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How the Ron Paul takeover could help the state GOP

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday

For all the sturm und drang over what’s going to happen to the state Republican Party with the takeover by Ron Paul supporters, there are bright spots — depending on what kind of Republican you are.

Republicans who are worried about the party’s precarious financial position can take hope in a modicum of fundraising resurgence. A Saturday event with Paul and newly endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills netted the party at least $12,000.

Republicans who want Bills to deliver more than just pluck in his contest with Sen. Amy Klobuchar are being reassured that the new blood is paying off by way of checks. Hours after his endorsement at the state GOP convention last weekend in St. Cloud, Bills held an event with Paul that raised about $20,000 for his Senate campaign.

And there’s more where that came from, says campaign manager Mike Osskopp.  “The Ron Paul organization has tons of money, and Kurt Bills is their number one focus,” he said. “We as Republicans should be damn glad they’re here” he said.  “They will contribute money and they will work hard.”

For a party that desperately needs a clean slate, Bills’ image may be just what the consultant ordered, at least according to party Chair Pat Shortridge. “His style is that of a normal Minnesota guy,” Shortridge said, brushing off criticism that as a Paul supporter Bills will get defined by the quirkier aspects of Paul’s agenda. “He’s not typically what you ascribe to the Republican Party.”

In fact, Bills and Klobuchar are both easy-going, “This has the potential to be the nicest Senate campaign in history,” said Kurt Zellers, Republican speaker of the state House.

DFL responds

The DFL isn’t buying Minnesota nice. The Ron Paul takeover “doesn’t help the Republican Party in any way, shape or form,” said DFL Party Chair Ken Martin. “The untold story is this civil war that’s going on. I think the challenge for political parties is not to become so narrow in your belief system that the extremes dominate the discussion.”

Ron Paul
MinnPost photo by Brian HallidayRon Paul

Paul supporters do hold rigid positions on government spending, national debt and defense, but they have flexibility on issues that have led to deeper divides: gay marriage and abortion. The evidence lies in what happened to two resolutions that were proposed for the party platform at the state convention.

Resolutions to strike the party’s definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman and to eliminate opposition to the expansion of gambling did not pass, but did have the support, respectively, of 33 percent and 41 percent of the delegates.

“From our angle that’s not bad that one out of three wanted to eliminate the definition of marriage from the platform,” said Jake Loesch, who works with Republican coalitions in the campaign to defeat the marriage amendment. “It tells me there are Republicans who want to talk about this.”

The willingness to discuss issues impressed former Gov. Al Quie, a convention delegate whose political mission is to replace contested judicial elections with a yes or no election based on performance reviews. “Most amazing to me is the young people,” he said. “It was real fun to deal with them because an awful lot of them came to understand what I was driving at.”

Gambling, gay marriage and even abortion are either low priority for the typical Paul supporter or simply seen as areas where government doesn’t belong. “I’m an old redneck and I don’t like the idea [of gay marriage] but I think the government should stay out of the issue,” said one delegate. “Liberty applies to everybody. As far as pro-life, Roe v. Wade is the law, let the states decide individually.”

Next hurdle

Whether Paul supporters succeed in modifying the party platform and drawing more acolytes to run for local and legislative office will require them to conquer yet another layer of power. The GOP State Central Committee, a group of about 200, elects the party officers, controls the budget and, in general, determines the party’s direction.

It was clear they don’t yet have control over the committee that this weekend replaced Pat Anderson as national committeewoman. Anderson was seen as too cozy with the Paul people and openly challenged the party on its opposition to gambling with her work as a lobbyist for Canterbury Park.

“The mission now is to take over state central, and that will happen next year,” confidently declared Bill Jungbauer, a Paul supporter, delegate and a member of the party’s executive committee. The party selects members of the central committee during off-election years.

Gutting and reassembling a political party usually takes years, but Ron Paul supporters managed to do so in less than one election cycle — in large part because there wasn’t much of a party left. 

Moderation on social issues may not be enough to restore the confidence of Republicans like George Pillsbury. Once a generous financial supporter of the party, Pillsbury was labeled a traitor by former party Chair Tony Sutton for supporting the Independence Party candidate for governor in 2010. “I’m nervous about the Ron Paul proposals and the unwillingness to pay for any kind of government service,” he said.

For former Gov. Arne Carlson, another “traitor,” the Paul takeover demonstrates “there really is no Republican philosophy anymore. Paul at least showed a high level of consistency in a field dominated by professional panderers.” 

To hold on to Republican legislative majorities, to position the party to compete in the next governor’s race, to build an organization and to deliver a message that appeals to voters, the work of Paul supporters has just begun. Well-wishers, naysayers and fence-sitters agree, the Republican party is in for a bumpy ride.

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/22/2012 - 10:13 am.

    The Tea and the Paul people are not groups that want to support the “infrastructure” of the Republican party. The Republican party is just seen as a way of quickly magnifying their importance by taking over some highly visible portions of the party, but they don’t have the drive to maintain the party as it exists now.

    If you aren’t willing to support “big government”, why would you be willing to support “big party”?

    The other funding source for the party, big business, has an uneasy relationship with the Tea partiers and the Paulites and business certainly does not support the populist goals of either. This gap will only get greater as time moves on.

    If the Republican party is an elephant, the Paulites and Tea partiers are the mahouts who will not feed their ride–with the expected results.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/22/2012 - 10:58 am.


    I’d like to remind Dr. Paul’s supporters and others that he is a baby doctor who has delivered over 4,000 babies and he is strongly anti-abortion.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/22/2012 - 05:15 pm.

      Proving what, exactly?

      The Ron Paul supporters I know were attracted to him for his positions on foreign wars, defense spending, and civil liberties. Most, if not all, of them are pro-choice. When I ask them how they manage to an anti-abortion candidate, they resort to some inaudible mutters (“I don’t agree with everything he says-up to the states to decide-not the only important issue”) and try to change the subject.

    • Submitted by David Dukes on 05/22/2012 - 06:54 pm.

      re: abortion

      Dr. Paul also realises that government has no business in personal freedoms. Until we repeal the murder allowing abortion bills on the books…it is a law, and it is between you and your creator what sins you decide to commit…Dr. Paul is anti-abortion…or rather Pro-Life, from inception til death…but he is not pushing his personal agendas as many other candidates do. He pushes the agendas named in the Constitution, because THAT is the ONLY job a Congressman should be doing. Our government has become WAY to involved in our lives. We are been “lawed” to death..personal liberty? Whats that anymore? If Obama had his choice, we would all have a state-mandated schedule, that would decide every single thing we do from the moment we wake up, til we go to bed. What we eat, what we drink, what we take for medicine, how many miles we can drive to work, how much we get paid…etc…The governments only job is to defend our liberties, THAT is what a representative government is supposed to be. But the “NEW AMERICANS” want everything provided to them, equally, and they dont want to work for it. America may just be in its last decade of freedom… as witnessed in the socializing of our programs and policies. In other words…at the end of its Empire…as many others have foolishly done.

  3. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 05/22/2012 - 11:23 am.

    Headline out of whack

    OK, I read the headline. Then I read the story. How does a semi-hostile takeover by a bunch of narrow-minded extremists help a major party that, but definition, needs to have a big tent to attract all sorts of voters?

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/22/2012 - 08:22 pm.

      Because you either believe in freedom or you don’t

      And republicans of all stripes, social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and small government libertarians all have that in common. Which you’ll see in November.

      • Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 05/23/2012 - 12:36 pm.

        OK, I’ll bite, Dennis…

        Define freedom.

        All I see from these so-called “freedomists” is a) freedom for the rich but a bunch of rules in the bedroom; b) freedom to tell other countries how to live; c) and freedom from community so they can live in misery.

        What freedom?

  4. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 05/22/2012 - 12:29 pm.

    Paul vs Tea

    It seems to me that the Paulites are longer lasting because they are based on ideology, while the Tea Party is a polyglot group largely united by anger. If you ask a Tea Party person specifics, you rarely get a straight, unequivocally answer. Ask a Paul supporter, they know what they support and the ideological underpinnings. Not always factual, IMHO, but they can answer. This more conservative, more Libertarian movement is actually pretty old. It has roots in the anti-Roosevelt movement on the 40-50’s. It took Hoover to stop them for Truman. Eisenhower also battled tis faction during his term and was able to shut hem down because he was a war hero. It resurfaced in 64 and 68. It has been bubbling under he surface for a long time, probably arose now due to such a leadership vacuum in the Republican party. They are reduced to name calling, as their ideas are exhausted. So anyone with a coherent ideology seems to be a viable alternative to the tired, empty, establishment.

  5. Submitted by Steven Houghton on 05/22/2012 - 06:15 pm.

    Romney Fraud

    The Romney Camp has been reduced to outright fraud at the conventions. This has already been well documented. WHY ISN’T THIS STORY BEING COVERED.

  6. Submitted by David Dukes on 05/22/2012 - 06:41 pm.


    Its amazing that anyone can speak against the staying power of Paul supporters, especially after seeing how organized and informed they are. I constantly read little smirks about how “unfactual” or”crazy” we can be…yet nobody can ever pin down the fact that we were wrong on, or which “crazy” policy we stand for. Terminology is a strong tool that the media uses to lead the weak, and they play that fiddle hard. There is nothing crazy about fiscal responsibility, smaller government, peace, and a solid currency. What is crazy, is this free for all spending, endless debt, and never ending warfare that is destroying this nastion financially. Its pretty common knowledge that World War 2 lasted 4 years…so why are we still in a third world country 10 years later? Because its not a war, its an occupation. We are not defending others freedoms or rights, we are securing oil pipelines, and protecting opium fields for the big pharm’s, and we cant be defending America against a country, that doesnt even have an army strong enough to manage their own nation…much less attack ours. How can they be a threat, when they dont have a Navy to get troops here? Anybody with an ounce of common sense would see past the lies, and see the military industrial complexes war proffiteering that is the true purpose to these wars, and half the wars through history. Paul supporters see through all the smokescreens…and we’ve had it with the destruction of all the principles that made this nation strong, to appease the wealthy/welfare proponents. We do have backbone, and we will see thuis thing through. And by the way…Dr. Paul is in tghis thing to win it…that lie is getting as worn out as the race card.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/23/2012 - 08:28 am.

    Abortion and libertarians

    The mediocrity of Republican intellect has finally caught up with them. 40 years of anti-intelletucalism was bound to produce party of dullards in the sooner or later. Now Paulite’s have exploited that quality and simply outsmarted the party.

    If you think libertarians are going to support an agenda that obliterates the right to privacy you are on the wrong planet. The one thing libertarians can do with the Republican party is erase the glaring contradiction between pretending to defend privacy and criminalizing abortion. The party platform declares that Republicans believe in the right to privacy, but the primary argument for criminalizing abortion is that there is no right to privacy. The pro-fetus challenge to abortion is that “privacy” is a legal fiction created by activist judges and that fertilized eggs are people covered by the Bill of Rights. The theory is that there is no constitutional guarantee of privacy. The practical effect of this would be to convert every fertilized egg in the nation into a ward of the state, every woman of childbearing age into a second class citizen, and give the government unlimited access to all medical records. Libertarians get that, and they’ll never go for it. People here claiming to be libertarians who support criminalizing abortion are actually just Tea Partyer’s who are, as usual, confused. Ron Paul, is never going to support letting the government dictate reproductive rights or the obliteration of privacy rights.

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