Presidential candidate Ron Paul, effectively denied a chance to address this weekend’s Republican State Convention, plans to speak instead to his supporters and other participants Friday morning outside the Mayo Civic Center convention site in Rochester.
The decision follows several unsuccessful requests to the state GOP seeking a speaking slot for the Texas congressman, according to Marianne Stebbins, Minnesota coordinator for the Paul presidential campaign.
Stebbins said that a letter from GOP chair Ron Carey on Friday said he would only consider allowing Paul to speak if he “withdraws from the presidential race and publicly endorses our presumptive nominee, Senator John McCain, prior to our convention.”
Considering Carey’s “one condition” unacceptable, the Minnesota Paul campaign confirmed the Friday morning event.
“I put in five calls to the MN GOP over the past several weeks, requesting a simple yes or no on letting Dr. Paul speak, with no response,” said Stebbins, “and only received the written denial following a demand for response via certified mail.”
Depending on Paul’s flight schedule, supporters may invite him to the convention after it begins in an effort to let delegates decide for themselves if they wish to hear him speak briefly, according to Stebbins.
Efforts to reach GOP officials over the weekend were unsuccessful.
From ‘dismissal’ to ‘challenge’
In early April, Paul supporters won six of 12 delegate slots to the September GOP national convention at 4th, 5th and 6th District conventions. Since then, GOP leadership has expressed attitudes toward Paul supporters that ranged from dismissal to outright antagonism. In a recent email memo to the GOP “Leadership Team,” Minnesota state party chair Ron Carey now calls Paul supporters “a serious challenge.”
The question remains, “A serious challenge to what?”
Are Paul supporters a serious challenge to GOP unity because they stubbornly insist on supporting a candidate with no chance of winning the presidential nomination?
Are they a serious challenge because their touted delegate victories at district conventions were by plurality, not majority, votes and undermine aggregate state party support for McCain?
Or are Paul supporters a serious challenge to what they contend is the façade of Republican principles reflected in the likes of “transcendent” candidate McCain and other Republican candidates?
Paul supporters are under no delusion that their man can wrest the nomination away from presumptive GOP nominee McCain. They see Paul’s continued presence in the race, however, as neither Quixotic stubbornness nor entirely symbolic. Supporters view it as a means to continue the effort to return the party to Goldwater-Reagan principles.
“Having the majority [of Minnesota’s 41 delegates to the GOP National Convention] means we can appoint our own people to the platform and other national convention committees, and it gives us a better chance of having Ron Paul speak at the national convention,” Stebbins said in an email to Paul supporters.
Anticipating a state convention rules report that would be designed to keep Paul advocates from becoming national delegates, Stebbins says supporters will ask convention delegates to amend the rules to make them more fair and open to all interested in competing for the delegates slots.
“Other challenges to the rules may be brought in an orderly fashion, but by no means as an attempt to disrupt the convention,” said Stebbins. “We simply favor an open, democratic process to allow for the delegation to make decisions about whom it wishes to support.”
On the issue of Paul delegates winning national delegates slots based on pluralities, rather than majorities, Stebbins replied that in all such cases, convention rules were followed.Specifically in the 6th District, she said, convention rules allowed the election of delegates with less than 51 percent of the vote. Stebbins noted that Paul supporters garnered all three delegate slots in the 5th District, which followed a majority rule.
“We anticipate the state convention having a 50 percent rule in place (to elect national delegates), and we will have to meet that goal,” says Stebbins. “All we are asking for is a fair and open process.”
Paul supporters directly involved in the congressman’s campaign lay claim to a history of working within the Republican Party from the local to the district to the state and national levels.
Positioning Paul supporters as “a serious challenge” without offering specifics risks alienating many loyal party members, both inside and outside the Paul camp, supporters believe. Better for the party, they argue, to debate issue differences among Republicans right up to the actual September nomination at the convention in St. Paul.
Fwd: FW: Fwd: Turn out your folks, please!
Dueling emails between the Paul campaign and the state GOP lend credence to Paul supporters’ contention of a rift between party leadership and the party’s grass-roots. Emails urging delegate turnout for McCain came not from his campaign, Stebbins notes, but directly from GOP chair Carey. She contends that such action encouraging turnout for only one candidate is a misuse of the GOP chairman’s power. The party bylaws, she says, clearly forbid such activity.
In an email to the GOP “Leadership Team,” Ron Carey wrote, “We need to realize that all the planning in the world is for naught, if our traditional conservative Republican Delegates and alternates do not turn out in Rochester … Every Ron Paul supporter will be in Rochester to swell their ranks. Empty chairs will be filled with Ron Paul Alternates. Please take this as a serious challenge … We need to have a full convention delegation that reflects the strong majority support across the state for our presumptive nominee, John McCain.”
Carey’s email included an attached email from Stebbins to Paul supporters urging the candidate’s delegates and alternates to turn out. Stebbins then attached Carey’s email and her prior email to a new one urging Paul supporters to show up in Rochester.
“Ron Carey is now forwarding my emails in an effort to turn out McCain delegates,” said Stebbins. “I’m turning it back on him.”
“We cannot stress how important it will be for each Ron Paul delegate and alternate to be in Rochester for the state convention,” Stebbins exhorted Paul supporters in her first email. “We have elected 7 delegates to the national convention so far, and if we can get the 14 from state elected, we will send a majority for Ron Paul to the national convention. … We CAN elect these 14 from state, but … it is going to take every last Ron Paul delegate and alternate. A delegate who doesn’t show is likely to be replaced by a McCain alternate.”
Carey countered in response: “I need your help to motivate EVERY member of your delegation to get to Rochester and be in their chairs at 9 AM Friday … In Oklahoma, the Ron Paul people immediately tried to take control of the convention as soon as the gavel went down. … Please work … to get people in Rochester who support John McCain by early Friday AM.”
Some of those delegates, Stebbins is betting, will arrive even earlier — to listen to Congressman Paul.
Ron Paul to speak Friday morning
Texas Rep. Ron Paul is scheduled to address supporters and others at 7:30 a.m. Friday outside the State Republican Convention, which runs through Saturday in Rochester. The event will be at Mayo Memorial Park, which is adjacent to the Mayo Civic Center, site of the convention.