It has been a tempestuous month for supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) in the Republican Party. In the lead-up to the Republican National Convention now unfolding in Tampa, deal after deal was made involving challenges to (or from) delegations sent from states dominated by Pau supporters. The Paul people lost most of those fights.
Many Paul delegates were raring for a floor fight as the convention was set to begin. They wanted some victories in their efforts to get represented at the convention. That's why they wanted the original Paul-dominated Maine delegation to be seated, not the last-minute substitute chosen by the Republican National Committee.
The Paul forces lost that one as well. According to Maine delegate Mike Wallace, a hoped-for floor vote to reinstate the delegation wasn’t even allowed to be held, leading the original delegation to leave the floor in protest.
Several times on the convention floor Tuesday, Paulites united with Tea Party members and old-school conservatives to fight rule changes that were seen as inimical to the interest of all grassroots activists, no matter their particular stances. One controversial change out of the Rules Committee would bind state delegations to the results of straw polls or primaries, leaving no room for maneuvering at state conventions.
Independent of ideology, this would mean an end to any future upstart doing what Paul did this year: using the savvy and enthusiasm of his supporters to rack up more delegates at state conventions than they won in straw polls or primaries.
FreedomWorks, which works closely with Tea Party groups, was spreading the word about truculent Rules Committee members bounced in favor of Romney loyalists during the fight, and others reported points of order being ignored as challenges to the controversial rule changes were heard on the floor.
David Nalle, national chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC), says the reported exile of Ron Paul delegations to the cheap seats meant they couldn't make themselves heard across the crowded hall. The Virginia delegation insists it was deliberately delayed by a late and dilatory GOP bus so they couldn’t vote on the rule committee changes.
Some media reported on a "compromise" on one hated aspect of the new delegate rule, which allowed candidates to handpick their own delegations. Many feared shis change would mean only insiders and donors and friends of the winner would ever get to the RNC. The Rule 16 that ended up passing still apparently gives candidates that power. It says, “No delegate or alternate delegate who is bound or allocated to a particular presidential candidate may be certified under Rule No. 20 if the presidential candidate to whom the delegate or alternate delegate is bound or allocated has, in consultation with the state party, disavowed the delegate or alternate delegate.”
Although even non-Paul-controlled delegations such as Texas’ were against the rule changes, they still lost. This show of power on the part of the RNC over the grassroots is leading some delegates to consider rebellion an appropriate option.
Morton Blackwell, the head of the conservative training group the Leadership institute, was Barry Goldwater’s youngest delegate in 1964. He's been present at every rules committee meeting for the past 40 years, and he thinks the new rules are “the most awful I’ve ever seen come before any National Convention….a power grab by Washington, D.C. party insiders and consultants designed to silence the voice of state party activists and Republican grassroots.”
While Paul voters feel uniquely screwed by the RNC this week, it is in fact a general assault on grassroots rebels of any sort. For that reason, the RLC's Nalle sees a silver lining in the cloud of gloom the establishment has placed over the grassroots: “It became unifying for Paulites and the Tea Party people," he says. "Even with the ideological disagreements, the grassroots groups all agree that local control is better. What happened Tuesday with the rules brought that to the forefront, which I think will be healthy for the future. Having had the Party leadership take its gloves off shows how big a problem there is in the GOP now.”
Dennis Marburger, a Michigan delegate bound to Romney but favoring Paul, told me he’s found that not only Ron Paul fans but all sorts of Republicans who respect fair play are angry at the Rules shenanigans. Romney is alienating more than just those already primed to dislike him.
Although not invited to speak — he wouldn’t give Romney forces a chance to vet his remarks — Ron Paul briefly walked around the convention floor Tuesday, to shouts of “President Paul” (matched by countershouts of “Romney!”). In the end, Paul got around 190 delegates votes (if we presume Pennsylvania’s five for “Paul Ryan” were actually meant for Ron Paul). Since Paul was not officially in nomination — a last-minute attempt to get Paul’s name officially in nomination also failed — the secretary at the podium did not announce Paul delegate numbers even when state delegation leaders did, which didn’t necessarily always happen. One person claiming to be a Nebraska delegate in a Daily Paul comment thread says his state’s chair didn’t announce two Paul votes from that state.