Over the weekend, anti-Israel Republican presidential candidate Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) scored two major victories by winning the majority of the delegates at stake during the Nevada and Maine state GOP conventions. While Paul’s delegate gains are not likely to hinder Mitt Romney’s frontrunner status, they do increase Paul’s relevance in the race—especially when it comes to uniting the party behind Romney. As press reports indicate, this could result in Paul receiving a prime platform during the GOP’s national convention from which to spread his radical views—especially on foreign policy. Some speculation has even focused on Paul paving the way for his son, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), to launch a future mainstream presidential bid of his own. However, one thing to note is that the national Republican Party does not appear to be offering much beyond lip service and empty threats to derail Paul’s momentum.
The Portland Press Herald reported:
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul commandeered the Maine Republican Party convention Saturday as part of a multi-state strategy designed to give him a voice at the national GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.
Despite pre-emptive efforts by state party Chairman Charlie Webster, Paul’s highly organized volunteers and supporters took over the proceedings at the Augusta Civic Center. Using preprinted ballots and floor generals who flashed large signs reminding backers which candidates to support, the Paul campaign bested supporters of Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee.
Paul’s backers took control of key parliamentary positions and the convention agenda. The effort was part of the Paul campaign’s national effort to overtake Republican state conventions and win enough state delegates to send Paul to the national convention.
National pundits believe Paul, a proselytizer of free-market economics and libertarianism who hasn’t won a single state primary, has a slim chance of forcing a brokered convention in Tampa to challenge Romney. However, Paul’s supporters in Maine said sending enough delegates to the event will force the Republican National Committee to give him a prominent speaking role to amplify his message.
Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul captured the majority of Nevada’s national delegates early Sunday, overwhelming likely nominee Mitt Romney with an organized contingent who easily took control of the state convention.
Paul’s supporters won 22 of the 25 national delegate slots up for election at the state convention in Sparks on Saturday. Romney won three….
Paul’s campaign has been determined to use the party’s own rules to keep his long-shot candidacy alive. His backers have spent the last four years immersing themselves in the arcane procedures governing the presidential nominating contest.
They’re embarked on a state-by-state strategy to capture enough national delegates to influence the convention in Tampa and to be well positioned should an opportunity for a brokered convention arise….
National Republican officials characterized the Nevada convention as a ‘Ron Paul super bowl,’ noting that his supporters spent the last four years working to take over the state party structure. They’ve captured seats on state and county central committees, elected a state chairman and elected their own to represent Nevada at the Republican National Committee.
A RNC source said the party won’t challenge the results of the delegate election as long as they honor the binding rule.
The Sun’s Jon Ralston wrote about Paul’s victory in Nevada:
How fitting that at a place called the Nugget, supporters of the man who loves the gold standard made their voices heard as the state Republican Party put on a show that was entertaining, empty and ephemeral.
If the Ron Paul delegates were panning for credibility, they had a jackpot’s worth this weekend, imposing their will on the election of two seats on the national committee and on the delegation entrusted with wearing funny hats and waving colorful signs in Tampa, Fla. By erasing the two Establishment members of the Romney National Committee and having the discipline and numbers to get 22 of 25 eligible national delegates, the Paul forces showed they knew how to exploit the rules and subvert Romney’s overwhelming win at the February caucuses.
Even if they are destined to strike political pyrite in August, the Paul folks exposed here what is happening everywhere within the GOP - a RNC trying desperately to excite a base for an unexciting presumptive nominee while not alienating the hordes of Paulites who want ... something….
Team Romney wants to swat away the Paul revolution, But in so doing, the presumptive nominee doesn’t want the Texas congressman’s dedicated followers to sit on their hands or even work against the GOP nominee in the fall (where’s Gary Johnson?)....
Considering how close the election is foretold to be here and in the country, though, what the Paul folks do come November is critical to Romney’s fortunes. And that is the delicate waltz the Romney National Committee is confronted with, one that it executed with two left feet with two letters threatening not to seat the entire Nevada delegation if the Paul folks didn’t play ball.
The Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner noted:
Nevada delegates are bound by the state’s results on the first convention ballot, so Romney will still get their support. Paul’s Nevada supporters are not challenging that rule, for fear of losing their convention seats altogether. Delegates who abstain will be replaced with alternates.
But some Paul supporters are hoping for a brokered convention, at which they could back Paul on subsequent ballots. Given Romney’s massive delegate lead, that’s highly unlikely. At the very least, they can vocally cheer for their preferred nominee and pressure the party to give Paul a bigger voice….
Paul supporters took over the state convention in 2008 and have spent the last four years carefully planning for this moment. In that cycle, Republicans shut down the convention after Paul supporters tried to elect more of their own as delegates. The Paul contingent this year was able to block a similar attempt from Romney supporters.
The Christian Science Monitor’s (CSM) Peter Grier explained some of the leverage that Paul gained through his delegate victories:
Mr. Romney is still the presumptive nominee. It’s highly unlikely Paul will be able to deny the former Massachusetts governor the prize he’s sought for so long. But Paul’s forces aren’t lining up and saluting a Romney victory. When they show up in Tampa in August they may be strong enough, and prepared enough, to throw the convention floor into embarrassing disarray….
But that may not be the full story. Paul’s forces are not bound to make it easy for Romney to coast to victory, as delegate selection expert Josh Putnam, a Davidson College political scientist, writes on his Frontloading HQ blog.
Paul’s highly organized campaign continues to amass what Mr. Putnam labels ‘stealth delegates’ - delegates pledged to Romney, or one of the withdrawn GOP candidates - who are personally in favor of the libertarian congressman from Texas. It’s hard to determine how many such folks Paul has, or what they’ll do in Tampa.
For instance, what if Paul supporters who are bound to vote for Romney in the first round by state rules simply abstain from casting their ballots? That might keep Romney under the 1,144 votes he needs to win the nomination - even if he actually (sort of) has those votes in hand!
‘This is a tricky maneuver, but not one that is prohibited by the Republican Party delegate selection rules,’ writes Putnam in a lengthy post devoted to the ways Paul could make trouble for Romney.
Again, this would be unlikely to prevent Romney from actually winning the nomination eventually. But it would prompt an embarrassing floor fight and expose rifts in the party at the very moment the Romney forces would most want to show a united front to the world.
Another unknown here is whether Paul wants to push things this far. Does he just want a good convention speaking slot, or influence on the party platform? Or does he want to win?
‘Is Paul after the nomination? I don’t know. But his supporters sure are,’ writes Putnam.
Brad Knickerbocker also reported for CSM:
As he’s said many times, Paul is promoting a movement as much as a candidacy. In a nutshell, that means anti-big government and anti-war, eliminating five federal departments (Commerce, Education, Energy, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development), refusing to engage in foreign wars, cutting way back on foreign aid to Israel and other countries.
To keep his message out there he needs to stay a player, and 2012 probably is Paul’s last chance to do that on a national scale.
His chosen venue? Holding the Republican Party to its often-arcane delegate selection rules, especially in state party conventions.
In Maine and Nevada this weekend, Paul’s strategy gets another test. There, state conventions are scheduled to affirm the naming of delegates. In both states, GOP party officials clearly are worried that Paul supporters - always an energetic force to be reckoned with - could use state rules to gain delegates in a way that’s sure to rankle the Republican National Committee (RNC).
‘The national Republican organization is increasingly anxious over the ability of the Paul campaign to take over state-level organizations, especially in states like Iowa and Nevada that have outsized importance on the nominating process,’ the Hill newspaper reports. ‘National Republicans worry that if grassroots party loyalists aren’t supporting the presumptive nominee, the party could struggle against President Obama’s fundraising and organizational efforts.’...
Elsewhere around the country, Paul has successfully asserted himself.
Although they’re pledged to back Romney (who won the state’s primary), 17 of 27 delegates selected at the Massachusetts caucuses last weekend support Paul.
Paul won 20 of 24 delegates allocated at congressional district conventions in Minnesota, and they did very well in Louisiana last weekend - winning four and a half of six congressional district caucuses, which gives them 74 percent of the delegates to the state convention next month.
Paul supporters now co-chair the party in Alaska, and they include a majority in the Iowa Republican State Central Committee.
‘Taken together, these victories and those yet to happen forecast a prominent role for Ron Paul at the RNC,’ Paul campaign manager John Tate told the Washington Post. ‘They also signal that the convention will feature a spirited discussion over whether conservatism will triumph over the status quo.’
If Paul were to end up with a plurality of delegates from five states, he could be nominated from the convention floor.
This is unlikely to happen, but his effort could win him a prime-time speaking slot and major input to the party’s platform.
The New Republic’s Ed Kilgore speculated that Paul could use his leverage to legitimize his radical and anti-Israel foreign policy views within the GOP—which could pave the way for a Rand Paul presidential candidacy:
It is increasingly clear, then, that the Paul campaign will achieve its goal of being visibly represented at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. While a full-on platform fight is unlikely (and anachronistic), Paul’s supporters have the potential to cause quite a commotion. The Romney campaign and the RNC, of course, would prefer to ensure that things stay quiet. And since Paul’s supporters are intensely loyal to their hero, he’s in a position to bargain for their good behavior in Tampa. Which brings us back to the original question: What does he want?
The underlying reality is that Dr. Paul and his fanbase have already won what they most craved from Republicans: respect. I don’t just mean his hard-earned inclusion in candidate debates, or the civil treatment he’s received from his rivals. In a very real sense, on domestic issues at least, the GOP has moved dramatically in Paul’s direction since 2008. That’s most apparent in discussions of monetary policy….
But as [Ramesh] Ponnuru indicated, there is one policy area where Paul’s views are still well outside his party’s mainstream: his staunch anti-interventionist philosophy and hardcore positions on civil liberties. It is probably fortunate for Paul that foreign policy was a relatively minor issue in the 2012 GOP nominating contest. But when it did come up, Paul sounded notes that would have been viewed as far-left had they been articulated in a Democratic candidate debate. In a party where “American exceptionalism” is a constant theme, the “threat” of Islamism abroad and at home is considered urgent, and unconditional support for Israel is axiomatic, Paul expressed empathy for the Iranian regime and apologetic regret for past meddling in Iranian domestic politics.
Attitudes like that are rarely expressed by GOP politicians-except by Paul’s son, Rand, the junior senator from Kentucky. In a move that would make his father proud, Rand Paul recently blocked a unanimous consent agreement on a resolution to ratchet up economic sanctions on Iran and Syria, demanding explicit assurances that it would not be used to justify a military intervention. But Rand Paul bears few of the scars of decades of ideological battle earned by his father. He enjoys a closer relationship with the GOP establishment in the Senate and elsewhere; according to some reports, he is already plotting a presidential candidacy of his own, if not in 2016 then in 2020. If anyone could bring anti-interventionist foreign policy into the mainstream of the GOP, it’s Rand.
This suggests a simple answer to what Ron Paul wants: He is ready, like Moses, to withdraw from the battleground having never entered the Promised Land, entrusting that task to his Joshua, his son. And whatever the doctor can do to make his son an accepted voice for a respected point of view on foreign policy-whether it’s securing a convention speech, a platform concession, or just a place at the table in hypothetical Romney administration deliberations-he will cash his last gold coins to make it happen.