Ron Paul's Last Stand: A Delegate Manuever
Policy + Politics

Ron Paul's Last Stand: A Delegate Manuever

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Amid the cheers and the clamor this week for Mitt Romney – whose six-year quest for the GOP presidential nomination finally paid off on Tuesday – members of the Ron Paul delegation weren’t exactly feeling the euphoria. Some of them stormed off the floor of the Tampa Bay Forum after GOP convention leaders decided to displace 10 of Maine’s 24 delegates who had pledged themselves to the longtime libertarian candidate from Texas – the action effectively blocking the state of Maine from submitting Paul’s name for nomination.

By the end of the roll call to officially nominate Romney, the former Massachusetts governor had secured 2,061 votes – far above the 1,144 total needed for the nomination. But 190 votes were cast for Paul, according to an AP count – and as small as that number was, it clearly could have climbed if some Paul-supporting delegates hadn’t been rejected.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, “Mr. Paul was on the convention floor yesterday and received rowdy applause. When asked if he and his delegates felt robbed, he said, ‘I’ll let you know when it’s over.’”

The new rules approved last week by the RNC make it tougher for “insurgent candidates” to get their names placed into nomination. “Delegates from Nevada tried to nominate Mr. Paul from the floor, submitting petitions from their own state as well as Minnesota, Maine, Iowa, Oregon, Alaska and the Virgin Islands,” Juliet Lapidos of The New York Times wrote Tuesday night. “That should have done the trick: Rules require signatures from just five states. But the party changed the rules on the spot. Henceforth, delegates must gather petitions from eight states.”

The action by the GOP – and the convention leaders’ backing of it – prompted loud catcalls, boos and shouts of “No!” from Ron Paul supporters.

The 77-year-old veteran congressman has not addressed the convention and will not be addressing it at all; he said earlier that he did not want to give Mitt Romney his full endorsement. But Paul, during his third presidential bid, has maintained an enthusiastic base of support across the country among those who subscribe to his libertarian, Constitution-based, reduced-government agenda, which includes putting an end to the Federal Reserve and bringing home U.S. troops from overseas military engagements.

“They should have given Ron Paul a spot [in the convention lineup] and restricted him to discussing the budget deficit,” Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist, told The Fiscal Times on Wednesday. “Now there are unhappy Paul zealots. Romney has to energize the base and like it or not, the ‘Paulies’ are part of the base. A little dissension would show voters that the GOP is open and inclusive.”

The words “open” and “inclusive,” however, are not exactly tripping off the tongues of Paul supporters right now. One of the unhappy “Paulies,” 21-year-old Maine delegate Ashley Ryan, told The Los Angeles Times, “It’s a disgusting, disgusting display of a hostile takeover from the top down. It’s an embarrassment.”

Some people believe Tuesday’s events could lead to a reinvigoration among Paul supporters, even though Paul is retiring from Congress this year. “The GOP has given the Liberty movement the greatest gift it could have given us,” wrote Robin Koerner, a Paul supporter, in a Huffington Post blog. “It has induced a righteous indignation that will ensure there will be no lull in the Liberty movement, post-convention or post-election.”

Craig Shirley, a historian and Reagan biographer, said of today’s GOP, “It is lumped together as a series of coalitions and factions, just like the Democratic Party. And in order to keep every faction, each must be pandered to. Otherwise, you end up with people with bruised feelings – and as we all know, bad news can traverse the world in the same time it takes good news to get out of bed.”

Earlier, Reuters had reported that “Republican officials and the Romney campaign were worried that Paul’s often-rebellious supporters would stage an unlikely attempt to have him nominated at the convention, and distract attention from the party’s message of defeating President Barack Obama on November 6.” That worry appears to have been parlayed into swift and effective procedural action – an action that former GOP National Committee chairman Haley Barbour has called “overreaching.”