all the delegates in a district or statewide to a candidate who wins more than 50 percent of the vote. This is a two-man race. Every poll shows Romney winning with more than 50 percent of the vote. Is there any particular part of the state where Paul could overperform? Perhaps. But when he won 4.5 percent statewide in 2008, he did about that well in every district.
But the Paul campaign is the only thing that can stop Mitt Romney from netting as many delegates from one state as, say, Rick Santorum could net from Tennessee, Ohio, and Georgia combined. The Paul campaign is getting late, opportunistic support from groups like Citizens for the Republic, chaired by Gingrich biographer Craig Shirley, employing Santorum counsel Cleta Mitchell. What is it actually doing in Virginia, besides putting out statements of support for Paul? Executive director Bill Pascoe stayed vague.
"Calls are being made, emails are being circulated," he said. "Particularly in Northern Virginia, there might be an awful lot of people who support Ron Paul on a series of issues but don't usually vote in this primary." He was referring to Democrats and independents; there is no party registration in Virginia. But conservative, hey, you guys should vote for Paul, too! "If the choice is between Romney and Ron Paul, Ron Paul is the more conservative candidate."
But was this a "dirty trick?" That's what Romney's campaign said about Rick Santorum's effort to pull in non-Republicans to vote against Romney in Michigan. The Romney campaign called it illegitimate.
"The illegitimacy is the ballot situation," he said. "The illegitimacy was denying ballot slots to other candidates. Under the clean hands doctrine, Romney doesn't have clean hands to make any argument here. Also, look: Romney's whole argument is electability. If you want to show you're electable, why be unhappy about Democrats coming in to vote for a Republican?"