Photo: Business Insider/Grace Wyler
Across the country, Ron Paul and his army of supporters have been quietly taking over the GOP at the state and county level, winning party leadership positions and picking up delegates who will carry the torch for Paul at the Republican National Convention this summer. In most cases, these party power plays have been legitimate; Ron Paul supporters have out-organised and out-numbered their Mitt Romney counterparts, using complex party rules to secure delegate slots for Paul supporters.
But in Idaho, the “takeover” mentality appears to have gotten out of hand.
In recent reports from the Idaho Statesman, several of Paul’s Idaho activists have detailed plans for a “hostile takeover” of the state Republican Party convention, and a “scorched earth” strategy to overturn the results of Idaho’s March caucuses, which Romney won with 62% of the vote.
According to the Statesman, the strategy involves winning two-thirds of precinct elections, which select delegates for the Idaho GOP convention. If they can pull off the landslide, then Paul-friendly delegates can move to suspend the rules at the state convention, and reject Romney’s slate of RNC delegates, replacing them with Paul supporters.
The plan is extreme, even by Paul standards. In a statement today, the Paul campaign disavowed the “hostile takeover” plan, which it attributed to “isolated instances of grassroots activists.”
“The Ron Paul campaign’s delegate-attainment strategy being implemented nationally at party processes that follow so-called ‘beauty contests’ is not, and has never been, meant to somehow rewrite the outcome of past nominating contests,” campaign manager John Tate said in the statement. “The Ron Paul 2012 Presidential campaign condemns efforts to expand its influence in the Republican Party in Idaho and beyond when these activities are couched as vengeful, underhanded, or markedly distasteful.”
The statement is an obvious attempt to distance Paul from some of his more zealous supporters, and to assuage concerns that his campaign is planning some kind of chaos for the convention.
That may be easier said than done. In another incident today, well-known Ron Paul activist Adam Kokesh pondered the relative benefits of assassinating Mitt Romney during a segment on his online talk show. BuzzFeed reports that the Secret Service is following up on the comments.
Kokesh has actually been causing problems for the Paul campaign since Paul endorsed his 2010 bid for Congress. Paul’s campaign chairman Jesse Benton told BuzzFeed that Kokesh is a “deeply troubled individual with whom we cut off contact a long time ago.”
“These are definitely outliers,” Paul campaign spokesman Gary Howard told Business Insider. “Almost all of the grassroots supporters are all positive people who are just trying to participate in the process.”
But while Kokesh and the Idaho activists may be outliers, the incidents reinforce the perception that Paul’s supporters are an unruly — and sometimes downright scary — bunch.
This reputation is not particularly helpful as Paul and his acolytes strive to remake the Republican Party in their image.
When asked if he plans to embarrass Romney at the convention, Paul is indignant:
“That is against my plan so I don’t like that even being a suggestion,” the candidate told CNN Wednesday. “I’m in it for very precise reasons: to maximise our efforts to get as many delegates as we can. I’m still a candidate, and to promote something that is very, very important, that is a change in the direction for the Republican Party.”
Clearly, Paul understands that letting his supporters run roughshod over the party in Tampa would be detrimental to his goals. But it remains to be seen if the man who gave the Liberty Movement its voice can also silence it when the time comes.
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