GOP Dilemma: What to do With Ron Paul at the Convention?
If Ron Paul wins a plurality of delegates at the Nebraska state convention on Saturday, his name will be placed in nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. This will assure the 76-year old retiring Texas Congressman a 15 minute speaking slot -- a prospect that makes many Republicans nervous due to some of Paul's out of the mainstream views.
"Come on Nebraska, we want to see that speech," cheers New York Magazine. Indeed, for Democrats, watching Republicans squirm as Paul spouts his conspiracy theories and promotes his extremist libertarian views, would be about as good as it gets. That's why there will be a concerted effort by Romney's team to deny Paul the plurality he seeks in Nebraska in order to keep him off the ballot at the convention.
Local reports say both Romney and Paul supporters have been “burning up the phone lines” making calls to delegates to assess who they’re voting for before the state convention in Grand Island.
Support for Paul could embarrass Governor Dave Heineman, who was the first Republican governor to endorse Romney.
"I welcome the Tea Party and Ron Paul supporters," Heineman said. "That's great for our party. But it's time to be good sports and get behind Governor Romney.”
When Republicans arrive at the Riverside Golf Club for the convention they will be met with additional security, hired by the state party in anticipation of a Paul insurgency.
“It’s been communicated to us from other RNC members from around the country to watch for specific things,” Jordan McGrain, executive director of the state Republican Party, told NBC News.
“Their experience has been instructive to us. We’ve received correspondence from those who attended the Nevada and Louisiana state conventions where they had significant disturbances and problems. It arose from not everyone being on the same page and we have the benefit of that hindsight.”
Paul supporters have been blamed for picking arcane rule fights, which dragged out the state convention in Nevada and led to a brawl in Louisiana.
The 76-year-old congressman stopped actively campaigning in May, urging supporters to remain involved in politics to “become delegates, win office, and take leadership positions” and has focused resources on state conventions.
The date of Nebraska’s GOP state convention has not been lost on some Paul supporters, who point out July 14 is Bastille Day – “Vive la Revolution!” It’s up to Nebraska Republicans to determine whether Ron Paul’s Revolution will be loudly heard at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in August.
In fairness to Paul supporters, the Louisiana state convention came to blows largely because the establishment Republicans refused to follow their own rules and used strong arm tactics -- including enlisting local police -- to shove the Paulbots around, even though they won the rules fight fair and square.
It is also true that in Nevada and elsewhere, the Paulbots have gone in looking for trouble. Let's just say that no one has covered themselves in glory at these state conventions where Paul supporters and GOP regulars have clashed.
This is what the NY Magazine and other Democrats are salivating over: the disruptive, rude, and unmannerly presence of several hundred well organized Ron Paul delegates who could make life very difficult for Republicans if they choose to continue with their guerrilla tactics. It's difficult at a modern convention to initiate floor fights over the platform or rules, but if a way can be found, don't count out the Paul supporters.
If Paul manages to surprise in Nebraska, where would the GOP place Paul for his 15 minutes of fame on the convention dais?
I'm sure they'd prefer the water closet at midnight but that won't fly. You can bet it will be either pre or post prime time and convention managers will have plenty of bait for the TV networks to cut away from the candidate's meaningless speech to interview party heavyweights. It won't work. Networks are dying for something controversial to cover and an appearance by the GOP's best known apostate will elicit wall to wall coverage of the Texas congressman and his enthusiastic supporters.
Interestingly, there is another Paul who may also speak at the convention. Senator Rand Paul, Ron's son, has made his peace with the party and endorsed Mitt Romney. He is the offspring of the Tea Party and if Romney is smart, he will offer slots to Rand Paul, Michelle Bachmann and a few other Tea Party favorites if only to show he is not unsympathetic to their cause.
As for Ron Paul, he has set in motion a libertarian revolution these last 5 years. Hundreds of candidates for local, state, and federal office follow his lead on domestic and foreign policy. His supporters are extremely well organized and surprisingly well funded. Their goal is a lofty one; reclaim the Republican party on the basis of liberty at home and isolationism abroad.
One might argue their agenda is unrealistic and in a way, subversive of Republican principles. But few would doubt their dedication and no one should underestimate their potential to roil the convention.