RGJ The Ron Paul presidential campaign has a guerrilla-style takeover strategy heading into next week’s Nevada Republican Convention at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks.
The campaign wants to dominate the convention by delivering as many as 65 percent of the total delegates to the convention floor.
“Whoever shows up controls the tempo of the meeting,” said Carl Bunce, Paul’s campaign chairman for Nevada.
Those who show up will elect 25 of Nevada’s 28 national convention delegates, as three spots for the state chairman, national committeeman and committeewoman are already taken.
The Ron Paul folks want to stack that number with their people. Other state Ron Paul organizations are doing the same, Republicans said.
If the campaign can muster lots of national delegates nationwide, the sky is the limit in the imaginations of Paul’s supporters.
They hope for a brokered national convention, where front-runner Mitt Romney fails to win the presidential nomination on the first ballot.
That could lead to some horse-trading, with some Paul supporters thinking their candidate could steal away the nomination, or at least get some of Paul’s controversial opinions on foreign policy or immigration on the national GOP platform.
“You have to remember back to Abe Lincoln,” said Paul supporter, Wayne Terhune of Reno said. “I don’t have all the details, but apparently he was a real longshot. Nobody got the required 50 percent plus one vote on the first round, so the horse-trading started. So there is a chance, it is probably slim but it is still a chance.”
Republicans nationwide have noticed Paul’s organization and takeover strategy, one Nevada Republican leader said.
“I just came back from the national (Republican National Committee) meeting and everybody was talking about the Ron Paul, well-organized takeover,” said Heidi Smith, Nevada national GOP committeewoman.
Paul’s troops have been large and in charge at many GOP functions across the nation that lead into the states’ GOP convention. Consider:
• In last week’s Minnesota congressional district conventions, Paul took 20 of 24 delegates available for the state convention. Rick Santorum won 45 percent of the state’s nonbinding caucus in February, with Paul getting 27 percent.
• Paul’s supporters swarmed last week’s Texas Republican Senate district conventions, making a push to gain more control of the party, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
• Also last week, the King County, Wash., GOP gathered to choose its candidates for the state convention but the meeting quickly turned into a circus.
When a Paul supporter was elected to lead the meeting, a local GOP official expelled the gathering from a local middle school. It was forced to conclude on an outside basketball court. It was just another dust-up between Paul supporters and local GOP officials, according to a report in the Seattle Times.
“There is no other campaign that feels the need to poke the party in the eye like the Ron Paul campaign,” King County GOP chairwoman Lori Sotelo told the Times. “For heaven’s sake stop hitting us with a fire hose.”
Roots in 2008
For Nevada’s Paul supporters, the state party takeover could be viewed as payback for what happened to them at the 2008 GOP state convention at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno.
Party leaders abruptly aborted that convention, leaving Paul supporters feeling that the state GOP had cheated them out of a place at the national convention.
In 2008, Paul’s numerous supporters who attended the state convention won a rules change that would allow them to vote Paul delegates to the national convention.
The rules change extended the voting process into the evening hours. Just before 6 p.m., party officials abruptly gaveled the convention closed, saying they didn’t have a contract to use the hall for the evening.
A box of ballots for three delegates from the 2nd Congressional District was never counted.
The party didn’t schedule another convention and appointed the delegates, including two Paul supporters.
For this year’s convention, the state GOP has reserved meeting rooms for a third convention day, on Sunday, just in case business is not completed, to avoid the issues of 2008, officials said.
“Man, I tell you, that was a big mess,” said new GOP convention parliamentarian Ralph McMullen. “It was totally humiliating to us because the national Republican Party said we were one of the most inept parties in the nation, the way we let this thing happen.”
Terhune, who sued the party in 2008 in an attempt to halt the appointed delegates from being seated, discounted that there is a connection between the 2008 state convention and the 2012 convention.
“I’m not seeking revenge. That stuff is done,” he said. “For me and the Ron Paul folks, we are not looking for vengeance. We are looking to play by the rules and win if we can. And it’s a numbers game. We are hoping to have the numbers. You never know, it just depends on who shows up and who has the most votes. All we want is a level playing field.”
A numbers game
Bunce estimates that no more than 1,800 delegates will attend the two-day convention, although Nevada has more than 2,500 potential delegates.
Bunce’s job is to get what what he estimates to be 1,500 Paul-supporting delegates — elected at county conventions — to the state convention.
“My goal is to push our identified delegates out and we have well over 1,500 identified delegates in the state,” Bunce said. “We are trying to invite them to participate. We could have a large number — anywhere from 50 to 65 percent of the delegates.”
Some notable Republicans outside of Paul’s supporters question why the Paul people are going to such trouble. Former Gov. Bob List, Nevada’s national GOP committeeman, said Romney will most certainly wrap up the nomination on the first ballot, easily gaining the needed 1,144 votes from delegates needed for nomination.
“In all seriousness, it would appear that Gov. Romney will win on the first ballot,” List said. “He racked up a huge number of delegates last week. And with the remaining contests being his to take entirely, it will put him over the magic number.”
List, however, added: “This is a mathematical observation on my part as I remain neutral in this sweepstakes.”
Romney won primary victories last week in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York, boosting his delegate count to 847, according to the Associated Press. Paul has just 80 locked up delegates, according to the AP.
Break the rules?
Although the RNC mandates that national delegates must vote in accordance with state primary or caucus results, Ron Paul’s supporters appear to want to push the mandate to the limit.
Bunce suggested that some national delegates who support Paul would have a difficult time voting for Romney on the first ballot, even if they were instructed to do so.
“They might not be Romney supporters,” Bunce said of the national delegates. “The people who have the heart and minds to make it to the national delegation floor, they have a choice to make. Anything is possible at that point.”