Mitt Romney has the national momentum but Ron Paul has the manpower in organizing delegates for Minnesota’s congressional district and state conventions.
Delegate numbers are imprecise but Republican activists agree that through the precinct caucuses and Senate district conventions, the Paul campaign has snagged a significant block of delegates.
“The Paul people are very effective, very organized and determined,” said Patrick Connelly, a Republican consultant. His state Senate district 64A had eight delegates to send to the congressional level and, according to Connelly, “Paul got them all.”
At this point it’s worth mentioning how Minnesota, with no national primary, goes about selecting its 40 delegates to the Republican National Convention in August. Round one took place at the precinct caucuses in February. Those elected delegates went on to the next tier, the BPOU (basic political organizing unit), usually defined by the Minnesota Senate district. These delegates move on to the congressional district (CD) conventions, starting April 13. The CD conventions each name three people who will be delegates to the GOP national convention. The Republican state convention in May will choose 16 other delegates to join them
At each step of this process, delegates may or may not have a presidential preference. With virtually no presence from Mitt Romney and a minimal effort by Rick Santorum, the Paul organization has excelled at nailing down delegates as supporters.
“Basically, we look at conventions and causes for what they really are,” said Paul supporter Adam Weigold, chair of the 5th congressional district, which includes Minneapolis. “It’s about who shows up and stays active in the party. We’re going to work for this.”
Typical Paul supporter
Weigold, 28, typifies the Paul supporter – young, urban and focused on Paul’s core messages of debt reduction, military caution, and states’ rights. “Constantly negotiating with the left is not good,” he said. “We want to change the party to recognize that it’s the youth that will pay.”
Paul’s statewide coordinator, Marianne Stebbins of Excelsior, agrees the candidate’s strength lies with under-40 voters in the metro area. “But we have seen a bit of a shift, more supporters who have worked for the party for a long time,” she said.
Courting delegates is a task. “To say it’s herding cats is an understatement,” said Stebbins. “But they are motivated because they see a candidate who just doesn’t stand for the principles of the Republican Party, he has the record.”
This passion for Paul draws criticism from some Republicans who say supporters won’t soldier on once Romney, presumably, locks up the nomination. They just don’t get it, is the Paul response. “This isn’t the first time a candidate came into the party trying to change direction,” Weigold said, referencing Ronald Reagan. “To say someone is not a Republican is not the right approach. It’s people coming into the party who say what a Republican should be.”
The Minnesota Paul supporters are hoping for a brokered national convention; that is, no nomination is locked up on the first ballot. They see such a development, although not likely, as healthy for the party and the national debate. And even if the nomination is determined on the first ballot, Paul supporters envision a spotlight. “It’s having an influence, a say in the platform, having a speaking role, greater movement to bring the Republican Party back to its roots of small, less-intrusive government,” Stebbins said.
Stebbins, though, is well aware that politics is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and will not divert her attention from the job at hand – getting Paul-committed delegates to be at the congressional district conventions and then the state convention. “Compared to four years ago, I have seen a lot higher numbers of Paul supporters being elected delegates,” Weigold said. “It’s a question of if they show up.”
Party insiders are predicting they will. Whether it’s one Paul delegate to the national convention, or five, or all 40, odds are the Texas Congressman will have a voice hailing from the Minnesota delegation.