Yesterday the New York Times (p. A18) had an article about Ron Paul and his campaign in Nevada. It reminded me of the vibe in the room at the Sheraton 10 days ago when Mitt Romney's people were whispering their fears of Ron Paul and the possibility that he would go third party. Richard A Oppel Jr. here writes about inside the GOP and how they are sometimes against Paul, but are having to accept him.
If they gave two minutes attention to the largest growing voter bloc in the US, the Latin vote, they would nominate him tomorrow; but there are too many Romneys in the party, who blatantly admit they do not care about the poor. Ron Paul does. And time the GOP cares about Ron Paul. See below for some an inside look at this:
HENDERSON, Nev. — Four years ago, an angry and dispirited educational database expert named Carl Bunce walked out of Nevada’s state Republican convention after party leaders shut down the proceedings rather than let Representative Ron Paul’s supporters nominate delegates for the national convention in St. Paul.
Today, Mr. Bunce, 35, is running Mr. Paul’s Nevada campaign from a strip mall in this Las Vegas suburb. But this time, he and other Paul supporters are in the vanguard of the Nevada Republican Party: After the ugly scene at the state convention, they decided to work with the party that they felt had treated them as pariahs. It took time, and some rivalries remain intense, but now Mr. Paul’s Nevada backers are part of the state Republican machinery.
“Why commit suicide, and why protest like crazy people?” Mr. Bunce remembers thinking after being slighted at the convention in St. Paul. “We decided to choose our battles, and we moved into the party. To get involved in an organization, you have to be part of it.”
A quarter of the Republican Party membership in Clark County — which includes Las Vegas — are now Paul backers, estimates Tim Williams, the county party’s political director. Four of Nevada’s 17 county Republican chairmen are also supporters, according to Mr. Bunce. And Robert List, the state’s Republican national committeeman and a former governor, says four or five members of the state party’s 12-member executive board are backing Mr. Paul.
The turnabout showcases Mr. Paul’s long-term goal of changing the party from within, and highlights how, whether he wins or loses in Saturday’s caucuses, Mr. Paul is likely to be a force to be reckoned with should there be a fractured nominating fight that drags on throughout the spring. Efforts to work within the party leadership have also been eagerly embraced by his son Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, whom many Paul supporters see as the eventual heir to his legacy.
The Nevada caucuses now loom as a key test for Mr. Paul’s movement: After forgoing an expensive winner-take-all primary in Florida where they had no chance of success, his campaign is wagering all it has on Nevada and other coming votes in smaller-market caucus states like Colorado and Maine, part of a strategy to skim delegates in contests where they are awarded proportionally, based on the number of votes.
At stake for Mr. Paul in these caucuses and primaries is not the Republican nomination but whether his support structure will finally grow from what some establishment Republicans deem no more than a fringe effort driven by a handful of issues to a movement with the leverage to dictate policy and platform changes to the national Republican Party and its nominee.
“If nothing else, they are going to have to find a way to bring the Ron Paul people in, or risk losing to Barack Obama,” said James Smack, 44, a bank branch manager in rural Churchill County, Nev., who was elected vice chairman of the Nevada Republican Party last year with support from Paul backers and Tea Party supporters.
“The nominee marginalizes the Ron Paul people at his own peril,” said Mr. Smack, a Paul activist at the fateful state convention four years ago. “Placating them with some talking points isn’t going to work.”
Indeed, supporters’ hopes that Mr. Paul will be able to influence the wider Republican organization are a major reason that despite fourth-place finishes in the past two primaries, in South Carolina and Florida, his backers — and his fund-raising — remain robust.
Yet to some extent how much real leverage he can attain with the national party remains an open question and depends on how he performs in a series of contests to come, starting with Nevada, where he won 14 percent of the vote four years ago.
Expectations are even higher this year, but Mr. Paul faces a major hurdle: Mitt Romney’s strong base of support and organization here. In 2008, Mr. Romney won 51 percent of the vote, the same as in his home state, Massachusetts. Surveys of voters at the time showed that 9 out of 10 Mormons — about a quarter of Nevada caucusgoers — voted for Mr. Romney. While Mr. Romney seems to have had a ceiling of support in some other states, Republican officials here say the religious dynamic suggests he has a floor at about 25 percent.
Paul organizers hope to dent that through a heavy regimen of training for local organizers as well as relentless phone-banking. Some people who have indicated a preference for Mr. Paul say they have been called three times in recent days by campaign workers reminding them of the time and place of their local caucus.
“They are still seen as very strident and committed to their candidate,” said Mr. List, the former governor, who is now a lawyer in Las Vegas and has not endorsed any presidential candidate. But the relationships between Paul supporters and more establishment Republicans in the state are now “relatively harmonious,” he said, adding that is partly a reflection of Mr. Paul’s relaxed style. “They have increasingly been integrated within the party structure, and they are very active at the local levels and county levels and in our state organization.”
Mr. List doubts Mr. Paul can carry the state on Saturday but says he will walk away with delegates. “He’ll find friends wherever he goes,” Mr. List said. “He’s a bit of a phenomenon in this state.”