Will Romney’s convention be Palin and Paul’s insurrection?

By Nicholas Wapshott
August 6, 2012

Barely three weeks before the Republican convention opens in Tampa, Florida, the party is deep in the throes of a barely disguised civil war. This is nothing new. The struggle for the soul of the GOP between conservative traditionalists and libertarian radicals has been going on now for more than 40 years, since Barry Goldwater briefly (and disastrously) wrested the presidential nomination from the corporatist Northeastern fat cats who ran the party for their own benefit. Ronald Reagan’s presidency was a breakthrough for the Goldwater stalwart, though now even Reaganites are finding it uncomfortable as they fend off the Tea Party’s nihilistic insurgency.

The shock defeat in Texas of Rick Perry sidekick David Dewhurst at the hands of Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz was chilling for the Republican establishment. And there in the background, celebrating Cruz’s Senate primary victory with hockey mom gusto, was Sarah Palin, queen by acclamation of the Tea Party. If even ultraconservative Perry’s pick is now considered too traditional, too establishment, too safe, too left-wing for the Tea Party acolytes purging old-guard and dead-wood incumbents, which old-school Republicans can consider themselves safe? Cruz’s surprise success has proved to the GOP establishment that its days are numbered. Denial is futile. The Tea Party mob is coming for them.

Despite a lackluster economy, 23 million unemployed, unpopular healthcare legislation and a president portrayed as an elitist Kenyan Muslim socialist, Romney is still only neck and neck with Obama. And in the battleground states, Obama has a clear lead. Romney’s campaign managers know they must somehow enthuse the GOP base, but between them and the Republican grass roots are two gatekeepers who have maintained a studied insouciance about their official champion: Palin and libertarian-in-chief Ron Paul. Neither can bring themselves to unreservedly endorse Romney, a man who in the eyes of their supporters is not only part of the Republican Party’s problem but the nation’s problem, too. He is a privileged, ultrarich, blue-blood dilettante without any burning convictions who has decided to forgo a life of moneyed leisure to dabble in a White House run. In brief, he is not one of them.

The convention in Tampa at the end of the month is the last chance Romney has to persuade the party faithful he deserves their affection and support. The easiest way to achieve that would have been to invite Palin and Paul to speak at the convention and urge their followers to take a deep breath, cross their fingers and vote for the party, not the man. Therein lies the problem. Palin is a powerful speaker when preaching to the choir. It is not a question of whether Romney should invite her to speak, but how to get her to stay on message. For once, Lyndon Johnson’s gloriously vulgar aphorism about J. Edgar Hoover pissing in or out of the tent doesn’t apply. Palin will either be outside the tent pissing in, or inside the tent, pissing. Her big-bucks backers, SarahPac, have already acquired a perch close to the convention hall from which they can cause trouble whether or not their heroine is invited to speak. In the end, the GOP decided to leave Palin out in the cold. She was not invited to speak at the convention.

Ron Paul has earned himself a prominent place in the convention. Technically, he is still a candidate and has a small army of delegates he hopes to leverage with Romney in some way, though exactly what he has in mind is hard to fathom. His libertarian stance on decriminalizing hard drugs, leaving the uninsured to beg for treatment rather than oblige them to buy health insurance, and bringing home our armed forces only to fire them makes it impossible for Paul to become Romney’s veep. He would scare away all the moderate, floating, undecided voters who need to be wooed if Romney is going to squeak a win in November. Would Paul dare force a floor vote just to prove a point? It’s certainly in his contrarian nature.

Palin feels she has been shut out of Tampa for criticizing the GOP establishment she believes turned on her when she was John McCain’s vice-presidential candidate. “I’m not the only one accepting consequences for calling out both sides of the aisle for spending too much money, putting us on the road to bankruptcy, and engaging in crony capitalism,” she told Newsweek. “This isn’t Sadie Hawkins and you don’t invite yourself and a date to the Big Dance.” The Paul forces, meanwhile, are in a feisty mood, accusing the Republican hierarchy of “grossly and blatantly and repeatedly” breaking party rules to deprive their candidate of delegates that are rightly his. Unless Romney’s people come up with a way of keeping Palin and Paul sweet, Tampa may prove as destructive in its way as the street-fighting Chicago Convention was to the Democrats in 1968.

Nicholas Wapshott’s Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics is published by W.W. Norton. Read extracts here. Follow @nwapshott at Twitter.

PHOTO via Ted Cruz for Senate Flickr page.

16 comments

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[...] for GOP confabThe Associated PressRice,Haley,McCain on GOP Speaker ListWall Street Journal (blog)Will Romney's convention be Palin and Paul's insurrection?Reuters Blogs (blog)New York Times (blog) -Washington Postall 312 news [...]

[...] Sen. John McCain of Arizona, …McCain, Haley among first announced for GOP confabBoston.comWill Romney's convention be Palin and Paul's insurrection?Reuters Blogs (blog)Rice, Haley, McCain on GOP Speaker ListWall Street Journal (blog)New York Times [...]

[...] John McCain of Arizona,…McCain,Haley among first announced for GOP confabBoston.comWill Romney's convention be Palin and Paul's insurrection?Reuters Blogs (blog)Rice,Haley,McCain on GOP Speaker ListWall Street Journal (blog)New York Times [...]

Romney “only neck and neck”? At this stage, an incumbent with 100% name recognition is tied? That’s bad for the incumbent, not the challenger. Moreover, not even Obama’s most ardent supporters claim he will do better electorally than he did the last time. If he does win, he will be the first incumbent President re-elected to a 2d term with less support than the first time – and even weaker politically than he is now. As far as Ted Cruz is concerned, he is hardly a bizarre outlier – Princeton, Harvard Law, arguments before the Supreme Court – in reality, a first class candidate.

Posted by SayHey | Report as abusive

I find the author’s out of context links to Ron Paul videos on youtube to be disconcerting. He never says to let uninsured people beg for treatment he says that they have a responsibility to take care of themselves and that charitable organizations can help take care of the poor as they used to before the government got involved. He wants to decriminalize hard drugs because prohibition doesn’t work it just costs more money that the government has to tax us for. Finally he never mentions firing any of the armed forces after bringing them home, he says it would be an economic boost by having them spend money in America instead of overseas. So unless the author was trying to ironic or funny he is committing libel and showing his agenda rather than reporting the news.

Posted by TheDude05 | Report as abusive

Mr. Wapshott,

I realize this is an opinion piece, but since when were lies accepted as opinion?

You statements about Ron Paul and not factual. He has never taken the position to leave uninsured people begging for help. Ridiculous. I clicked on the link and it takes you to the debate in which someone in the audience yelled “Yes” when Ron Paul was asked if we should just let him die. Ron Paul answered “NO”. You are either deaf, or being dishonest. Which is it?

Second you say that Ron Paul would bring home the troops and fire them. How did you come to this bizarre conclusion? In no way did Ron Paul say that he would fire the troops. In fact, he confirmed that he would keep them on the payroll. The link you provided does not back up your lie.

Apparently, you know very little about Dr. Paul and I think it would be to your benefit to retract some of your comments about him. You should be ashamed of yourself and should make a public statement that you lied.

If Ron Paul was Romney’s VP choice, it would HELP bring in moderates and Independents. You got that completely backwards. Paul always beat the other candidates regarding the moderates/Independents in the polling.

Posted by Fearlesscitizen | Report as abusive

The right wing tries to ignore him, until they no longer can. This, however, is another one of the standard left-wing tactics against Paul. Try to lump him together with someone unfavorable. Earlier in the campaign it was that he was just another one of the goofy Republican candidates like Gingrich or Perry. That turned out to be obviously false. Now you’re saying that he is just another crazy Sarah Palin type which is another unfounded insult. Ron Paul’s name is the only reason to click on this article. (You can tell that by the comments.)
Contrarian? Yes. The Audacity of NOPE! As opposed to your current establishment mouthpieces on both sides who promise to make all your dreams come true…

Posted by Deadtobeat | Report as abusive

Without taking sides, here is Ron Paul’s official web site:

http://www.ronpaul2012.com/the-issues/

The words drug and marijuana do not appear on that page at all. I guess those topics are too controversial, even for Ron Paul.

Posted by DifferentOne | Report as abusive

You could have made your point without the vulgarity.

Posted by skyraider254 | Report as abusive

I don’t think there is anything “neck and neck” with regards to the electoral votes.

Romney simply has no path to 270 votes.

Posted by AngryBuddha | Report as abusive

We already had eight years of a Tea Party president. His name was George W. Bush. How’d that work out? Peace and prosperity all around?

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

The blame for the introduction of the common fool, neophyte, quitter politician – Sarah Palin – and the continued destruction of the “Republican Establishment” must be laid at the foot of John McCain. He thought he could even up the race against a Black candidate by introducing a WOMAN as VP when he KNEW that THIS particular woman (Sarah Palin) didn’t have the experience or intellectual capacity to take over as President of the U.S. He hoped her barely minimum credentials (being a 1st time governor half-way through her 1st term), would “qualify” her in the eyes of voters and hoped she wouldn’t say much during the campaign. What he let loose was a Soap Opera Queen with simplistic views and NO outstanding educational background; NO foreign policy knowledge; and NO political savvy, writings or standing upon the Republican Party. Even Rush Limbaugh has never had the negative effect on the Republican Party that the ginned-up, Palin-inspired Tea Party has wrought.

This election is Sarah Palin and the Tea Party’s to lose with the plaintive victim being the Republican Party including the moderates of the party (like Boehner and Collins). That’s why a number of them have quit. The Republicans who understand how to win a GENERAL election have been pushed into a corner and painted with the same colors branding Palin, Bachmann, West, DeMint and Rand Paul as virtual fascist extremists.

Posted by 1stSgt-Topkick | Report as abusive

First there is Dole, then McCain, now Romney…snore!
Nobody is connecting except the zombies and zealots(even they suspect the koolaid is bad).
Romney goes to hardware store to buy “hardware stuff” to connect as “normal” (so awkward too)even buying groceries which his personal chef has always done for him and sweety. Once a Super-Rich Corporate Plastic Boy…always a Super-Rich Corporate Plastic Boy.
Sarah Palin identified as a “mistake” by super-shooter Cheney (He is sooo intelligent).The election is a question. Strip away all the hot button issues and see the question that is asked. Romney and Obama are the wrong answers. Palin and Paul are the right answer…but the elites are fearful and paranoid. Look this way folks, do not look at the massive disconnet with governments all over the world. The disconnect continues in near freefall velocity!

Posted by mojobeefbone | Report as abusive

Palin is supposedly the “star” of the republicans and was according to mccain a great VP candidate…if true to their beliefs why is she not the vp candidate this time?…wouldn’t the “star” be the right choice. Are you sure you want Palin and Paul? I think you mean Palin and Putin (remember they were neighbors).

Posted by brational | Report as abusive

[...] Reuters columnist notes either Palin or Paul could be disruptive to Mitt Romney’s presidential chances because they are powerhouses within the Tea Party whose members are not warming to him. Share [...]

The party has a big problem with women, and ignoring the GOP’s best known woman would be a big blunder. Even more curious is the collective forgetting of the last Republican president: still haven’t seen Bush 43 out campaigning for Romney, nor does it seem like he (or Bush 41) is especially welcome at Camp Willard. As for Ron Paul, I don’t see how he does not get a prime time spot: the kids love the guy, and the GOP can’t be the angry old white guy party on TV. The only thing worse than appearing to not have control is for Romney to appear intimidated. And yeah: wheel out McCain, too.

Posted by Bagehot | Report as abusive

Romney is history. The GOP has to concentrate on the senate. His only hope would be to veep Palin. That’s how bad it is.

Posted by urownexperience | Report as abusive

“Even more curious is the collective forgetting of the last Republican president: still haven’t seen Bush 43 out campaigning for Romney”

This really seems curious to you? Putting Dubya on the campaign trail is a lose-lose for the whole GOP, that’s why you won’t so much as hear a soundbite out of the guy. Anyone who still holds a glimmer of nostalgia for The Decider is already going to vote for Romney; you would only serve to antagonize the already suspicious fiscal conservatives and drive away legions of independents by soliciting his efforts.

Posted by spall78 | Report as abusive

This piece is as bad as the Obama Campaign’s ad linking Romney to Cancer. I hear that Barry is giving all his people at the White House a raise, perhaps you should resign your job with Reuters, mail your Dues to the New Party and apply for a job. I’m sure you’ll do really well.

Posted by nosocialism | Report as abusive

“The Great Debate”?
Debaters usually have a position that they can articulate and the ability to move others’ opinions based on reasoning and the application of knowledge to the present reality.
Neither the GOP establishment, the Tea Party nor any of the “friendly little hate groups” that usually vote with the “conservatives” are able to do this.
Watching the ongoing infighting should be really good sales of munitions for the upcoming Revolution.
True Freedom becomes a reality when the masses have “nothing left to lose”.

Posted by jhkim | Report as abusive