Paul captures 20 of 24 Minnesota delegates in CD conventions

It’s tough these days to be a Republican in Minnesota.  While the party managed to take control of both chambers of the state legislature in 2010 for the first time in decades, the organization is deeply in debt, thanks to mismanagement under previous leadership, and seems at times in total disarray.  A sex scandal in the state Senate leader’s office that forced then-majority leader Amy Koch to give up her position didn’t help either.  The latest stumble has national implications, however:

Minnesota will send 40 delegates to the Republican National Convention. Twenty of the 24 delegates based on congressional districts were awarded to Texas Rep. Ron Paul in selection processes that concluded this weekend.

Thirteen Minnesota delegates will be allocated based on the results of a statewide convention in May, according to Paul campaign senior adviser Doug Wead.

Wead wrote on his blog that GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is an a “panic” after the Paul landslide. Similar efforts to bolster the Texas congressman’s delegate count are underway in Iowa, Colorado, Maine and other states.

“[A] number of Romney Hawks are now deeply concerned that Ron Paul has already laid the groundwork for similar success in six more caucus states,” Wead wrote.

In Minnesota, delegates get chosen in congressional-district conventions, and they are not bound to any candidate.  I ran for one of these positions in CD-02 on Saturday as part of a “unity slate” backed by GOP candidates for leadership positions in the organization.  None of us even came close to winning; we later found out that the closest anyone else came to winning those slots was more than 100 votes behind the second and third place finishers, who tied.  The same tie occurred when electing alternates.

So what happened?  Paul supporters organized at the local level and got themselves elected as delegates to CD conventions.  They then showed up to the conventions — unlike some others — and played by the rules.  At our convention, there were no disruptions, no demonstrations, no attempts to hijack the proceedings.  The Paul supporters just organized effectively and outboxed the party establishment.  My radio partner Mitch Berg reported that the same thing happened in CD-04, but worries more about what comes next:

Some of their leadership was motivated by fairly palpable anger over the “way they were treated in 2008″, when quite a few GOP activists gamed the system to keep the first wave of Paul supporters out of power.  To their political credit, they spent their four years organizing, and did a good job of it.

Less to their credit?  While anger is a good motivator, “anger at the inner workings of a political party” has, I’m going to guess, a short shelf life.   And at least in the Fourth CD, the anger was manifested by ballot.  The twitter stream during the convention indicated that at other districts, Paul supporters booed Dan Severson and Pete Hegseth, whose main transgression was “not being Kurt Bills”, the Paul crowd’s candidate for Senate, or refusing to stand to support John Kline at the 2nd District convention when he was re-endorsed. …

While the crowd of Paul supporters at the convention Saturday carefully replaced their “Ron Paul” posters and stickers with “Kurt Bills” goodies, and voted to endorse Tony Hernandez by a 190-5-5 margin (after running a skillful campaign to win support from most of the establishment and Paul crowds), I have yet to hear a lot of support for, or even especially much awareness of, races farther down ticket or, more importantly, for candidates who get endorsed even if they’re not on the Paul slate.

Now, I know that there are a lot of good, committed people among the Paul crowd who are committed to using their positions in the GOP to work for the party, not just a candidate or two.

But I get a different impression from some of their leadership.  Ronald Reagan once said that if someone agrees with you 70% of the time, it doesn’t make them 30% your enemy.

And from some of the Paul crowd’s leadership, I do get the impression that, whether motivated by single-candidate zeal or roiling anger over 2008 or one of the mind-boggling number of byzantine interpersonal pissing matches that seems to motivate so much of CD4 GOP politics no matter who the nominee or the cause celebre or what the defining issue is, the Paul crowd’s leadership, in the district and beyond, sees “70% friends” as “30% enemies”.

The Paul campaign wants to believe that they can replicate this outcome in other caucus states, and it’s certainly possible.  But in Minnesota, they had an opening left by a party in serious disarray.  How serious?  They may soon find themselves homeless:

The Minnesota Republican Party is facing eviction for nonpayment of more than $111,000 in rent at its longtime headquarters near the Capitol.

Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge tried to assure party faithful on Monday that he expects the party will keep its home office, but acknowledged that the party has not paid a full month’s rent for a year.

“We’re not going to be evicted,” Shortridge said, although the eviction matter is due to be heard in Ramsey County District court next Tuesday. He added that the party is “continuing to negotiate on the back payments as well as on a lease that better fits both our space needs and our budget.”

The possible eviction is the latest blow for a state Republican Party that is swamped with debt and financial problems. The party, $2 million in arrears on bills and debt related to the 2010 gubernatorial recount, is being investigated by the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board for inaccurate campaign reporting.

This isn’t the fault of Shortridge, who just recently took the party chair position to try to right the ship.  The state GOP has had to focus on rebuilding its fiscal position more than the internal and external politics of the 2012 cycle.  Without that kind of focus, the party didn’t have the resources to deal with the Paul organization, and the delegate wins are one consequence.  That’s actually a minor consequence compared to what will happen if the state GOP doesn’t recover in time to organize for its effort in November to hold their legislative advantages, to say nothing of the mission to replace Amy Klobuchar in the US Senate.

Even if the Paul organization managed to steal a march in the caucus states, it’s not likely to damage Mitt Romney, at least not directly.  Rick Santorum was winning more of the caucus states, so the delegates will mostly come from his column, not Romney’s.  The only real threat will be that Paul delegates might embarrass the party at the convention by staging some kind of organized demonstration, but Ron Paul himself would probably keep that from happening; he wants to build the organization so that his son can use it within the GOP, not to excise Rand from the GOP.  And once again, the Paul supporters in the CD-02 convention didn’t aim at disruption at all — just victory for their cause.