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Zombie Delegates to Vote at Colorado Republican Conventions

02/13/2012 12:12 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2012

The Colorado Republican Party's selection of Rick Santorum as its choice to battle President Obama has given birth to a new element in Colorado politics: zombie delegates.

These are delegates born at the GOP caucuses last week when caucus goers voted for delegates to represent them at the GOP county and state conventions.

So Santorum supporters, for example, designated delegates to go forth and cast a vote for Santorum at the larger convention later.

But it turns out they're actually zombies, free and encouraged to roam from Santorum to Gingrich to whomever, just like the rest of the GOP voters of late.

You might think that delegates selected at the Colorado Republican caucus would be committed to voting for the candidate supported by the good folks who voted for that delegate.

And, in fact, that's what state Colorado GOP Chair Ryan Call was saying before the caucuses were held.

He told the Durango Herald last week that you should expect the results of the caucuses to be meaningful and lasting. That is, if you believe the GOP delegates are an honorable bunch.

Those delegates [chosen at the caucuses] are "bound by honor" to vote for the presidential candidates they supported at the precinct caucus, said state Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call. If a candidate drops out before the assembly, his delegates are released to vote for someone else.

But the morning after the caucuses, Call was downplaying the significance of the Stantorum victory, telling KNUS' Steve Kelley:

Call: Last night's preference poll is really just a straw poll. The delegates elected in each of these precinct caucus meetings are now going to go on to participate in county and district assemblies. And then at the state assembly in April is where we will actually be electing the slate of delegates that will be sent from Colorado to the national convention... This is still an open race, and it can be expected to play out over the next couple months.

Kelley asked the exact follow-up question that was on my mind:

Kelley: It begs the question then, Ryan, why do the caucuses if you're not going to secure the delegates for sure?

Call replied:

Call: The caucuses are the first step in a multi-step process. It's that sort of winnowing of the field as the process moves along. It's a very representative, grassroots-oriented process where the folks who took the time to show up are the ones whose votes matter and whose voices get heard.

An impartial observer, like a reporter, might want to know how all those grassroots folks "who took the time to show up" are feeling now, as their participation, not whom they voted for, seems to matter most to Call:

Call: I think the most exciting thing is the level of turnout, the level of participation, and then we move on to the next step.

You'd think delegates would, in fact, feel some commitment to support the candidate they were selected to vote for, as long as that candidate stayed in the race.

I'd feel betrayed, if I voted for, say, a winner like Newt Gingrich, and my trusty Gingrich delegate dumped his chains of honor and switched to Romney at the county or state conventions.

But Call apparently doesn't see it that way, and neither does former GOP Chair Dick Wadhams.

Neither does Ron Paul Campaign Manager John Tate, who thinks his boss has stealth delegates faking it for other candidates:

We are confident in gaining a much larger share of delegates than even our impressive showing yesterday indicates. As an example of our campaign's delegate strength, take a look at what has occurred in Colorado:

In one precinct in Larimer County, the straw poll vote was 23 for Santorum, 13 for Paul, 5 for Romney, 2 for Gingrich. There were 13 delegate slots, and Ron Paul got ALL 13.

In a precinct in Delta County the vote was 22 for Santorum, 12 for Romney, 8 for Paul, 7 for Gingrich. There were 5 delegate slots, and ALL 5 went to Ron Paul.

In a Pueblo County precinct, the vote was 16 for Santorum, 11 for Romney, 3 for Gingrich and 2 for Paul. There were 2 delegate slots filled, and both were filled by Ron Paul supporters.

Reporters should be wondering what the GOP caucus goers think of having zombie delegates.

How committed do they believe their delegates should be to the preferences of the hard-working caucus attendees who selected them?