A rhetorical question, I know, but the Politico’s Ken Vogel explores it anyway:
The Republican National Committee was supposed to play the part of umpire in the GOP presidential primary, but some Republicans are grumbling that the committee wasn’t just calling balls and strikes.
Critics, including supporters of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich and even neutral Republicans, argue that the national party took steps that helped tilt the contest toward Mitt Romney — an allegation that the RNC rejects but is taking very seriously.
The list of specific grievances ranges from issues that even the party acknowledges are legitimate, to those that they dismiss as desperate fixations from Romney’s flailing rivals.
Critics of the RNC’s handling of the primary are so sensitive to signs that the committee may be pulling for Romney that they’ve even detected evidence of favoritism in the staff ties between his campaign and the RNC — though some concede such speculation veers more toward conspiracy theory than legitimate concern.
Still, taken together, the perception that the primary wasn’t a fair fight could damage the Party’s standing with the big donors and grassroots activists it needs to rally this fall to defeat President Barack Obama. And if Obama wins reelection, that angst could create problems for the RNC and particularly for its chairman, Reince Priebus.
“The chatter is that the fix is in, and that’s created a great deal of consternation,” said Michael Steele, Priebus’s predecessor as RNC chairman.
Steele said he’s been approached “very quietly” by about ten of the RNC’s elected members expressed misgivings “about the influence that the Romney campaign seems to have in dictating the terms of what the RNC is going to do and how it is going to follow the rules.”
A source with a rival GOP campaign said supportive RNC members have raised concerns about a pro-Romney bias within the committee’s full-time leadership, and suggested they were dissatisfied with Priebus’s stewardship.
That mistrust is justified, said supporters of Santorum and Gingrich. They complain that the RNC’s interpretation of rules padded Romney’s delegate lead and could stymie Gingrich’s attempt to compete in a brokered convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer – the increasingly far-fetched scenario that the former House Speaker contends is his route to the nomination.
“It’s probably not coincidence” that both interpretations favor Romney, asserted former Pennsylvania congressman Bob Walker, a top Gingrich campaign advisor. “But the fact is that we’ve known all the way along in our campaign that we are faced with an establishment that has made their decision.”
Tyler and other Gingrich and Santorum backers cited the staff ties between the RNC and Team Romney, such as RNC outside counsel Tom Josefiak, who serves as the top lawyer for a super PAC run by a pro-Romney operative, and Romney general counsel Ben Ginsberg, who worked for the RNC for years.
“Team Romney has an advantage with someone like Ginsberg, who has been around the RNC for a long time and understands the rules and can make them sound like anything they want,” said Tyler.
Then there’s Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director. He worked as the RNC political director and is a partner in a political data firm co-founded by RNC political director Jeff Larson.
An operative for one of Romney’s GOP rivals said “I know this sounds like Watergate conspiracy theory stuff, but it is all connected. It’s the same sort of establishment crowd who all have concluded that we need Mitt Romney to be the nominee to beat Barack Obama.”
The operative, who was not authorized to discuss the race, has worked at high levels of GOP politics, but said “It has been eye opening to see up close the degree to which the establishment does put its thumb on the scale.”
None of this comes as a surprise to those of us in the grass roots who’ve been politically active, of course. The Establishment, and that includes the RNC, has been doing everything possible to dissuade Governor Palin from running and clear the field for the Mittster since November 5, 2008. The most recent flagrant example is when the Michigan Party apparatus changed the rules and gave Mr. Etch-a-Sketch one of Santorum’s delegates after the Michigan Primary. There are many Palin supporters who attribute, at least in part, Governor Palin’s October decision to sit out 2012 to her realization that the fix has been in for Mandate Mitt all along.
To be sure, both the RNC and Team Mitt always have a ready explanation and vehemently deny that any favoritism has been shown their mutually preferred candidate. But then they would, wouldn’t they? Even while issuing these denials, the RNC concedes that virtually all decisions have benefitted Mitt at the expense of his challengers. Shocking that. In any event, all this does is confirm my decision to donate exclusively to SarahPac this election cycle. The Establishment appears to have their candidate. I’m sure they’ll be happy together, but they can finance Mitt’s political ambitions on their own dime.
Read Vogel’s entire piece here.