Ron Paul’s Missouri supporters take charge of
weekend county caucuses
By DAVE HELLING
The Kansas City Star
Ron Paul’s Missouri supporters aren’t giving up.
Despite his distant fourth-place finish in the state’s presidential primary, with just 4.5 percent of the vote, more than a thousand Paul supporters crowded into Republican county caucuses last weekend, electing hundreds of delegates to upcoming congressional district and state conventions.
Those caucus results aren’t expected to change Missouri’s votes at the party’s national convention — they should still go to Sen. John McCain.
But they’re a complication for McCain, the presumptive nominee, and an embarrassment for party regulars across Missouri. There are Internet rumors that Paul supporters have or will attempt similar actions in other states, though national GOP leaders say it does not appear to be an issue nationally.
Here, one Republican — the chairman of the Jackson County Republican committee — was so upset at the behavior of some Paul sympathizers that he led a walkout from his party’s caucus Saturday.
Independence attorney Bunk Farrington said he was angry that Paul supporters reneged on an agreement to divide the county’s 187 caucus delegates between those sympathetic to the Texas congressman and supporters of other candidates.
“We had a compromise,” Farrington said. “They broke the deal.”
After the walkout, Jackson County caucus attendees narrowly elected a nearly full slate of Paul supporters — more than 175 delegates. They, along with other delegates picked across Missouri, will eventually choose 55 of the party’s 58 delegates to the Republican National Convention.
Those national delegates must vote for McCain, the primary winner, under state party rules. But Farrington says the turnout at Saturday’s caucus suggests Paul supporters want to change those rules before the convention.
“They’re trying to pass a resolution that they don’t have to vote for John McCain,” he said. “Did they tell you that?”
Paul volunteer organizer Larry Holland, who attended the caucus, rejected that concern.
“We all know that on the first ballot we have to vote for McCain,” Holland said, but “we can also help affect the Republican platform, and bring it back to its conservative, libertarian values.”
Holland said the decision to overturn the delegate selection compromise was prompted by a Paul voter at the caucus, and not Paul’s Missouri campaign, which had negotiated the informal agreement.
And, he said, had Farrington and his supporters not walked out, the compromise slate might have been elected.
Some party officials say they aren’t worried — yet — that the caucus results pose a threat to McCain’s campaign.
But they say a disruptive platform battle, either in Missouri or at the national convention, could cause problems. Paul, for example, strongly opposes the war in Iraq, a position distinctly at odds with McCain’s view.
Some county conventions passed resolutions endorsing some of Paul’s positions, including repudiation of the Federal Reserve and income taxes.
“There’s a potential for embarrassing press coverage,” said state Republican committeeman David Buie, “with no substantive effect on the outcome.”
The Paul campaign’s success here and in other counties virtually guarantees that at least some of Missouri’s national convention delegates will be Paul sympathizers.
The Texas Republican hasn’t officially dropped out of the race, although he has told supporters that “victory in the traditional political sense is not available in the presidential race.” Independent counts show McCain with enough delegates to win the nomination.
Despite that outlook, Paul’s Missouri supporters posted several Internet appeals last week, encouraging like-minded voters to attend Saturday’s caucuses.
The appeal worked in Jackson County, where Paul voters outnumbered those for other candidates by roughly a two-to-one margin.
Once Paul supporters realized their advantage, both sides say, plans to divide the county’s delegates — with a slight advantage to Paul supporters — collapsed, leading to the walkout by Farrington and roughly 50 other attendees.
A spokesman for the state Republican Party said the Paul campaign made similar efforts in other counties, but could not say how many local delegates Paul’s campaign could claim.
Some Paul supporters said they might have elected 20 percent of the available county delegates in the state.
Delegates picked at Saturday’s caucuses will attend one of nine congressional district conventions in mid-April, choosing 27 national convention delegates at that time (three delegates per district).
The state convention, comprised of representatives from those caucuses, will pick another 28 convention delegates in late May. Three spots are reserved for Missouri members of the Republican National Committee.