Just a few moments ago, I got a chance to chat with Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks, about the Republican National Convention, efforts by pro-establishment GOPers to curtail grassroots activists, libertarian involvement in the Tea Party movement, and what to expect from a Romney-Ryan administration.
This weekend, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus complained that the media is taking Mitt Romney’s “birther” joke far too seriously, saying, “Nobody seems to have a sense of humor anymore.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who will speak tonight at the Republican National Covention, also says that the joke isn’t a big deal.
Romney himself has said that the joke wasn’t intended to be a shot at President Barack Obama, but the defense is falling on deaf ears. Romney and Republicans have essentially asked for criticism over the issue any by associating themselves with Donald Trump, the billion real estate mogul who has championed this absurd conspriacy theory.
During a press conference on Sunday, Trump, who backs Romney and was supposed to have a role at the RNC before Tropical Storm Isaac altered the schedule, again pushed the birther issue:
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Sarasota, Fla., Donald Trump said Mitt Romney’s birth certificate quip in Michigan last week may have been a lighthearted joke, but that the issue of President Obama’s birth certificate is far from settled.
Julianne Thompson, one of the founders of Georgia Tea Party Patriots and a convention delegate, has written an open letter to Republican National Committee on rule changes made that would allow the party’s presidential nominee to revoke delegates. You can read the letter in its entirety below:
Chairman Reince Preibus, members of the Rules Committee, and the entire voting delegation of the 2012 Republican National Convention:
As a National Delegate to the 2012 RNC, I am extremely disappointed that a rule would be passed throug committee that essentially strips the grassroots of all of it’s representative power by ridding State Parties of their ability to choose whom they will send as delegates and alternates to represent their State to the Republican National Convention. The rules change would allow the Presidential nominee sweeping new power to override that process and choose their own National Delegates. The rule also allows the RNC (with only a 3/4 vote) the power to amend the party’s rules without a vote by the full Republican National Convention.
The GOP is the political Party of the grassroots. Our national delegates are the boots-on-the-ground that get Republicans elected. We are there for County meetings, State Conventions, National Conventions, and most importantly we spend our time and money canvassing our neighborhoods, going door to door, making phone calls, writing personal endorsement letters, and getting-out-the-vote for Republicans. We are the worker bees, and we are the heart and soul of the Republican Party.
Supporters of Ron Paul are all around Tampa. Even though their guy won’t be the nominee, they did come out for the Paul-themed events. Many still believe it’s unfair that Ron Paul didn’t get a speaking slot during the Republican National Convention, but in a recent interview, Paul explained that he turned down a coveted spot because he refuses to back Mitt Romney:
Republican Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian leader who competed against Mitt Romney in the GOP primary, isn’t speaking at the Republican National Convention because he isn’t willing to give Romney his full endorsement, Paul told the New York Times.
In an interview with the Times, Paul said that he was offered an opportunity to speak at the convention this week on two conditions: that he let the Romney campaign vet his speech, and that he give Romney his full support. He declined the offer.
“It wouldn’t be my speech,” Paul said. “That would undo everything I’ve done in the last 30 years. I don’t fully endorse him for president.”
Tropical Storm Isaac isn’t the only thing on the minds of many conservatives who made the trip to Tampa for the Republican National Convention. There is also some concern over what is being viewed as a power grab to give unprecedented influence to estasblishment Republicans over the platform and rules beginning in 2016:
The Republican National Convention Rules Committee voted 63-38 to approve a new rule allowing granting the Republican National Committee — and Mitt Romney — sweeping new powers to amend the governing document of the GOP.
The move came at the encouragement of Mitt Romney supporters on the committee, including Romney’s top lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who stressed that it would grant “flexibility” to Romney and the committee to adapt to changing political environments. The rule allows the RNC to amend the party’s rules without a vote by the full Republican National Convention. And it offers the Republican Establishment a new tool to keep at by Tea Party initiatives that threaten to embarrass or contradict party leadership and stray from a planned message.
Romney, as his party’s nominee, exerts significant influence over the RNC, which is made up of elected party officials from all 50 states, while the larger Convention Rules Committee is larger and has a more grassroots membership.
“This is necessary for the world in which we find ourselves in,” Ginsberg told the committee, adding that it is “important for the political survival of the party in the electoral context,” for the committee to be able to change the rules as it sees fit in the intervening four years between conventions.
Well…it’s all but official now. Ron Paul will not be on the ballot in Tampa, nor will he be able to speak. Dr. Ron Paul and the forces of Freedom worked very, very hard to get the good doctor a plurality of delegates in 8 states. Although he easily passed the threshold of 5 states needed to be able to nominate Dr. Paul from the convention floor and give him the automatic speaking time earned, the GOP and the Romney camp has spent the last several months fighting and lawyering its way to silence the Paul forces. Things have really heated up this week in Tampa as various convention committees have broken its own rules multiple times to make sure that the Republican National Convention is a smooth, scripted infomercial for Mitt Romney and the Grand Old Party.
But. At what cost? Will the majority of Paul supporters be content with a Rand Paul prime-time speech on Monday night and several platform planks that, honestly, really don’t matter. I don’t think so. I think the GOP has really mucked this one up. Rather than letting things play in a natural way where the 500 or so Paul delegates and alternates—and the thousands and thousands of supporters across the country—would have felt validated and respected, the Republicans have basically said that it is more important to maintain a facade of loyalty and unity, rules and principles be damned.
My take on all this? I think Gary Johnson will be seeing a surge of support in the next few weeks.
Ahead of delegates gathering in Tampa next week for the Republican National Convention, some GOP delegates are busy this week putting together the party’s platform. To many this process can be uninteresting, but many Tea Party activists saw it as an opportunity to make the Republican Party more friendly to its ideas. And, according to Kristina Ribali of FreedomWorks notes, it looks like they were successful.
FreedomWorks put together 12 economic/limited government issues to be considered for the GOP platform, ranging from repealing ObamaCare and preventing tax hikes to energy independence, opposition to cap-and-trade, and auditing the Federal Reserve. Dean Clancy, Vice President of Health Policy at FreedomWorks, explained (via Ribali) that the only the plank calling for the elimination of the Department of Education was rejected:
We did not secure approval for ‘Eliminate the Department of Education’ – which, to be honest, was always the plank we regarded as most difficult to achieve. But the document’s education section does contain good language on the need for local control and a very strong endorsement of school choice, including vouchers. So we rate this section as a partial victory.
Ribali also notes that the plank calling for a “flat tax” wasn’t fully achieved, though the Republican platform will call for a “flatter tax.” That’s an opportunity missed, unfortunately, since the need for tax reform is so great.
According to Politico, it appears that Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul who flirted with a presidential bid last year, will be included in the opening day events at the Republican National Convention next week in Tampa, Florida:
Convention organizers won’t say what he’ll be doing in Tampa or whether he’ll address the delegates there. But they promise the controversial billionaire and prominent anti-President Barack Obama provocateur will be part of their opening day schedule.
Mitt Romney has embraced Trump this campaign season, including attending a Las Vegas fundraiser in May thrown by the reality TV star.
Trump has generated some buzz with recent posts on Twitter saying he was planning a “big surprise” at the convention next week. But for the first time sources are confirming Republicans will indeed enlist Trump to be part of their opening day act.
Trump’s appearance will come on a day with a theme titled, “We Can Do Better,” which appears likely to amount to a coordinated attack on Obama’s time in office.
“We are going after Obama,” said Kyle Downey, a convention spokesman. “If he doesn’t want to talk about his failed record, we will. The American people expect and deserve better.”
The Republican National Committee has announced the first list of speakers for its national convention set to take place at the end of the month in Tampa, Florida. There are a couple of familar faces in GOP circles, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, and Condoleezza Rice, who served as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.
The list also has some relatively new faces, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott, New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Some conservatives, such as Seth Mandel at Commentary Magazine, are saying that this list is a “mix of rising stars” that has an advantage over what Democrats are offering at their national convention, which will be held next month in Charlotte, North Carolina:
This is a mix of rising stars (Martinez, Haley), popular party figures (Rice, McCain, Kasich), and the obvious home-stater (Scott). These are not the names conservatives are lining up to hear, though Huckabee should be considered an exception. The former Arkansas governor’s great talent has always been communication–just contrast the tone of coverage Huckabee tends to receive from the notoriously socially liberal press with that of Rick Santorum. As important as evangelicals are to GOP get-out-the-vote efforts, Huckabee could be an important campaign surrogate for a candidate many social conservatives are still unsure about.
As the Republican National Convention approaches, Mitt Romney is indicating that he may be just days away from annoucing his running mate. Many conservatives hope that Team Romney chooses a credible conservative, one that could excite the base. This is a dilemma for the campaign since, as a new WaPo/ABC News poll indicates, Romney’s supporters are more motivated to vote against President Barack Obama than for him:
Nearly six in 10 of those siding with Mitt Romney in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll say their vote is primarily “against” President Obama not in favor of the former Massachusetts governor, a testament to how much of Romney’s support is built on opposition to the current occupant of the White House.
By contrast, about three-quarters of Obama’s supporters are voting affirmatively “for” the president.
Romney’s support numbers are similar to those of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) in 2004 and Obama’s support numbers mirror those of President George W. Bush in his bid for a second term. The 2004 contest was close, but ultimately the “Bush protest” vote was not enough to put Kerry on top.