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Rand Paul convention speech critical to GOP divide

August 29, 2012|By David Lauter
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) attends the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) attends the Republican National Convention in Tampa,… (Spencer Platt / Getty Images )

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Sen. Rand Paul, the son of Rep. Ron Paul, takes the stage Thursday evening at the Republican convention, the moment could mark the passing of a baton and a reconciliation of the Paul forces with the GOP – or not.

Ron Paul and his ardent supporters, many of them young and relatively new to politics, have been a source of energy – and tension – throughout the campaign year. Some are long-standing conservatives who can be counted on to support Mitt Romney in his battle with President Obama. Others have said they’re not yet reconciled to voting for the Republican nominee.

In an interview with Politico published Wednesday morning, the congressman and former presidential candidate said he remained undecided about Romney and suggested that he might vote for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson.

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“Well, there’s always the possibility of everything. But I haven’t made up my mind. Put me down as undecided,” he said when asked about Johnson.

The Romney campaign has tried to court Paul, both with the prominent speaking slot given to his son and with a video tribute planned for this evening’s session. At the same time, it angered some Paul supporters – and other conservatives as well – by pushing through a series of rule changes Tuesday that would limit the ability of grass-roots conservatives to use party conventions and caucuses to elect delegates to future conventions.

Party officials also refused to seat delegates from Maine, a state where Paul supporters had dominated the delegate selection. That had the effect of keeping Paul from being formally nominated in advance of Tuesday’s roll call. As a result, votes cast for him were not officially announced by the convention’s secretary.

“These rules are designed to turn the Republican Party into a top-down organization and strip power away from state parties and grass-roots activists of every stripe,” Paul’s campaign manager said in an email to supporters Wednesday morning. “It didn’t have to be this way. And quite frankly, it’s a shame.”

At the same time, the email touted Paul-favored positions that were adopted in the party platform, including a proposal to audit the Federal Reserve that Paul has pushed for years, support for the gold standard and opposition to the domestic use of drone aircraft.

Whether Rand Paul’s speech will draw more Paul supporters to back Romney remains to be seen. Some delegates see him as his father’s natural heir. Others have denounced him for endorsing Romney.

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david.lauter@latimes.com

Twitter: @DavidLauter

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