Ron Paul’s CPAC and Virginia Cop-outs
The Last Straw
The venue: A very private meeting place.
The date: Sometime around the middle of January 2012.
The medium: A secretly recorded conversation
Mitt: Hi, Ron, glad you could make it. We don’t have a lot of time, so I’m going to get right to the point.
Ron: I’m all ears.
Ron: I really don’t see how I can help you. It is, after all, the Conservative Political Action Conference, and I’m Mister Conservative, and, quite frankly, we all know that you’re a very long way from that.
Mitt: Well you and I might know that, and most Republicans might think they know that at this point, but we’re taking care of that. People will believe what they’re told to believe by people they trust, especially your good conservative Republicans, bless their hearts. We have “conservative” pundits lined up to say that I’m conservative and that I’m the best candidate. We’re even going to have Ann Coulter say that I’m the most conservative candidate left in the race.
Ron: Well I’ll believe that when I hear it. Even if she were to say it, I don’t think it would cut a lot of ice with my people. She’s no conservative when it comes to big spending for wars and propping up our expensive empire around the world. My folks might even boo her for a remark like that, and then where would you be?
Mitt: Exactly. We don’t want your people there in force this time.
Ron: I know my supporters are loyal and most of them hang on my every word, but I can’t stop them from going to CPAC if they want to. And what excuse could I offer for asking them not to go?
Mitt: What if you weren’t there?
Ron: You mean that they would freeze me out like they did at the Republican Convention last time, and after I’ve easily won the presidential straw poll there the last two years?
Mitt: No, they have to invite you. They have to keep their “conservative” credibility, after all. (Mitt uses air quotes at this point.) We want you to decline the invitation.
(Long silence; Ron stares in disbelief, then finally breaks silence)
Ron: What? That would be completely crazy! That’s the heart of my support base. The CPAC crowd has gone wild for me these last two years when there was no presidential race. Now there is one and I’m in the thick of it and you think I could get by with just taking a walk?
Mitt: Look. Your supporters love you so much they’ll swallow anything you tell them. Tell them you have to campaign in Maine. That’ll hold ‘em.
Ron: For crying out loud! Maine’s not exactly a national media center, and that’s not even a binding referendum they’re holding up there. There are no delegates at stake. The CPAC straw poll carries tons more weight. I’d look like a fool. The media would have a field day over my political ineptitude...or they’d suspect something was up.
(Mitt stares at Ron with almost amused contempt before responding.)
Mitt: The media? Look, this is really important! They’ll play it straight. They’re completely on board. And if they don’t see anything strange about your passing up CPAC then that’s how it will be. I mean, a person here or there might think it was odd, but what do they matter?
Ron: Okay. I see your point. But like the other candidates, I’ll still have my booth and my campaign literat…
Mitt: Uh. About that booth. I’m afraid that’s got to go, too. Your supporters might congregate there and start talking too much among themselves and just generally making trouble like they’ve done in previous years.
Ron: Well, you don’t want to just make everybody angry. My people may be really crazy for me, but even they have their limits.
Mitt: Okay. Here’s the deal. We’ve already talked to Rand. He’s a real team player. He’s agreed to show the flag for the Paul family and give a speech. After that we’ve lined up some friendly interviews for him on talk shows. We think it’s a good compromise all around. He’s just as conservative as you, and he doesn’t have that “foreign policy” problem, if you know what I mean.
Ron: I’ll have to admit that there’s some great long-term thinking behind that plan, but don’t you think you might be outsmarting yourself here? I mean, even without me there, I think that there’s still a real good chance that I would win that straw poll. You think you were embarrassed before? Think of how embarrassing that would be.
(Again Mitt just stares at Ron with that same half-amused look before speaking.)
Mitt: For a guy of your age and political experience you really surprise me sometimes. I told you that this is really important. CPAC is changing from paper ballots to electronic voting, and here’s what the outcome is going to be. I’m going to get 38%, Santorum will get 31%, Gingrich 15%, and you will finish last with 12%.* I know it sounds implausible that you could drop so low, which explains why we need your absence from the conference so badly as a sort of explanation.
Ron: But the press will…
Mitt: Ron! Ron! Get a grip! Now about our head-to-head showdown on Super Tuesday in Virginia…
(At that point the bug stopped picking up the conversation.)
The Virginia Primary
If Ron Paul was ever going to begin to convince the American people that he was a serious candidate for the Republican nomination for President, Virginia was his great opportunity. The opportunity arose fortuitously because of the failure of candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to muster enough petition signatures to get on the Virginia ballot and the fact that by the time of the primary on Super Tuesday (March 6), they and Paul and Mitt Romney were the only candidates remaining in the national race. So it came down in Virginia, a conservative state, to a contest between Mitt Romney, the former governor of what is generally recognized as the most liberal state in the nation, and Ron Paul the widely acknowledged most conservative Congressman in Washington.
On top of that, there was no Democratic primary being held at the same time and registered Democrats and independents were free to participate in the primary. In short, a registered Virginia voter of any stripe entering a polling place on March 6 was faced with a choice of either Romney or Paul. Since there was no insurgent Democratic candidate for whom any antiwar Democrat might vote, and Romney is even more hawkish than Obama, Paul offered the only opportunity for such voters to register a protest.
To use an expression that has been greatly overused since Sebastian Junger chose it for the title of his book, Virginia represented a “perfect storm” for Paul. And what did he do? He did as close to nothing as he could possibly do and still call himself a candidate. In fact, what little campaign he mounted seemed to be directed entirely toward testing the loyalty of his band of long-suffering followers. Those followers—and those followers alone—were given what can only be described as a meager, pitiful show of a campaign while the general public, all those people out there thirsting for someone they can believe in and waiting to be wooed, weren’t even given that.
As a former Paul supporter and therefore regular Paul email recipient and a resident of Virginia’s Fairfax County, this writer had a ringside seat for the whole sorry spectacle. If there was a campaign sign anywhere I never saw it, and if either candidate ran a single commercial on the airwaves I never heard it. Paul did make one campaign appearance a week before the vote. For all I know it was a secret to the general public because I saw no announcements and heard nothing about it in the press. As a supposed supporter, I did get a number of emails telling me all about the big event and I even got a telephone call from the Paul campaign the day before.
Perhaps it’s just as well that there was no wider announcement of the Ron Paul rally. It’s hard to imagine a worse place and time for it. Those of us who live around here know that the one place you want to avoid, especially around rush hour, is the infamous “Mixing Bowl,” the point in Springfield, Virginia, where the Washington Beltway, I-95, and numerous local roads all come together. So here is the email I received from Ron Paul himself on February 27 with the subject, “See You Tomorrow?”
Tomorrow is the day.
Can I count on seeing you at my event tomorrow night in Springfield?
As I told you, my son Rand will be with me, so this is an event you don’t want to miss.
The Final Push Celebration I’m hosting tomorrow takes place just one week before Republican voters go to the polls in Virginia – and many other states around the nation – to choose who they want to be the Republican nominee for President.
That’s why it’s vital I have a strong showing at this event.
So can I count on you to bring along your friends and family to hear my message of freedom and prosperity tomorrow?
As you know, I’m running for President to restore the Founding principles of individual liberty, free markets, sound money, and constitutional government.
And unlike my opponents in this race, I stand for real change and real reform – right now.
So please, join my son Rand and me tomorrow night in Springfield for this Final Push Celebration!
The details are as follows:
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
6715 Commerce Street
Springfield, Virginia 22150
Directions are available HERE.
Doors open to the public at 6:00 p.m., and there will be a cash bar available until 9:30 p.m.
It’s a very good thing for me that my cup of disgust had already run over some days before and I did not go. You see, I had attended the big Veterans for Ron Paul rally and march to the White House on February 20, which I had learned about in spite of Ron Paul and his campaign and was appalled to see that it was cold-shouldered by Air Force veteran Ron, Rand, and the whole official campaign. Talk about a missed opportunity!
At any rate, the crowd that did show up in Springfield far exceeded the sub-2000 capacity of The Waterford event center’s auditorium. The Washington Post and the local TV stations ignored the rally, of course, but Politico and our local free weekly, the Fairfax County Times, both reported that 500 people were turned away at the door. According to a friend who tried to go, the turn-away was much bigger than that. Parking capacity was a much bigger problem than auditorium capacity. Among those who were lucky enough to get inside were many people who had parked at the shopping center across the street and had risked their lives walking across six lanes of traffic to get there. Who knows how many people, like my friend, saw the hopeless congestion and simply drove away in disappointment?
It should go without saying, but a real campaign with a genuine candidate for president would have rented a larger facility such as the easily reached 10,000-seat Patriot Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, and the rally would have been announced far and wide. In fact, had Paul been serious about winning Virginia, with any sort of publicity at all he could have easily filled basketball arenas in all Virginia’s population centers in a series of rallies. We may contrast that with Mitt Romney, who might be able to fill a good-sized restaurant, but only if he buys all the drinks.
Being realistic, with electronic voting there is a very good chance that Paul’s reported vote count would have been the same 40.5% that they say he garnered, but with all that outpouring of support, it would have certainly been a great deal harder to explain, not unlike that 12% in the straw poll at CPAC had he bothered to show up.
Unlike in the case with his CPAC absence, Ron Paul was not off chasing votes in Maine on Super Tuesday. This time he was in North Dakota.
March 14, 2012
*In the wake of Rick Santorum’s big victories in Alabama and Mississippi on March 13, Reuters had this to say, “The results were a setback for Romney, the shaky front-runner who was hoping a breakthrough win in the South would prove his ability to appeal to the party’s core conservatives.” But wasn’t that what his CPAC straw poll win was supposed to prove?
See also “Presidential Primary Election Choices?”