Local delegates hold out for Paul

Although Mitt Romney has more than enough delegates to next week’s Republican National Convention to become the party’s nominee, Ron Paul, R-Texas, has found a vocal support base in Southwest Colorado and across the country. Enlarge photo

Joe Hanel/Durango Herald file photo

Although Mitt Romney has more than enough delegates to next week’s Republican National Convention to become the party’s nominee, Ron Paul, R-Texas, has found a vocal support base in Southwest Colorado and across the country.

DENVER – Republicans will rally in Tampa, Fla., this week to nominate Mitt Romney to reclaim the White House for the Grand Old Party.

But some local delegates don’t want to go along with the carefully crafted plan for the Republican National Convention.

Five activists from Southwest Colorado will join more than 4,000 others from around the country as delegates and alternates, but three of the local people will be there to support Texas congressman Ron Paul.

Todd King, a delegate from Lewis, is one of the holdouts, and he’s adamant about not climbing on the Romney bandwagon.

“Romney is essentially the author of Obamacare. I’m not in favor of socialism, whether it comes under the Democratic banner or the Republican banner,” King said.

Modern political conventions have become tightly scripted television events. But they used to be spirited contests to choose each party’s nominee for president.

Technically, they still do pick the nominee. Republicans will count votes from all the states Monday night, and Romney will accept the nomination Thursday night.

It’s a given that Romney will win the nomination easily. But Paul’s campaign had tried to at least get his name placed into nomination by quietly stacking state conventions with his supporters.

At one point this summer, it looked like Colorado could be one of the dissident states that rain on Romney’s parade. At the Republican state convention in April, a coalition of Paul and Rick Santorum supporters blocked Romney from winning a majority of Colorado’s 36 delegates. The same coalition elected its leader, Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, to be Colorado’s delegation chairman.

During the summer, though, Romney’s campaign has worked to get as close to a unanimous vote for its man as possible. Conway, a delegate for Santorum, has tried to bridge the gap between the competing factions in the Colorado delegation.

“We’re there because of a deep, abiding concern for the future of our country,” Conway said.

Paul has a devoted following because he proposes a much smaller role for the federal government. He would end the Federal Reserve and five Cabinet departments – Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior and Education. He also opposes most foreign military intervention, and he would end the government’s role in airport security.

Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan for vice president helped win over many conservatives who were skeptical of Romney’s dedication to their ideals, Conway said.

In a concession to Paul supporters, convention organizers gave a prime-time speaking slot to his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, on Monday night, and Tuesday will feature a video tribute to Ron Paul.

But not everyone is convinced.

Paul’s supporters say they are playing a long game and are willing to sacrifice Republican unity in 2012 for greater gains in 2016.

They take inspiration from the year 1976, the last time a Republican Party insurgent challenged the presumed nominee at the national convention. Gerald Ford was president, but he had to fight off a challenge from an up-and-coming conservative named Ronald Reagan.

Ford lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter, but Reagan was elected president in 1980 and ushered in a new era of conservative politics that has colored the Republican Party ever since.

Conway, who plans to support Romney, said the energy he felt as a young activist in 1976 has returned this year.

“Half our delegation was never involved in politics two years ago. This is a very new group – diverse, young and, I think, the future of the Republican Party,” Conway said.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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