Romney vs. Paul Primary Fever Continues
Many have noted that during the earlier stages of the GOP primary campaign, Mitt Romney seemed to be soft-pedaling his attacks on Ron Paul, while Paul’s supporters have been exploiting their grasp of how the primary and caucus system actually works to gather loyal delegates, mainly through the cunning ploy of not going home once the initial voting has taken place. Judging by events at the weekend’s State Republican Conventions in Norman, Oklahoma and Phoenix, Arizona, that uneasy truce is getting a little uneasier.
Allan Stevo of Run Ron Paul alleges:
David Van Risseghem, Rick Santorum’s Oklahoma state coordinator, sent out an e-mail May 9 to Oklahoma Republicans attempting to get them to turnout in opposition to Ron Paul and therefore presumably for Mitt Romney, the only other candidate in the race. The note was apparently sent from an e-mail address owned by the suspended Santorum campaign.
The vitriolic note from the Santorum campaign stated, ”It’s time for all values voters to work together to keep our communities safe for the next generation. Several Ron Paul activists want to legalize recreational drug use, decimate obscenity laws, and sanction prostitution.”
The note from Santorum’s campaign is again another sign of a struggling Romney campaign in the face of Paul surging. It now looks like Paul may win as many as 12 states and may even have ardent Paul loyalists outnumbering Romney loyalists at the Republican National Convention – the highest legislative body of the Republican Party.
Mitt Romney believed and the media has reported that after Santorum left the race the rest of the nomination process would be easy for Romney. To the contrary, it’s become evident to many watching that he is unfit as a leader in the GOP as he can’t inspire convention goers – the most dedicated of Republicans – and he has so far failed at uniting the party.
A Romney nomination spells defeat for the Republicans, as it will no doubt leave Paul’s supporters feeling alienated, perhaps even searching for a candidate outside of the GOP.
Van Risseghem foresaw trouble ahead:
In the note, Santorum’s campaign theorized that this weekend’s Oklahoma Republican convention might get nasty: “There will assuredly be a passionate struggle for control of the convention, the national delegation, and the party’s future.”
And so it came to pass. KFOR-TV featured eyewitness reports and cellphone footage of a few altercations between Romney and Paul supporters that descended into fisticuffs which spilled out into the parking lot:
Steve Kornacki at Salon notes that one of Mittens’ seemingly endless supply of hapless surrogate sons, Josh “Buzz Lightyear” Romney—profiled in a number of Utah newspapers as potentially a great asset to his father’s campaign—was heckled and booed at the Arizona convention when he broke the groundrules and tried to use his speech to canvass for his father’s slate of candidates.
Kornacki ponders what this may presage for the GOP National Convention in Tampa, FL later in the year:
Similar behavior by Paul backers in Tampa could spoil what for the Romney campaign is supposed to be a nationally televised infomercial. The problem for Romney and convention organizers is that, short of giving up and letting Ron Paul have the nomination, there’s not much they can do to pacify the Paul-ites.
Under the extreme worst-case scenario for Republicans, Paul supporters end up with a giant share of the delegate slots (a quarter of them, say) and launch a four-day heckle-fast, bitterly resist any effort to quiet them or evict them from the hall – a modern version of the chaos that reigned inside Chicago Stadium at the Democrats’ 1968 convention. In a more optimistic scenario, there’s only limited booing from a handful of delegates, and it rates on the nuisance scale somewhere near the annoying air horns that were a little too audible during Ronald Reagan’s 1980 acceptance speech in Detroit.
I hope the Paulites are stocking up on vuvuzelas. Kornacki and others assume that Ron Paul has some overriding strategy behind all this—presumably including securing a slot in the GOP pantheon for his son Rand—and once having secured whatever it is he wants, will rein in his supporters at the Tampa convention. Looking around the various Ron Paul blogs and forums, that seems a tall order at the moment, and events like those at Norman probably won’t help smooth the way ahead.
More: Benjy Sarlin at TPM describes the weekend’s events with added vim and brio:
Mainstream Republicans afraid Ron Paul’s steady accumulation of delegates will cause chaos at their national convention in Tampa just received a terrifying preview of what a worst-case scenario might look like.
In Oklahoma on Saturday, Paul supporters and Romney supporters reportedly came to blows as the Paul side fell short of electing their slate of delegates amid cries of foul play, including the use of a voice vote instead of a more painstaking roll call to decide the outcome. Speaking at the event, Romney surrogates Tim Pawlenty and the state’s own governor, Mary Fallin, drew jeers.
At the state convention in Arizona, also this weekend, the presumptive nominee’s son, Josh Romney, was booed off the stage by Paul supporters, some of whom derided his father as “the white Obama.”
Heh. Ron claims that disruption at the convention is the last thing he wants and that it’s all about “moving an agenda.” How much sway he’ll have over his whipped-up supporters is another matter:
A spokesman for the Paul campaign did not return requests for comment, but Interviews with pro-Paul activists revealed a number of differing goals, including a total win-or-go-home effort to make Paul the nominee and long-term efforts to make sure the movement is poised for stronger runs in 2016 and beyond.
Kelly Nguyen, 27, a web designer in Georgia, is attending next week’s state convention as a Paul delegate. Nguyen is part of an organized effort by grassroots supporters to claim delegates and national committee members for Paul. High on their list is of goals is ensuring that friendly members are in positions in both the state GOP and RNC to make sure establishment Republicans can’t change the nominating process to prevent similar delegate takeovers in the future.
But Nguyen doesn’t believe the Republican convention will be a quiet affair.
“I don’t think it’s going to be smooth,” Nguyen said. “But I think that because of our numbers and because of the writing on the wall, they’re going to have to by default recognize that there are Ron Paul supporters, there are new ideas, there are new bodies coming into the Republican Party.”
Kurt Wallace, a spokesman for the independent grassroots site DailyPaul, which has helped organize supporters for state conventions throughout the race, insisted that the Paul delegates were not part of any larger plan beyond the immediate primary race.
“The goal is to win,” Wallace said. “I don’t think they’re thinking ‘Let’s get in there and disrupt the process and be a thorn in the side of the Republican Party.’ It really is a pure intention to get the man that they support elected.”
What they need at this stage is some sort of catchy acronym that encapsulates their efforts—Paulites Undermining Mitt Abominably? Maybe you can do better.