For most of the political world, the Republican presidential primary ended months ago, back when it became clear to everyone that Mitt Romney was going to win the nomination. For the Ron Paul World, however, the primary battle has been quietly dragging on for months, and will finally culminate this weekend at the Nebraska state Republican Party Convention at the Riverside Golf Club in Grand Island, Neb.
The Nebraska GOP convention is the last state convention of the Republican primary process, and the outcome will have surprisingly significant ramifications for the Republican National Convention in Tampa this August. Nebraska’s state convention delegates will select 32 of the state’s national delegates this weekend, none of whom will be bound to vote for Romney in Tampa.
The Nebraska convention also marks the culmination of a four-year effort by Paul and his supporters, with the outcome either marking the end of the Ron Paul Revolution, or its ultimate vindication. In order for Paul to have his name entered into nomination at the GOP national convention, he needs a plurality of delegates from at least five states. Going into this weekend, Paul has a plurality of delegates in four states — Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, and Louisiana. So a win in Nebraska would put Paul over the nominating threshold, guaranteeing that he gets a 15-minute speaking slot before voting begins at the National Convention.
The Romney campaign appears to be adamantly against this outcome, despite the fact that Romney is virtually guaranteed to win the nomination, even without the delegates from those five states. According to several GOP sources, the Romney campaign has enlisted Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman to make sure that Ron Paul supporters are not able to get their slate elected at this weekend’s convention.
Girding for chaos, the Nebraska Republican Party announced last week that it was hiring extra security for the state convention to prevent clashes with Paul supporters. The Ron Paul World freaked out, and Nebraska GOP Chair Mark Fahleson eventually backed down. In a joint statement released this week, Fahleson and Nebraska Republican Liberty Caucus chair Laura Ebke, the state’s main spokesperson for the Ron Paul movement, announced a detente, with Fahleson promising to call off the extra security and Ebke saying that she would discourage out-of-state Paulistas from trying to attend the Nebraska convention.
Despite the enthusiasm of the Paulistas, the Paul campaign is not hopeful that it will win in Nebraska this weekend, in part because of the Establishment opposition and in part because the campaign’s delegate counters don’t think they have the numbers to win a plurality in Nebraska.
“We don’t think we’re going to win, but the delegates have surprised us before,” a source familiar with the campaign told Business Insider. “It is hard to sustain enthusiasm this late in the campaign — and some people don’t want broken bones.”
But that hasn’t stopped Paul’s Nebraska supporters — and the rest of the Ron Paul World — from putting up their best effort in Nebraska. Paul activists have held a series of meetings and conference calls, laying out a plan of attack for the state convention.
The three-point plan, detailed in a post on the Daily Paul online forum, includes making sure that all of Paul’s people know who to vote for at the convention; forcing the delegates at the convention to hold a vote on the convention chair; and making sure that the delegate votes are counted by hand, not by machines.
This last point appears to be of particular concern to Paul activists. In the days leading up the convention, Paul’s Nebraska delegates held several conference calls to discuss the threat of an electronic ballot count, warning that it is the easiest way for the GOP Establishment to cheat Paul out of a convention speaking slot.
These warnings tend to be laced with the sort of conspiracy theories that have come to characterise the Ron Paul movement. In a conference call on Thursday, a Ron Paul activist warned that electronic ballot counts can be corrupted by “someone in New York, or Canada, or Venezuela.”
At the same time, the fears about vote count fraud have also been substantiated, most notably by errors in the ballot counting during January’s Iowa caucuses, which led the state GOP to declare Romney the winner, only to announce two weeks later that Rick Santorum had actually won the vote.
At this point, it is not clear whether the Nebraska GOP will insist on electronic ballot counting. If they do, then chaos will almost certainly ensue this weekend, regardless of any truce that the Establishment GOP and the Ron Paul camps have brokered.
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