Did Ron Paul get robbed of Virgin Island victory?

Ron Paul received the most votes in the US Virgin Islands caucuses over the weekend, but Mitt Romney got more pledged delegates.

By , Staff writer

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    Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas talks to supporters during a rally on Saturday, in Springfield, Mo.
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Did you know that Ron Paul sort of won the US Virgin Islands caucus last weekend? You might have missed it – that’s one vote The New York Times didn’t consider important enough to live-blog. We say “sort of won” because there’s some controversy over exactly what happened. Representative Paul got the most votes, which in many circles is considered an indication of victory. Mitt Romney got more pledged delegates, however, so his camp says he’s the true winner of the Smackdown in Paradise.

Yes, we know what you’re saying – the Virgin Islands has a caucus? What’s next, the Antarctic primary? Hold on and we’ll explain about politics in the US Insular Areas. First we’d like to focus on Paul.

According to the Virgin Islands Republican Party, Paul won a plurality of 29 percent of its nonbinding presidential preference poll. Mr. Romney got 26 percent. However, a separate tally chose delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. After the smoke from that vote settled, Romney had four delegates, Paul had one, and one remained uncommitted.

Recommended: Are you a true Ron Paul supporter? Take our quiz!

Initial mainstream media reports – yes, there were a few – reported this as another Romney triumph. This incensed Paul campaign official blogger Jack Hunter, so he produced a video to explain to doubters how 29 is a bigger number than 26.

“The mainstream media is trying to have it both ways,” said Mr. Hunter. “Once again, when Ron Paul does win, they find all sorts of ways to ignore it.”

OK, we’ll take the point. We declare that henceforward we will no longer say that Ron Paul has to prove his staying power by winning somewhere.

However, can we also point out the fact that the Paul campaign has been trying to do to Romney what Romney did to him? In Maine and other caucus states the Paulites have been organizing to win more delegate slots than their vote would indicate they’re entitled to. Have they been successful? We won’t really know until the convention roll call.

Now, as to how the US Virgin Islands got involved in this, the answer is that it’s been involved in US presidential politics for decades, as have Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas.

These are the US Insular Areas, which are unincorporated US territories. Officially they’re overseen by the US Department of the Interior, though all are self-governing in regards to their own affairs.

Their inhabitants are US citizens, as are the inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. (There’s one exception – residents of American Samoa are “US nationals,” not US citizens.) The Democratic and Republican parties, which in essence are private clubs, have decided that these citizens should get to help pick their presidential nominees. The Virgin Islands GOP, for instance, was formed in 1948.

The Insular Islanders, however, do not enjoy all the rights of US citizens who reside in the states, points out a comprehensive General Accounting Office study of their relationship to the American Constitution. They cannot vote for president in the general election. Nor are they represented by legislators who can vote in the final approval of legislation by the full Congress.

They can make a difference in the nomination races, though. On Tuesday, Romney won nine delegates from the caucus in American Samoa. In essence, that erases his loss in the Alabama primary, where Rick Santorum won 19 delegates to Romney’s 12.

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