This weekend, there were Republican conventions in 8 states. According to Jonathan Martin, Ron Paul supporters are "blitz"ing these conventions:
There are quite a few state GOP conventions this weekend, and reading through the coverage online one finds a recurring theme: the Paul presence.
The libertarian Republican’s hardy band of supporters are showing up at conventions in an effort to win a delegate slot in the Twin Cities in September.
Paul backers have achieved some small success in becoming delegates, but their larger impact has been to offer an element of news at what are largely newsless and ceremonial state party confabs.
My sources indicate that of the 430 delegate or alternate spots available this weekend, Paul supporters won 11. (Read the Washington State account here) Martin, like many other analysts, suggests that this whole phenomenon is bad news for John McCain. I disagree. Read on.
Winning a convention takes significant work. You have to mobilize and coordinate a lot of people. In a number of states like Maine, Missouri, Virginia, or Washington, the McCain campaign did not develop a strong organization before winning the nomination. I have spoken to local and district party officials who had not had contact with the McCain campaign until after their state’s primary or caucus. And in many states, the McCain campaign and Victory have not yet staffed out fully their victory programs. Simply put, there’s been no organization to work with.
But when it comes to convention time, the game is on. Earlier this month, I attended the VA-08 convention. Ron Paul supporters were running for Chairman of VA-08, delegate to the Republican National Convention, and alternate to the Republican National Convention. They were blanked. The elected delegates were Orson Swindle and Tom Brooke, who were McCain-slated delegates, and Helen Blackwell, the wife of long-time Virginia GOP National Committeeman and a former Arlington County GOP Chairwoman.
To win this convention, the McCain campaign had to turn out at least 100 supporters. They succeeded. These are people who in early May were willing to turn out for a good chunk of a gorgeous spring day for John McCain. Anyone who tells you that McCain doesn’t have grassroots and is not present on the ground has to wrestle with these kinds of facts. The McCain campaign is actively developing a grassroots and deploying them successfully in conventions.
In some places, the McCain campaign is probably cooperating with local party leaders to make sure that Ron Paul supporters are not elected. Again, they are working with party leaders to build the trust that you need to effectively run the grassroots component of a national campaign. In most cases, grassroots leaders are even more worried about Ron Paul delegates than the McCain campaign. Those are people who could lose their positions in the party. So the McCain campaign is helping keep these people in power, something that is most important to them. Remember, politics is about mutual addition and benefit. And these conventions are providing the McCain campaign to accumulate good will that it might not have had.
The upshot of all of this is that right now the McCain campaign needs to be building an organization. These conventions are field tests of the quality of organization being built. And the McCain campaign is passing with flying colors. Simplistic analyses like Martin’s, "It’s difficult to see many of these — largely young and anti-war — Paul supporters getting behind McCain," completely miss the point. Right now the campaign shouldn’t be swaying Ron Paul supporters.
And just to make one thing clear. I don’t hate the Paul supporters. On Tuesday, it is very possible that I will be voting for the Ron Paul endorsed Amit Singh for the Republican nomination in VA-08. We need to figure out how to incorporate Paul supporters into the GOP and McCain organizations and learn from some of their significant organizational successes.
More broadly, I’d really love to hear from some Ron Paul supporters about how we could do that. (constructive conversation only please)