MINNEAPOLIS | In an unprecedented move, a Republican state party chairman has publicly threatened retaliation against the party's certain nominee and the chairman of the national party.
"If they don't think there will be retaliation, they're crazy," Ohio GOP Chairman Robert T. Bennett told fellow Republican National Committee members during a general session Thursday of the RNC annual summer meeting here.
The dispute grew out of a plan to reform the primary calendar for 2012 to prevent the trend of more states moving their primaries earlier every cycle, pushing the country toward a de facto national primary. The plan, pushed by Mr. Bennett and others, was torpedoed this week after some tough lobbying by the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain.
Many of those Republicans were shaking their heads over why the McCain campaign seemed to go out of its way to alienate Mr. Bennett, who leads the party in Ohio, the state that gave President Bush his re-election margin in 2004 and is crucial to Mr. McCain's chances against Sen. Barack Obama on Nov. 4.
About a dozen or more McCain staff members and McCain loyalists on the RNC circulated on the floor of a rules committee meeting on Tuesday, urging members to vote against a plan authored by Mr. Bennett and supported by former RNC general counsel David A. Norcross and former Reagan White House official Morton Blackwell to reform the presidential primary system.
Mr. Bennett said he had been told that same morning by McCain campaign senior staff member Rick Davis that he would call off his "whips" and tell them to stop persuading rules committee members to oppose the Bennett reform plan.
During a general session of the RNC on Thursday morning, an angry Mr. Bennett used language not normally heard from him in public.
Mr. Bennett demonstrated the extent of his anger by also issuing a formal statement in which he said he "blamed the presidential campaign of John McCain and the RNC Chair Robert M. 'Mike' Duncan for the defeat."
Mr. Bennett later told The Washington Times he was not threatening retaliation against Mr. McCain's election efforts in Ohio.