Just when they thought it was safe to pack up their hats and horns and head to the beach, or at least to the Tampa Convention Center for the 2012 Republican National Convention, representatives of the state’s Grand Old Party have lost their harmonious hum.
Cue the ominous theme music.
Some insiders fear there’s a predator coming to take a bite out of the coronation of Mitt Romney. It’s not an 18-foot Great White, but an equally frightening thought for state party bosses – the pallid specter of libertarian saint Ron Paul.
Paul has a feisty following of like-minded thinkers in Nevada, and there’s no shortage of them in the state’s national delegation. Paul’s Silver State soldiers swoon at the mere mention of the name of the Republican congressman from Texas. In Paul, they seem to see a man they would follow not merely into the voting booth, but into a revolution. Paul is their man for all seasons.
Trouble is, the political season wasn’t kind to Paul – not even in Nevada, where he ran a noisy third in the GOP presidential caucuses in February behind Romney (who garnered 50 percent of the vote) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Paul finished equally out of the running elsewhere. His message remained consistent – a rarity during the primary campaign – but his voice was drowned out by Romney, Rick Santorum and even Gingrich.
Where others would have taken a hint and accepted defeat, Paul’s true believers have continued to wrestle with the political reality. Last week, delegation chairman and ardent Paul supporter Wayne Terhune made it clear the Nevada delegation would attempt to nominate their political hero from the convention floor. Thanks to the chaos that exists inside the state party and their efforts at the state convention, a large number of Paul supporters were chosen national convention delegates.
Not even Terhune can realistically expect such a move to have much positive impact. It’s a virtual impossibility that would violate written and unwritten rules.
But the fact Terhune, and not state GOP Chairman Michael McDonald, is the chairman of the convention delegation tells you something about how well the Romney and Paul factions inside the GOP are communicating with the state party. Back in July, months after Paul’s caucus defeat, Romney supporter McDonald lost the convention chairman’s spot to Terhune by a single vote.
In late June, Washoe County GOP Chairman Dave Buell filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission seeking to separate the Northern Nevada group from the state party. And the boat has kept rocking.
Respected Nevada GOP veteran Sue Lowden flew into Tampa this past week to attempt to resolve the delegation’s Paul fantasies and prevent a potentially mortifying development on national television. On Friday afternoon, McDonald caught a flight to Tampa for the same purpose: trying to impress upon the group the importance of showing a unified front at a time when the political world is watching.
While some might consider Paul’s apparition inside the Nevada delegation a sign of its independence, the national press is likely to see it as a sign its members don’t watch CNN and Fox and haven’t read a newspaper in seven months. The Paul Revolution is officially over for this season, or so you’d think.
With a majority of Nevada delegates being card-carrying Paul supporters who are suspicious of Romney’s credentials – just as they were suspicious of U.S. Sen. John McCain’s conservative bona fides four years ago – there’s still the possibility of a disruption in the convention’s overriding message: party unity.
It’s nearly September, people. By now, Nevada Republicans all should be onboard the SS Romney – even if it makes some of them seasick.
Party unity inside the Nevada Republican Party?
It looks like they’re gonna need a bigger boat.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.