Republicans ready for change
In the first Republican presidential debate in 2007, Rep. Ron Paul faced down frontrunner New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani and started a movement by saying 9-11 was largely the result of blowback caused by U.S. interventions in the Middle East. Ron Paul won the internet wars but never won a primary state. He did win the most delegates in caucus states like Iowa, Nevada and others.
Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney won the straw votes, but in a caucus state, once initial polling is reported, some voters go home and stop participating. Insurgent candidates can motivate activists to become delegates at the party conventions and support their candidate instead of the candidate that won the straw poll.
In 2008, Ron Paul activists made such a clamor at the Nevada State Convention that the McCain establishment panicked and shut the convention down, inspiring a lot of “Don’t Gavel Me, Bro” T-shirts. In 2012 the Nevada State Convention was much more welcoming, but at the national convention televised Orwellian theater ensued when state delegations who announced votes for Paul saw the party bosses seconds later publicly record their votes for Romney.
At the last Nevada Legislature, Rand Paul supporters won a victory when an attempt to establish a Republican primary instead of caucuses failed. However, there are now tighter bylaws designed to require caucus-goers to vote for the straw poll winner at conventions. Nevada freedom activists are fighting to have the bylaws changed in the hopes of having a more open national convention.
Paul has slipped in the polls but his operatives insist they are establishing a very strong ground campaign. Paul said he was spoiling for a fight at the Republican debate, and he showed it by going after both Gov. Chris Christie and Donald Trump, perhaps sounding a bit too shrill. Christie is a 9-11 bully who brags about putting Hemant Lakhani, a deluded septuagenarian with no actual terrorist connections, in prison. His penchant for threatening medical marijuana states is as grating as his self-aggrandizement over his role in enforcing the Patriot Act. Rand Paul said he should get a warrant to wiretap suspected terrorists and stop collecting information on ordinary Americans. Bitter beer face Brit Hume opined that Christie won the encounter but the neocons said the same thing about Giuliani and Paul’s father. I predict Christie, like Giuliani, will exit the field long before a candidate named Paul does.
What impressed me most was Paul refused to back down when grilled on his position to end foreign aid first to enemy states but also later to Israel until we have a balanced budget. His best line was, “You cannot project power from bankruptcy court.” Libertarians and constitutional conservatives actually want to cut the government, while many Republicans just want to control it to benefit their own special interests. Rand Paul declared he was a “new kind of Republican.”
Sen. Paul is a favorite among Republican activists in Nevada, but there will be a moderate vote for Bush and a religious vote for evangelicals like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, whose campaigns, to paraphrase Joe Biden, have been a noun, a verb and Israel. Trump has the anti-immigration vote so far and is leading the Nevada polls. With Sheldon Adelson’s billions that make Donald Trump look like trailer trash looming over Nevada, it took courage for Paul to say eventually we have to let Israel stand on its own two feet.
We will see if the Republican Party is ready for real change.