It’s been fascinating for me to watch the near complete media blackout that Congressman Ron Paul’s campaign’s been getting of late. He’s gotten short shrift this entire primary season, of course, but in recent weeks, it’s becoming more and more egregiously obvious just how far out of their way the media is going to ignore him. You’d be forgiven if you thought that, like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, Ron Paul had already dropped out of the race. He hasn’t, but even before the other two actually did drop out, in a telling move, CNN had already bumped Congressman Paul from its Election Tracker.
Did you hear that he won both the Maine and Nevada GOP conventions this past weekend? No? Not to worry, no one else did either. Unless you checked reddit politics, or are a Paulbot yourself, it’s unlikely that you heard much of anything about it. CNN didn’t even mention it—not a peep!—until this morning.
All of this reminds me of what happened in 1991 when I was working on Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign in New York. Brown was running an insurrectionary populist campaign to secure the Democratic nomination and had improbably come from behind to kick Bill Clinton’s ass in the previous primary, held in Connecticut. The Brown campaign went from a few people—like ten—to a few hundred to a few thousand people in Manhattan within the space of a single week.
There was the feel of a “movement” happening for Brown’s candidacy in New York, but if you went to the Clinton headquarters, you were greeted by two nicely dressed yuppies, a male and a female who smiled, handed you some campaign literature and hit you up for a donation. Brown’s headquarters, by comparison was BUZZING with activity with hundreds of people coming in and out all day long grabbing stacks of flyers and then coming back when they had exhausted them. People from all walks of life. I recall painter Brice Marden working the phone bank with me and several members of the hospital worker’s union.
Nevertheless, as is happening with Ron Paul today, Jerry Brown was written off as a “fringe” candidate and largely ignored by the local media. It was frankly astonishing what I was seeing printed in the five major daily papers for sale in New York City at that (pre-Internet) time. Rallies where I’d see Broadway and 72nd Street CLOSED from overflow crowds of 10,000 people easily, got reported as a “small crowd” or as a fraction of how many people I’d seen with my own eyes. In the pages of the NY Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The NY Times and the WSJ 10,000 people at the corner of 72nd and Broadway wouldn’t even merit a mention. Let alone a TV news crew (who were never around) being assigned to cover it. When they would write about Brown, the reports would always contradict not only each other, but what I’d witnessed myself.
Brown was a non-presence at the Democratic convention that nominated Bill Clinton, but don’t expect Ron Paul to go away so quietly. My friend Dr. Timothy Stanley, an Oxford University historian and author of the new book The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan wrote in a CNN opinion piece last week that:
Paul’s campaign represents a message that is bigger and perhaps more popular than the candidate himself. As it continues to collect small numbers of delegates and capture control of local GOPs, Paulism is proving itself to be in rude health. Long after Mitt Romney is nominated, feted at the convention, beaten by Obama and recycled as a question on Jeopardy (“In 2012, he lost every state but Utah.” “Who is ... Britt Gormley?”), Paul’s philosophy will still be a factor in national politics—something to be feared and courted in equal measure.
Team Paul has certainly made some big errors this year, such as exclusively focusing on Iowa and New Hampshire. Although he did well in both, only a first in either would have really justified the expense. Thereafter, the campaign unwisely ignored South Carolina and Florida, reasoning that their expensive media markets weren’t worth the effort. As a consequence, Paul was ignored for weeks until Nevada. I am informed by Paul sources that their campaign was counting on Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to drop out after they realized they couldn’t win, which would have allowed Ron Paul to emerge as the only conservative challenger to Romney.
All weekend, the right-wing “news” machine harped over and over about how Obama failed to fill an auditorium in Ohio as he kicked off his campaign, but reports say that the President saw 14,000 people turn out in a 17,000 seat auditorium. Apparently Ron Paul has been getting well over 10,000 people showing up at his rallies all year long. Hell, Ron Paul drew 7000 people out to hear him speak in the liberal stronghold of Los Angeles and I live here and I heard nothing about this. And for a little perspective, Romney’s barely been able to draw 1000 people during his campaign stops (usually more like 100 people). Look at where the heat is. It’s not on Romney on a grassroots level. It’s just NOT. The momentum is still with Ron Paul, in many respects.
There’s virtually zero chance, of course, that Ron Paul will grab that golden ring that Mitt Romney has sought for so long, but expect his delegates to be rowdy and disruptive when the cameras are on them at this summer’s GOP convention. On Sunday, Ron Paul told thousands of supporters in his home state of Texas that they “have infiltrated the Republican Party” in the name of liberty. His supporters have a right to be angry, they’ve seen the GOP establishment try to thwart their man at every turn—just last week the RNC’s chief legal counsel, Michael McDonald, said if Ron Paul delegates in Nevada are allowed to take too many slots for the national convention, that the state’s entire contingent may not be seated at the Tampa national Republican convention. From The Hill:
The RNC is concerned that the Paul campaign will game the state-level convention this weekend that selects delegates to the national convention. While Mitt Romney should be awarded 20 of the state’s 28 delegates, based on his dominating win in the state’s primary, it’s possible that Paul supporters could exploit their strength in the Nevada GOP to get named to some of those delegate slots.
The national party is apparently concerned those delegates would then ignore party rules that would bind them to vote for Romney on the first round of balloting.
“If a prospective delegate’s name is certified to the RNC but has not been approved by an authorized representative of the candidate he or she professes to support, grounds for a contest may exist,” Phillippe wrote. “In any case, to the extent a prospective delegate is purportedly elected in excess of the number of slots allocated to his or her preferred candidate, such delegate will be bound to vote at the national convention for the candidate to whom that delegate was allocated.”
The national Republican organization is increasingly anxious over the ability of the Paul campaign to take over state-level organizations, especially in states like Iowa and Nevada that have outsized importance on the nominating process. National Republicans worry that if grassroots party loyalists aren’t supporting the presumptive nominee, the party could struggle against President Obama’s fundraising and organizational efforts. But Paul supporters say they should be credited for their ability to organize and win all-important delegates.
The congressman himself said Monday that his campaign was “doing very, very well” by exploiting some of the party’s more obscure delegate selection rules.
True, Paul’s strategy does seem to be to exploit certain idiosyncrasies in the nominating process for his own purposes, but nevertheless, rules are rules. It will be interesting to see what kind of infighting and dust-ups might occur in Tampa this year and why not? Romney’s going to lose anyway.
See several scenes of Ron Paul speaking in front of vast crowds between February and April, 2012 at Hang the Bankers.
Below, a local Nevada news report discusses some of the shenanigans of this weekend’s conclave: