Winner-take-all primary for Texas unlikely

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(CBS News) A group of Texas Republicans looking to assert the power of their state through a winner-take-all delegate allocation in their May 29 primary will likely face a major disappointment at the hands of the Republican National Committee.

Weston Martinez of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee is leading a movement to award all of the state's 152 delegates to the primary winner - a change from the proportional allocation the state adopted earlier this year when they tried to move their primary to Super Tuesday in early March (three super delegates from the state will remain unbound).

The Republican National Committee granted the state party a waiver to keep proportional allocation after the Justice Department forced Texas to push its primary back amid a fight over the redistricting map. But Sean Spicer, communications director for the RNC, said there's no reason to grant the state another waiver to change their delegate allocation system.

"They can't just meet all the time and change rules within their own party," Spicer told CBS News/National Journal. Later, he asked, "What's the compelling reason now?"

Martinez, the state executive committee member from the San Antonio area leading the effort, supports Rick Santorum's campaign. But he said the move is about increasing Texas' power in the nominating process.

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"The support has just gone zero to 60 in two seconds for doing this," Martinez said. He contended he has the support of 15 members of the SREC (out of a total of 62) needed to call an emergency meeting, and also seemed certain that two-thirds of the body would approve the change, as required by the state's rules.

Martinez said that aside from a few members who support Texas Rep. Ron Paul - members of the committee are allowed to endorse candidates -- he hasn't sensed anyone leading an effort to stop him from calling the meeting.

"This is NOT about Santorum, but about Texans having a voice in the nomination process," he wrote in an email. But Martinez also sees an opportunity for his state to help end the drawn-out nominating process.

"It allows Texas to be in the driver's seat and not on the sidelines," he said. "I think that there's a secondary positive outcome because not only can we determine the nominee, but we can also stop the bleeding and we can unite the party."

But there's no guaranteeing awarding Texas' delegates as a bloc would effectively end the primary. If Santorum wins the state - and a poll last month show him leading Mitt Romney - it would likely only fuel Santorum's fire to continue his campaign until the party's convention in Tampa this August. Romney would have to emerge the victor to really put an end to the contest.

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"The state of Texas is in the process of announcing that they are going to go Winner Take All rather than proportional," said a document being circulated by the Santorum campaign on Thursday after the candidate met with several conservative leaders to discuss a path forward in the race. Santorum himself, campaigning earlier this week, said if that occurs and he wins the Lone Star State, "This race becomes a very different race."

However, a meeting has not yet been called to even discuss changing the rules.

And any changes requested by the SREC would have to be submitted to the RNC and the Justice Department for approval, said Chris Elam, the spokesman for the state GOP. And that is the hurdle in Martinez's plan. Given Spicer's insistence that there is no reason to grant Texas an additional waiver to change their rules again, it seems unlikely the body would allow the change.

Another potential foe could be Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who endorsed Newt Gingrich after he dropped out of the race before the South Carolina primary. Martinez predicted Perry would go along with the plan to revert back to a winner-take-all system, which he says fits in with Perry's desire to do what is best for his state. But Gingrich would only have a prayer of securing some of Texas' delegates if they are allocated proportionally.

Many members of the SREC initially backed Perry during his presidential bid, said Elam, the state party spokesman. Perry's staff could not be reached for comment on Friday.

  • Rebecca Kaplan On Twitter»

    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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