Mitt Romney may have officially clinched the Republican nomination Tuesday night with his win in the Texas Primary but he’s not entirely out of the woods yet. Romney won’t formally become the GOP nominee until his party’s convention in Tampa, Fla. Once in Tampa, he will still have to contend with the devoted supporters of Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
As a result of a carefully planned strategy to accumulate delegates, Paul and his libertarian acolytes will have a significant voice in the proceedings in Tampa and could potentially disrupt the nominating process. If so, it won’t be the first time Paulites have started problems inside the Republican Party. Here are five of the biggest disruptions that Paul and his supporters have caused the GOP.
Paul’s first run for president in 1988 wasn’t as a Republican. Instead, Paul, who was then out of Congress after losing a GOP Senate primary in 1984, ran as the standard bearer of the Libertarian Party. Dissatisfied with the direction of the Republican Party under Reagan, Paul publicly left the party and joined the Libertarians, and became the party’s presidential nominee against George H.W. Bush. He didn’t break one half of 1 percent of the national vote, and became permanently labeled as an apostate in the eyes of the Republican establishment.
During his hiatus from Congress, Ron Paul published a series of subscription-only newsletters that helped him share his views as well as make a living. The problem was that they included racist and inflammatory statements including the comment that the 1992 Los Angeles riots ended only when “when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began.” When the story received a lot of national coverage in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, it was an unwelcome distraction for a Republican Party that was already dealing with a lot of racial baggage in trying to defeat an incumbent African-American president.
Return to Congress
In 1995, Paul started toying with a return to Congress as a Republican and running against conservative Democratic incumbent Greg Laughlin. Then Laughlin switched parties as part of a concerted GOP effort to lure conservative Southern Democrats into the Republican fold. Paul ran anyway. Laughlin received a huge amount of national support from Republicans hoping to encourage other elected Democrats to follow suit. Paul eventually won the GOP nomination in a runoff after Laughlin failed to receive 50 percent of the vote in the Republican primary. The result dismayed the establishment Republicans who had gotten behind Laughlin. After all, while Laughlin, like Paul, was a party switcher, he was their party switcher.
Debate and Rudy
The disruption that gave Ron Paul national attention happened in a May 2007 Republican Presidential debate when the Texas congressman asserted that “[the terrorists] attack us because we’ve been over there, we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” In response, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, then the frontrunner, flipped out at Paul, calling that “an extraordinary statement” and “absurd.” Giuliani then demanded Paul “withdraw that comment and tell us he didn’t really mean it.” Paul did not and it put him permanently on the national radar as a unique figure in the GOP.
St. Charles County
Paul’s backers in 2012 have been successful at accumulating delegates through the caucus process, especially in Missouri. But this process has not been painless. At the largest caucus in the Show-Me State held, in St. Charles County, the first attempt at selecting delegates ended in chaos. Police were called, caucus-goers were arrested, and there was general anarchy as Paul supporters clashed with party regulars over the process. Eventually, a make-up caucus was held three weeks later and Paul won handily. But the delay and the confusion made all involved look bad and further muddied the waters in an already murky GOP presidential contest.