Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) in his run for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination was famously following a “delegate strategy” aimed at caucus states, rather than striving for mass popular votes in primary states. The advantage of this strategy is that its results were more malleable and less cut and dried than “you earn delegates based on the popular vote.”
Now the disadvantages of that delegate strategy are becoming clear: The results are more malleable and less cut and dried than “you get delegates based on the popular vote.”
In four states, the question of how many delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa in late August will end up dedicated to Paul is embroiled in challenges and appeals to the national party.
Last week, the Paul campaign challenged all 46 delegates sent to the RNC by the state party in Louisiana. The party honored the delegation of a small, rump anti-Paul faction that broke from the Paul majority during the state party’s June convention. As CNN reported:
"We believe that they grossly and blatantly and repeatedly violated their party rules and elected a delegation that was improper," said Paul's campaign chairman Jesse Benton. "We believe that our rump convention is the legitimate delegation and they have a right to be seated at the Republican National Convention."
Even some Romney partisans from the state are telling the RNC that the delegation the Louisiana state party is trying to send to Tampa is illegitimate.
Earlier in July, the Paul campaign challenged the Oregon Republican Party’s attempts to unseat—illegitimately, the campaign insists—some Paul alternate delegates.
Sixteen duly elected Paul delegates from Massachusetts who had their status stripped from them for refusing to sign affidavits (or in some cases supposedly filing them too late or with insufficiently specific language) swearing to vote for Romney even though they prefer Paul are challenging that action by the state party with the RNC. An affidavit from a stripped delegate, Brad Wyatt, explains that he was told by the state GOP chairman that he just didn’t trust Wyatt and that the Romney campaign had “just cause to refuse to certify you.”
From the other direction, in a state whose delegation Paul firmly controlled, Maine, a prominent Republican, Peter E. Cianchette, last week filed a challenge with the RNC to de-Paulify the delegation. He claimed, as the Associated Press reported, that “there were illegal votes at May's state Republican Convention, that a quorum wasn't present when votes for delegates were cast, and that convention officials violated party and parliamentary rules.”
These various challenges go before the national party’s contest committee in the next couple of weeks, and can be then considered by the credentials committee. What does all this state delegation tumult say about relations between the Paul campaign and the rest of the GOP? Clearly, on the state level, existing party apparati are not afraid of fighting Paulians outright. Paul fans are collecting grievances about sketchy party actions that worked to Romney’s favor across the nation.
USA Today a couple of weeks back ran a story—whose theme was supported by on-the-record comments from Paul’s political director Jesse Benton—spinning without much substance the idea that “the national party is welcoming Paul and his supporters to the event with open arms.”
The story didn’t have many concrete facts to support the thesis. It spun as a big favor to Paul that the party didn’t use its control over most of the available gathering spaces in Tampa to prevent Paul from holding a rally but in fact helped him find a venue. As Paul activist (he was the mastermind behind the famous Ron Paul Blimp in 2008) Trevor Lyman wrote in reaction to the USA Today story:
The RNC is offering Ron Paul a location for his own rally one day before the actual convention. This is NOT a speaking role, nor any kind of role, at the convention itself. This is NOT an offer to influence the party platform, nor an opportunity to influence the debate. Rather, this is an offer to put Ron Paul and his supporters into a ‘Freedom of speech zone‘, a place where you’re allowed to protest and speak out, and that also happens to be at a location where no one can hear you.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, head of the platform committee at the RNC, told the Washington Times that he expects to see great influence from both Paul and his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in terms of ideas in the platform. Yet McDonnell also says there’s “about 80 percent overlap of ideas between traditional conservatives within the party and the libertarian wing,” which elides both foreign policy and strong and immediate cuts in spending, areas where Paul’s people believe in a far smaller and less activist government than Romney does.
Investor and Paul fan Mark Spitznagel wrote at Forbes this week about the ancient Chinese pedigree of Paul’s strategy, which Spitznagel identifies as “shi”—“cultivating the influence of the present on the future” like the slow flow of water rather than a full frontal assault. Spitznagel says that strategy manifests in Paul’s slow accretion of support among the young and on local and state Republican parties without forcing the sort of big all-or-nothing fight that many Paul fans dreamed of seeing in Tampa.