Missouri GOP convention could see delegate battle between Romney and Paul forces
In Missouri anyway, this weekend could be the Last Stand for supporters of Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul.
Paul’s supporters are among the thousands of Missouri Republicans converging on Springfield, Mo., this weekend for the party’s once-every-four-years presidential convention.
The final slate of delegates will be chosen for this August’s Republican presidential convention in Tampa, Fla. Also on tap will be discussion and adoption of the state party’s platform, which stakes out stands on general philosophy and specific issues.
Friday’s kickoff gala and Saturday’s morning proceedings will feature speeches by some of the Republicans competing for statewide offices this fall.
Friday night’s keynote speaker, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., offered a reprise of his longstanding view that the Democrats occupying the White House and controlling the U.S. Senate are out of step with what the public wants, or needs.
Blunt asserted that President Barack Obama wants to turn the United States into Europe, where government regulations and taxes are high -- along with the price of gas.
Borrowing a phrase from the comedy movie "Spaceballs," Blunt said that the Obama administration's "regulators are clearly operating at 'ludicrous speed.' "
"Your government cannot get bigger than your economy can support," he continued. Blunt also asserted that the 2012 election is "going to decide what (the country) is going to be for the next 25 years."
The audience included a number of politicians and candidates, including Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and his GOP rival, state Sen. Brad Lager; two candidates for governor -- Kirkwood businessman Dave Spence and Kansas City consultant/minister Bill Randles; and all three major U.S. Senate hopefuls: former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, St. Louis businessman John Brunner and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin.
Many of the candidates had set up "hospitality suites" to entertain convention attendees.
Delegate numbers hint at Paul-Romney showdown
Saturday’s session, held in a convention hall, will be dominated by the 2,123 delegates and 2,123 alternates elected at the county caucuses this spring. Although the delegates are not officially bound to specific candidates, some were elected via slates assembled for various hopefuls.
Activists privately estimate that about a third of those delegates are supporters of Paul, who has suspended his campaign but is still active in pressing issues and influencing the platform.
Allies of Paul and presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney are expected to be jockeying for the national delegate slots to be filled at Saturday’s morning session. Twenty-five national delegates and 25 national alternates will be selected.
The state has a total of 52 national delegates, with an equal number of alternates. Of that total, 24 were elected at the congressional-district conventions in April. Three delegates are state members of the Republican National Committee.
Of the 24 chosen at the congressional-district level, 12 are committed to Romney, seven to Rick Santorum, four to Paul, and one to Newt Gingrich.
(Start of update) Saturday morning, delegates heard from all three Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate: Steelman, Brunner and Akin.
All three had similar messages: There's too much spending in Washington and freedom is under attack.
Akin, though, generated the strongest applause -- perhaps foreshadowing the delegate debate -- when he declared, "Ron Paul is right when he says he wants to audit the Fed." (End of update)
Missouri Republican Party chairman David Cole said in an interview that he welcomed lively debate Saturday over who the remaining delegates will support for president, and who those delegates will be.
But afterward, he said, "Obviously, we want to come out of here united."
Looking at the crowd of delegates leaving the banquet hall, Cole observed, "There's a whole lot more in common among all these people, than what divides them."
Spending, national security, social issues
The afternoon will be devoted largely to the party platform. The draft, featured on the state Republican Party’s website, includes such stands as:
- Support for a federal balanced budget amendment.
- Enforcement of Missouri’s Hancock Amendment, which requires public votes for many tax or fee hikes if state income increases above a certain level.
- Opposition to the federal health-care law, known as Obamacare, and belief in the private market and personal responsibility as the best way to curb increases in health-care spending. The platform opposes the federal mandate that requires most Americans to purchase insurance by 2014.
- Requiring government-issued photo identification for would-be voters.
- Calls to change the state’s judicial-selection system and to curb judges' power to order tax increases.
- Revamping laws to make it more difficult to sue businesses and physicians.
- Changing state teacher tenure laws and setting up a merit pay system for teachers.
- Support for a federal Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The platform states that the Republican Party believes “that life begins at conception.”
- Reaffirming that Missouri’s constitution, since 2004, recognizes marriages only “between one man and one woman,” regardless of where the marriage was performed.
- Support for a strong U.S. military presence overseas. “Fighting for freedom in foreign lands helps prevent the necessity of fighting the enemies of freedom in our homeland,” the draft states.