This week will be about more than watching the Weather Channel for Hurricane Isaac updates; it will also represent a chance to take the temperature of the contemporary GOP. If the schedule is anything to go by, the readings will be mixed indeed—on Wednesday night, for example, delegates will be greeted in rapid order by a video of Ron Paul, then Senate Minority Leader and longtime establishment hack Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), then the man McConnell tried desperately to prevent winning the GOP senatorial primary in Kentucky (Sen. Rand Paul), then after another speaker a man who stands for most everything Ron Paul abhors (Sen. John McCain [R-Arizona]). You can count on one hand, maybe even one finger, the core beliefs those four men share.
The Ron Paul insurgency in particular presents a conundrum to the GOP. Even though some establishmentarian types would love to wash their hands of him, and the liberty movement’s future without its anti-charismatic leader is unclear, Republicans just can’t afford to lose Paul’s 11 percent share of the primary vote…
So the party that hasn’t figured out what it believes cannot afford to alienate any of its members who disagree strongly with one another. Though you will hear a lot this week about Republican unity against President Obama, that masks an ideological peace that at best is fragile, unattractive, and unsatisfying.
[I]n some ways, the Republican Party today appears more factionalized — ideologically, politically and culturally — than Republican leaders said they could remember in recent history.
There are evangelicals, Tea Party adherents, supply-siders who would accept no tax increases and a dwindling band of deficit hawks who might. There are economic libertarians who share little of the passion that social conservatives hold on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. There are neoconservatives who want a hard line against Iran and the Palestinians, and realists who are open to diplomatic deal-cutting…
“For some folks in the party these days, it’s not only the Washington establishment they’re running against. They’re opposed to anything that is perceived as being any kind of establishment, even if they are conservative,” Mr. Quayle said. “To me, that is craziness. The party has got some real challenges coming down the pike. It’s a minority party, and we’ve got to realize that it’s a game of addition, not subtraction.”
Other presidential campaigns have gotten much further, then folded. But Paul’s people kept up hope. Maybe they could influence the Republican platform. Maybe they could scoop up uncommitted delegates and nominate Paul anyway. Maybe they could force the convention to a third ballot—which would free up delegates to look into their souls and vote for Dr. No…
The common theme: Ron Paul could still win, if these bastards didn’t keep taking delegates away. A group of Maine delegates walked around PAUL Fest in matching baseball caps, explaining how the state party had taken half their votes away in a series of arguments before the larger, pro-Romney Republican National Committee. It was so rotten, such obvious cheating, that Maine’s Republican governor was refusing to come to Tampa…
This is what outsiders don’t understand: Oodles of Paul supporters believe that the delegate switch-ups literally cost them a chance at the nomination. James DiPasquale, a Florida activist who watched some friends try and fail to become delegates, argues that Paul could win if the contest stretched on for a few ballots. (There has been no multi-ballot convention for decades.) “If every delegate was allowed to vote his conscience,” he asks, “how many of them really would want to vote for Romney? It would be a landslide for Ron Paul.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a message for Ron Paul supporters who say they feel “disrespected” by the Republican Party’s delegate allocation process: You lost, move on.
“I don’t think they’ve been disrespected,” Huckabee told a gaggle of reporters as we walked through the convention center here near the Tampa Bay Times Forum. “Elections are about—you get numbers. I lost four years ago, and I didn’t feel disrespected as much as I felt defeated. You have to accept that the voters make a choice and the voters made a choice.”…
Huckabee has called Paul supporters “fanatical believers” who “don’t represent mainstream Americans.”
Mr. Paul’s backers here exemplified the eclectic cross-section of the old, the young, politicians, musicians and anti-war advocates he drew together with his libertarian message. And it was difficult to find anyone who was ready to move on…
Danielle Alexandre, 33, a political analyst for the Liberty Underground radio show in Florida, said Mr. Paul’s movement was larger than the man. She, too, plans to vote for [Gary] Johnson.
On “the big issues, I don’t see a big difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama,” Ms. Alexandre said. “I’m not one to support the Republicans or support the Democrats.”
But would electing Mr. Romney advance Mr. Paul’s message at all? “No,” she said, shaking her head.
“Burn in hell before you vote for that son of a bitch,” added a man standing nearby.
It was Paul’s second attempt at an “alternative convention.” In 2008, he brought supporters to Minneapolis for the “Rally for the Republic.” Tucker Carlson, in his pre-Daily Caller says, emceed the proceedings. I should say: He emceed them until Jesse Ventura spoke and started talking about 9/11, which scared Carlson (and Willie Geist) the hell out of there. Gary Johnson spoke at that rally, when he was a retired politician. Now that he was a Libertarian presidential candidate, he was absent. This was a Ron Paul show, a kind of tribute, and the candidate would use it to say all the things people never let him say. “I don’t do it out of sacrifice,” said the candidate. “I do it out of self-interest. I do it because it’s good for me.”
They say “Osama bin Laden would still be alive if we listened to you,” said Paul. “You know what I say? So would the 3000 people killed on 9/11!” That, and every sticking-it-to-the-neocons comment, got huge cheers. When America’s agressive, said Paul, “it’s easier for them to kill us over there than to come over here, where the Second Amendment is alive and well.”
“I think a big part of sort of the libertarian Republican or the Ron Paul Republicans is that I think they can help the Republican Party,” he said. “There’s many places in New England as well as California where we’re not winning statewide races. It’s very difficult for Republicans to win. So I think embracing and bringing in these liberty-minded, Constitution-minded people and making them an integral part of the party is the way we might start winning races where we’re not winning races.”