In principle, the best case for Kentucky Republicans to replace their May 17 presidential primary with a March 5 caucus is that it would give them more of a say in choosing the nominee and make Kentucky relevant to the process.
In reality, the only reason state Republicans are considering a caucus is to support the presidential aspirations of Sen. Rand Paul, who is precluded by state law from seeking two offices on the same ballot.
Paul could seek Kentucky’s presidential delegates at the caucus while also seeking his second Senate term in the primary. The 350-member Republican central committee will meet this weekend to consider plans for a caucus.
On Monday, Paul sought to calm fears about the cost to the party by saying he was depositing $250,000 in the Republican Party of Kentucky’s account.
Political parties pick up the tab for caucuses, which generally attract a smaller, but more motivated group of voters. Taxpayers foot the bill for primary elections.
Paul has promised to pay for the caucus — estimated at $500,000.
Paul also said Monday that he would raise or transfer an additional $200,000, that he is recruiting unpaid volunteers to staff the caucus to reduce expenses and that the presidential campaigns would help defray costs through $15,000 filing fees that they also pay in other caucus states.
But how eager will other campaigns be to compete in a caucus paid for by Paul and staffed by Paul’s volunteers?
Paul is the obvious favorite. Knowing Kentucky is likely to give him most or all of its delegates, the likelihood of other candidates campaigning here is small. The real politic undermines the principled arguments favoring a caucus.
And the RPK would be throwing an all-about-Rand caucus at a time when it will need resources and energy for this year’s statewide races and next year’s legislative and local races, when Republicans will renew their quest for control of the House.
Traditionally, presidential nominees already are decided by the time Kentucky’s primary rolls around, although with so many Republicans scrapping for the nomination, it might be up for grabs later than usual.
In any case, Paul, whose campaign has been flagging, is asking a lot from his state party.