Since the Republican Presidential nominating contest began last year, the Independent Voter Network has posted a number of stories concerning the effect Dr. Ron Paul‘s candidacy has had on the process. The reason for the focus on Dr. Paul is because his bid acts as a textbook example of how an insurgent candidacy successfully challenges party establishment.
Whether it was antipathy to Hilary Clinton or Democratic fears of her effect on down ballot races in their states, President Obama had substantial establishment support when he ran against then-Senator Clinton. It so happens that Secretary Clinton, by her service as the President’s most important figure on foreign policy, has now demonstrated that she is – if she chooses to be – a consensus candidate as the Democratic Party’s nominee in 2016. None of that can be said for Dr. Ron Paul.
This last weekend, the Ron Paul forces scored major triumphs in Alaska, Louisiana, and Massachusetts. Many insights into the GOP primary and the broader party outlook were gleaned from this streak of good fortune.
First, results in several states show evidence that the GOP is an atrophied organization. This is particularly true where ever either the current sitting governor is a not a Republican, or where a Republican governor is not exercising his or her role as a party leader. Any competent governor does, in fact, control the party structure in his or her state – albeit with difficulty.
Alaska’s state GOP establishment tried to neuter the Paul forces in terms of delegate allocations to Tampa. However, the Paul forces kicked aside at the GOP establishment at the state convention to elect Russ Millette as the party’s new chairman and Debbie Holland-Brown as co-chair. They are both supporters of Dr. Paul. Their delegate status in Tampa is unclear but the state party chair is theoretically an automatic delegate. Dr. Paul supporters succeeded in winning the state party chairmanship but failed in their effort to change party rules and capture all 24 state delegates to the national convention for Paul. The bid for all 24 was clearly an overreach.
However, 6 of Alaska’s 24 delegates to the Republican National Convention will represent Ron Paul, which was more than thought to be the case. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the pro-Paul convention crowd was so boisterous at the convention that United States Senator Lisa Murkowski — a supporter of presumed GOP nominee Gov. Romney — couldn’t give her planned speech on Friday. Randy Ruedrich, the former Alaska GOP chairman described for the paper how Ron Paul could win the nomination (still highly unlikely) despite having far less delegates than Romney. His reasoning is that if a presidential candidate can secure the support of delegates from five states at the national convention, they can attempt to win the nomination even if they haven’t won a single state primary or poll.
In Louisiana, Dr. Paul’s supporters will dominate the state convention and should walk away with at least 17, if not more of the 46 Louisiana delegates that go to Tampa. Based on his victory in the state’s March 24 primary, Santorum is guaranteed 10 pledged delegates, and Romney, who finished second, is guaranteed five. The balance of the 46-member national convention delegation will include at least 17 Ron Paul delegates. The rest remain uncommitted–minus National Committeewoman Ruth Ulrich, who just endorsed Gov. Romney.
While congratulating the Paul campaign “for apparently capturing their first state delegation in this presidential election cycle through an excellent get-out-the-vote effort today,” Sarah Roy, chairwoman of the Greater New Orleans Republicans, characterized it as an “odd and undemocratic result” that would embarrass and distract both Romney and Governor Bobby Jindal. Governor Jindal stands the risk of not even being a delegate, as the Republican Party does not have the number of automatic super delegates the way that Democrats do. Roy also stated to the Times-Picayune:
“The result of this ill-conceived and confusing caucus clearly does not represent the will of the vast majority of Louisiana Republican voters, as Ron Paul recently received only 6 percent of the vote in the Louisiana presidential primary.”
Gov. Romney won the Massachusetts Primary overwhelmingly in March and delegates won will be legally bound to vote for him on the first ballot. However, his campaign does not choose the Massachusetts delegates.
Video proof from the weekend shows internal struggle within the Massachusetts Republican State Convention. The Romney slate showed a quick video of Gov. Romney’s wife congratulating her husband’s supporters, followed by the candidates speeches. Gov. Romney delegate candidates made emotional, often angry, and desperate pleas for party unity. An older woman specifically called out the Dr. Paul supporters, accusing them of undermining the democratic process. Her remarks were met with angry jeers from the crowd, as the majority audience either shouted back in their defense, or merely laughed at what transpired.
Next, the Ron Paul slate gave its speeches. These candidates talked mostly about property rights, but never mentioned Dr. Paul by name. The point which drew the most applause of the entire morning was one alternate’s call for putting an immediate end to the “occupation” of Afghanistan.
The end result at this weekend’s convention: the Paul forces won outright at least 5 of the congressional districts’ 15 delegates and they won 2 more in two others districts for 19 total. Some believe it could be as high as 24 total delegates. The state party committee chooses the remaining 11 and its unclear how that will shakeout.
As the Boston Globe reports, that less than half of Mr. Romney’s delegates won spots this weekend. The “loser list” includes former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, who ran with Gov. Romney in 2002, and Massachusetts house minority leader Bradley H. Jones Jr. Instead of picking Gov. Romney’s choices, they instead went with Dr. Paul’s, the Globe reports. The state’s delegates will all be legally bound to vote for Gov. Romney per rules concerning delegation process in Massachusetts. The Dr. Paul supporters will have the ability to influence selection of the state’s delegate chairman, the state’s favored vice presidential candidate and much more.
Contributing to Massachusetts result is dismal registration figures, the Republican Party has at most 13% of the enrolled registered voters. Independents, who make up close to 50% of the electorate, can vote in any party primary they wish. That dynamic often prevents Republicans from nominating extremist candidates, yet in terms of party internal operations, Independents have no role. In addition, caucuses tend to only attract hard core partisans. The Paul de facto takeover of a substantial portion of the Massachusetts delegation is thus no surprise.
While many of Dr. Paul’s critics note that he has yet to win a primary, a substantial number (arguably 35%) of Gov. Romney’s delegates come from either places that cannot vote for him in a general election for President (US Territories such as Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico), or come from congressional districts in states that will never vote Republican for President.
The quiescence from the Romney campaign as to “The Paul Takeover” may be attributable to one, or a combination, of four factors:
1. Given the lack of core support for Gov. Romney he cannot do anything about it anyways.
2. He may end up with more than 1144 hard core supporters as delegates and therefore Dr. Paul’s potential kafuffle is just that – an esoteric issue.
3. If Governor Romney loses the election it is someone else’s problem in 2016.
4. He wins the election and manages to purge the Ron Paul supporters–or at least neuters them within the GOP.