The buzzing gnat

    Hey, remember Ron Paul? The loquacious libertarian who has lost every Republican contest? The sole remaining Romney challenger, now that Newt Gingrich has junked his second-term dream of colonizing the moon?Paul and his acolytes have been very active under the radar, messing with the Romney campaign’s summer unity scenario. For that reason alone, he warrants our sporadic attention. And we can start with his remarks yesterday on Laura Ingraham’s radio show.The Romney team, mindful that Paul has a following (particularly among young voters), would love to hear him craft a ringing endorsement of the Mittster. Good luck with that. Here was Paul yesterday, critiquing the woes of America:”We can’t boil it down and say ‘it’s Obama’s fault and Romney will be 100 percent different and it will all get better’….I think it’s presumptuous to say ‘the whole thing, the world, is coming to an end because of Obama.’ When you think about the last 50 years, you can’t pin it down on one party or one individual. To say ‘all we need is a Republican who (has) precise differences with (Obama), I think that’s a panacea.” And with respect to his young followers, “They don’t buy into this ‘it’s all Obama’s fault.'”So Ingraham asked him directly: “Would you disagree, then, with Giuliani and other (Republicans) when they say that there is no doubt Mitt Romney would be a better president than Obama?”Paul: “Yeah, I think, marginally so.”There it is. Ron Paul thinks Romney would be “marginally” better than Obama. What a rave review. Clearly, he isn’t anxious to stoke Mitt-thusiam and help unite the party. He seems far more intent on being the gnat that buzzes Mitt’s face. And, as we know, those insects can really be an irritant.Indeed, while our attention has mostly been elsewhere, the Paulites have been busy buzzing the delegate selection process. I won’t bore you with the Byzantine details, but the upshot is that Paulites may wind up with a plurality of the delegates in Louisiana, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, and Massachusetts. You may wonder how this could happen, given the fact that Paul has lost every contest. The short answer is that the delegate-selection process, which typically takes place long after the voters have spoken, is often a low-participation affair and thus vulnerable to grassroots gate-crashers.The Paulites have been working the system hard; it takes a fair bit of organizational moxie to score a plurality of delegates in Massachusetts – Romney’s home state, no less. But they did it last weekend, at the Massachusetts GOP convention. What an embarrassment for Romney. The Paul delegates are supposedly bound by party rules to vote for Romney on the first ballot this summer, in recognition of his Massachusetts primary victory, but some Romney people are worried about a show of defiance on national TV. They’re also worried about Nevada, where a state party convention is poised to elect delegates this weekend. Romney won the Nevada contest back in February, but the Republican National Committee reportedly fears a Paulite takeover during the delegate-selection session – to the point where the RNC’s top lawyer sent a letter to the Nevada state chairman, warning that the Nevada delegation may not be seated at the national confab this summer if the Paulites get more slots than they deserve. Again, the national party is worried that Paul delegates in Nevada could defy the rules and refuse to back Romney on the first ballot.And, delegates aside, there’s a separate front where the Paulites are making mischief. They have taken over the Republican organization in Nevada’s key county – Clark County, which is home to Las Vegas, and home to roughly two-thirds of the state population – and that could have serious repercussions for Romney in November. Nevada is one of the most crucial swing states, and Romney can’t win it without maximum ground-game support from the state GOP. Problem is, the state GOP’s most important county organization will be run by people who think Romney is just marginally better than Obama.It’s the same deal in Iowa, another crucial swing state. Paulites have seized control of the Iowa GOP, installing a Paul supporter as party chairman and winning a majority of the central committee members. At least three of those new members have signaled their reluctance to support Romney at the national convention. The autumn campaign could be worse; as in Nevada, Romney will need help on the ground to maximize turnout. One Iowa Republican operative told the press this week that the Paulite takeover could be “chaotic for the Republican party in Iowa and bring it to a screeching halt. Nobody would rely on the (state party) for anything.”So the big question is, what does Ron Paul really want? If he sees Romney as Obama-lite, and if he’s spurning a third-party candidacy (he’s done little to plan for one), what’s his end game within the party? Even he may not know at the moment, preferring instead to see how developments play out. But, at minimum, he’d surely like to harass the GOP establishment in the hopes of getting some libertarian planks into the party platform. I say “at minimum,” because nobody cares about or bothers to read party platforms anyway. And I doubt whether it matters much (although perhaps it matters to Paul) whether he gets a convention speaking slot in prime time or late afternoon.No, I’m betting on a different end game. The buzzing gnat is methodically assembling a grassroots vehicle  that could catapult his son, Senator Rand Paul, into serious contention four years hence. If Romney goes down in 2012 and Rand runs in 2016, remember that you heard it here first.——-Why are Obama’s usual critics so ticked that he’s spiking the football about Osama bin Laden? Presidents have been boasting about foreign policy achievements since, like, forever. Here’s one of my favorites, from Theodore Roosevelt, the junior member of the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket, boasting in the 1900 campaign about the Spanish-American War: “We drew the sword and waged the most righteous and brilliantly successful foreign war that this generation has seen.”That, and other examples, in my newspaper column today. ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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