Here's How The Virgin Islands' GOP Caucus Might've Just Upended The Republican Race
All eyes are on the imminent presidential primaries in Ohio and Florida. But a thousand miles away from Miami, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, something very interesting just happened which could conceivably determine the Republican nominee for president. Like other U.S. territories, the Virgin Islands has a vote in both parties’ nominating contests. The story of the Virgin Islands’ GOP caucus, which was held Thursday, is completely bizarre, and has huge implications for the party's national convention in July.
About three months ago, a Republican operative from Michigan named John Yob, who’s worked for Rand Paul and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, moved to the Virgin Islands with his wife and two associates. They all registered to be delegates in the territory’s Republican caucus. Specifically, they registered to be delegates for “uncommitted,” because in the Virgin Islands caucus, you can vote to be “uncommitted” instead of for a specific candidate.
However, the Virgin Islands Board of Elections deemed Yob and his buddies ineligible to be delegates because they hadn’t lived in the Virgin Islands for the requisite 90 days before registering. But days later, the Virgin Islands Supreme Court reversed that ruling — at least, for now. What the court specifically did was issue a temporary restraining order against the Board of Elections which allowed Yob and friends to stay on the ballot.
On Thursday, the territory voted, and “uncommitted” won in a landslide. Yup, Virgin Islands voters simply didn’t prefer any one Republican candidate over the others. What this means is that the state’s nine delegates will head to the national convention in July unbound to any candidate at all. They will become, to borrow a phrase from the Democratic Party, de facto “superdelegates” at the convention.
This matters because this year, there’s a nontrivial chance that the Republican convention will be contested. If this is the case, then every single delegate will count, and that includes the nine delegates from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Yob, his wife, and a third associate, Lindsey Eilon, will be amongst these delegates. Keep in mind that none of them lived in the Virgin Islands until a few months ago; Yob is a political strategist from Michigan. Furthering the intrigue is the fact that about a month ago, Yob wrote and published a book about contested conventions — specifically, a book about what a contested Republican convention in 2016 would look like. Calling this a “coup” wouldn’t be accurate, but it certainly seems as if Yob and his associates have a plan.
The Virgin Islands Supreme Court is expected to issue a final ruling on Monday on whether Yob and his friends are eligible to be delegates, as Virgin Islands GOP chair John Canegata tells Bustle. If the court rules against Yob — which Canegata pegs as a 50-50 chance — then he and his two associates will be stripped of their delegate status, and the next three highest vote-getters will be made delegates instead.
For now, though, a political operative from Michigan and two of his associates have maneuvered their way into becoming superdelegates at the Republican National Convention in July. In any normal primary, this wouldn’t be a big deal, because three delegates probably wouldn’t make the difference between one candidate winning the nomination and another. But alas, this is not a normal primary.