Because Ron Paul backers show up, expect a battle at the GOP convention in Tacoma
Seattle Times editorial columnist Bruce Ramsey outlines the strategy of the Ron Paul forces and predicts a floor fight at the state convention of the Washington State Republican Party.
Seattle Times editorial columnist
Ron Paul placed a distant second in the Republican Party's caucuses here March 3. Mitt Romney scored 38 percent and Paul 25 percent. News stories said Romney had "won" Washington, but really he had not. The game is winning delegates, and in a caucus state a candidate needs supporters who will do more than vote.
Washington sends 43 delegates to the national convention in Tampa. Forty of them will be elected at the state Republican convention in Tacoma June 1-2: 10 at large and three for each congressional district. Who wins, says state party Chairman Kirby Wilbur, "depends on who shows up."
Paul supporters are good at showing up. Look at other caucus states:
• Maine — In Paul's best state, he ran a close second to Romney in the vote count. At Maine's convention May 6, the Paul forces swept 21 of the 24 delegates, leaving only three party officials to support Romney.
• Minnesota — In the caucus vote, Paul came in a distant second to Rick Santorum. After the state convention last weekend, Paul had 32 of the 37 delegates.
• Iowa — In the first caucus of 2012, Romney was the reported winner, though the final count went to Santorum. Paul ran a close third. No matter; of the state's 28 delegates, Paul owns 10 already and will have more at the state convention June 16. The Paul forces have taken over the Iowa party leadership.
• Alaska — Paul came in third in the caucus vote — and his supporters have taken over the Alaska party leadership.
Paul has made other post-caucus gains in Michigan, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Colorado and Nevada.
When Paul ran for president four years ago, he didn't do this. He wasn't a party man; he did not endorse the Republican nominee, John McCain, and was not invited to the convention. Paul had his own convention. But this year he wants to speak to Republican delegates and influence their platform.
Why? He is ending a long career in Congress. At 76, he is too old to run for president in 2016.
"Ron knows he'll never be president," says Wilbur. "His son may be." Rand Paul, 49, was elected in 2010 as senator from Kentucky. Rand needs his father's supporters — and they need someone to carry their flag.
Ron Paul is a candidate of ideas. Some of them are not ripe and may never be, but on one question he speaks immediately to the national troubles. He would recast the Republican Party as conservative but opposing foreign war, debt finance and encroachments on civil liberty.
And that would be a change.
Exit polls show Paul running strongest among the young. He has peeled off supporters from the left, bringing in new blood to his cause and maybe to the Republican Party. His following is fervent and not all of them well-mannered. They do stand up for him.
At a Kitsap County Republican meeting, state Chairman Wilbur was taped telling a uncooperative Paulite to "sit down and shut up." Afterward, Wilbur said, "three Ron Paul people came up to me and apologized and said they were not all that way."
After Romney's son Josh was booed in Arizona and Sen. Lisa Murkowski was booed in Alaska, the Paul campaign ordered supporters to behave themselves. Wilbur is happy about that.
He still expects a battle in Tacoma. By congressional district, he says, "Paul is strong in the 3rd, the 6th and the 7th, and Romney is strong in the 1st, 4th, 5th and 8th."
The rest, he adds, "we really don't know."
Bruce Ramsey's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org