As Alana noted, Ron Paul’s speech at his Tampa rally yesterday was an appropriate swan song to a political career during which the Texas congressman has promoted a view of foreign policy that would probably earn more applause from left-wing Democrats than Republicans. Paul won’t speak at the Republican convention this week, but the 177 delegates he won will be there and the media is counting on them to provide a more interesting story line than the scheduled speakers will provide. But given the rules and the “nosebleed” seats being assigned to those state delegations where Paul supporters are numerous, it’s not clear that the adherents to what Paul calls his “liberty movement” will be able to cause much trouble.
The extremist libertarian has to walk a fine line as he defies the Romney camp this week. He doesn’t want to do anything that will sour Republicans on the future ambitions of his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who will (unlike his father) be speaking from the podium. But Paul is as little interested in the traditional courtesies as President Obama and won’t release his delegates to vote for the party’s choice. Nor do the delegates themselves seem inclined to play along with the RNC’s infomercial script. They are hoping to find a way to circumvent the rules and either place Paul’s name in nomination or at least cast their votes for him, rather than let the convention’s choice be unanimous. But those looking to inflate these tiffs into high drama are bound to be disappointed. All Paul’s delegate can really do is act disgruntled about rules changes that will hurt future libertarian challenges and vent their frustration for a liberal press that will happily lap it up.
The original schedule for the convention would have put the roll call — and the potential for a mini-Paulite uprising — outside of the scope of broadcast network coverage. Hurricane Isaac has changed that and therefore the whole nation — or at least that portion of it that is sufficiently interested in the convention to not watch the hundreds of available television channels that will not be showing the Republican show — will get to see what happens when Paul’s supporters attempt to get five delegations recognized to nominate their hero.
But Republicans shouldn’t worry too much about the pique of the Paulites. Even if they get a brief moment of publicity at the convention, that won’t hurt Romney. And though the media is hungry for any sign of dissent from the Romney script, the problem for the Paulites is that hurricane coverage will probably suck up all the time the networks won’t be devoting to the real business of the convention.
Paul’s backers may not vote for Romney on the convention floor, and some of those who backed him in the caucuses may not vote for him in November either. Given that his most ardent fans were often Democrats, that’s not likely to affect Romney’s chances of victory.
All of which means the next time many Americans hear about Ron Paul’s extremist libertarians will be four years from now when they will be mounting a quixotic protest against Mitt Romney’s re-nomination or being swamped by the next generation of Republican leaders like Chris Christie, Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan. The odds are four years from now we’ll be having the same sort of discussion about their attempt to distract us from the winner of that race at the next GOP convention.