Over the weekend, supporters of former Republican presidential candidate anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) successfully captured 23 of Iowa’s 28 seats for the Republican national convention. While Mitt Romney will ultimately be the Republican nominee, The Los Angeles Times noted that Paul’s supporters are more interested in shaping the Republican Party’s platform than derailing Romney. LAT reported:
Rick Santorum narrowly won January’s Iowa caucuses, and future Republican nominee Mitt Romney finished a close second. But when the state’s delegates head to the Republican National Convention in August, most of them will be loyal backers of third-place finisher Ron Paul.
His haul of delegates from a weekend Iowa convention is part of the Texas congressman’s quiet strategy to have a strong, vocal presence at the national gathering in Tampa, Fla….
By working arcane rules at district, county and state gatherings around the country, his supporters have amassed an army of delegates who will try to ensure that his libertarian message about the economy, states’ rights and a noninterventionist foreign policy is loudly proclaimed.
Paul’s backers will also try to shape the party platform as they dare Republicans to take them for granted - much as social conservatives did years ago before they ascended in importance.
‘We want to influence the direction of the party more than anything else,’ said Joel Kurtinitis, who was Paul’s state director in Iowa until the congressman effectively ended his presidential bid in May. He said efforts by followers of Paul, a 76-year-old who will retire when his current term ends, are about more than him or his son Rand, a senator from Kentucky.
‘We’re going to hold up our values and we’re going to bring conservatism back to the mainline of the Republican Party,’ Kurtinitis said.
‘We want to send Ron Paul-inspired folks to that convention to show we’re not going away,’ says Iowa Republican David Fischer, a top Paul backer in the state.
Supporters say they hope to promote Paul’s conservative principles, which have attracted a strong following of young voters and tea party activists, by flooding ballots for the convention and urging changes to the party platform.
Since Paul’s unsuccessful 2008 candidacy for the GOP nomination, his top organizers have set about working within the party’s structure to gain influence. The hope is to bend it toward principles he espouses, chiefly smaller government, sound monetary policy and a limited international military presence.
Paul stopped campaigning last month after netting only 137 of the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. His son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a national tea party figure, has endorsed Romney.
Paul’s impossible odds didn’t discourage activists from seizing 32 of the 40 national delegates last month at Minnesota’s GOP convention.
In Maine, 21-year-old Ron Paul supporter Ashley Ryan was elected the state’s new Republican national committeewoman, a testament to what supporters see as new blood the Paul campaign has attracted to the GOP.
That’s in addition to taking top roles in state party organizations, in states such as Iowa, and inspiring statehouse candidates around the country. For instance, A.J. Spiker, who ran Paul’s campaign for Iowa’s leadoff nominating caucuses, was elected state GOP chairman in February.
Louisiana GOP officials and Paul supporters tangled during a raucous June 2 convention that devolved into two separate conventions and separate delegate slates. Two Paul backers were arrested after they refused to leave.
Paul’s idled candidacy didn’t slow the hunt for delegate slots on the ballot at Saturday’s Iowa GOP convention in Des Moines. The majority of delegates to the national convention elected by Iowa Republicans will be Paul backers.
Paul’s following argues that the campaign has always been about more than electing a president.
** Update June 19, 2012 **
The Tampa Bay Times reported that Paul and his supporters are planning to hold a total of at least three rallies in Tampa on the same weekend as the Republican convention to help promote Paul’s brand:
Now there are three. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign said Monday that the libertarian candidate will not be attending Paul Festival 2012, a three-day event being organized in his honor by some of his supporters just before the Republican National Convention.
That’s because Paul plans to hold a rally of his own on Aug. 26, the day before the convention starts, said Paul campaign deputy national press secretary James Barcia….
If you’re keeping score, this makes three pre-convention events now said to be in the works by Paul or his supporters. There’s the candidate’s own event, plus Paul Festival 2012 and Freedom Festival 2012 at Fantasy of Flight’s property in Polk County.
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