Romney allies outmuscle Paul forces at Missouri Republican Party convention
Missouri Republican supporters of likely presidential nominee Mitt Romney nudged out allies of renegade candidate Ron Paul in Saturday’s balloting at the state party’s convention to choose the final bloc of delegates to the party’s national presidential convention this August in Tampa, Fla.
The slate of 25 delegates includes six supporters of Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who dropped his own presidential bid and now backs Romney. The rest are committed to Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who recently locked up his party’s nomination.
While Paul was shut out, his allies appeared to make up about 40 percent of the roughly 1,900 delegates who participated in the once-every-four-years proceeding held this weekend at the Expo Center in Springfield, Mo.
Of the 52 presidential delegates that Missouri will send to the GOP convention in Florida, only four are committed to Paul. They were chosen during April’s congressional-district caucuses.
But Eric Vought, chairman of the Missouri Ron Paul Slate Committee, sought to put a positive spin on the loss. “We had a good fight of it," he said, referring to several close votes.
Vought noted that the performance of the Paul camp was far stronger than at the 2008 state convention, which he said was a signal to all Missouri Republicans that “we’re not a flash in the pan.”
Paul's loss Saturday was somewhat expected after the state convention’s first key vote, which saw Romney's forces narrowly elect state Republican Party chairman David Cole as the state convention’s chairman. He defeated Paul supporter Brent Stafford of St. Charles.
Stafford set the conciliatory tone with concession remarks in which he praised Cole and the state GOP for rescheduling and overseeing a redo of St. Charles County’s Republican caucus, after the first one in March degenerated into a melee that prompted police intervention.
Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, later called the convention "exceedingly conciliatory" and a sign that Republicans "are fired up to win in November."
Still, Saturday’s convention had its tensions. Delegates battled at length over a noontime motion to take a break for lunch, which some Romney supporters viewed as a move to reduce their numbers so that Paul's allies could eke out a victory.
Paul's backers who had sought the break claimed they had no ulterior motive and that they were simply concerned about delegates with health concerns who needed to eat.
The move was defeated, and the convention didn’t break for lunch until 2 p.m. – after Romney's slate had won.
Prominent St. Louis Republicans make delegate list
The slate of delegates approved Saturday feature a number of prominent St. Louis area Republicans. They include:
- State House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka;
- State Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale;
- State Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles;
- St. Louis lawyer Jerry Hunter;
- Former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-Ladue, who’s among the alternates.
- Former U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo., who now works for a St. Louis law firm.
- Thor Hearne, a St. Louis County lawyer active in national and state Republican affairs.
Hanaway’s re-emergence in Republican politics also was secured when the convention elected her as the state’s new committeewoman to the Republican National Committee, a powerful post.
A lawyer, Hanaway has been out of the limelight since stepping down in 2009 as the U.S. attorney for Missouri’s Eastern District, a post she held under President George W. Bush.
But in February, she was honored as the state Republican Party’s Republican of the Year – an award that signaled that state party leaders see Hanaway as a potential future statewide candidate. She lost a bid for secretary of state in 2004.
Hanaway said in an interview Saturday that she plans “to be active on the RNC and try to make sure that I understand the new wave of people coming into the party” – an apparent nod to Paul's activists.
Their enthusiasm, said Hanaway, “brings a new energy’’ into the Republican ranks.
Keeping their loyalty, at least this November, could be a challenge.
Zac Cousins, a pro-Paul delegate from Greene County, said he was “a bit discouraged’’ by the distrust reflected in the battle over when to break for lunch.
Cousins emphasized that he is a loyal Republican – but will not vote for Romney in November because he sees the former governor as too liberal.
Cousins said he plans to write in the name of another Republican instead. He didn’t say who.
Platform re-ignites differences, as McCaskill shows up
After their late lunch, the delegates engaged in another Romney-Paul battle over the state party's platform -- which offers up philosophical themes along with specific stances on issues.
The conventioneers got into a prolonged fight over a motion to adjourn, with the Paul allies arguing that they wanted to continue discussing the platform -- even after a majority of delegates had approved the draft.
Matters up for discussion included a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing parental rights and the proposed "fair tax" to replace income taxes with a higher sales tax.
A provision in the platform calls for requiring photo IDs for voters, which Republicans say would guard against fraud. A judge has blocked such a proposal from appearing on Missouri's November ballot, but some supporters of the measure -- led by state Rep. Shane Schoeller, who is running for secretary of state -- wore T-shirts promoting the idea and circulated supportive fliers.
Although agreeing on many of the matters, Paul activists complained that the platform had too many pro-war references.
A Romney delegate declared at a mike, "We're not the Libertarian Party," generating cheers.
State House Majority Leader Jones also posted a disparaging Tweet, referring to the Paul forces as "Paulbots" because they were continuing to press his views, even though Paul has suspended his campaign.
The platform was presented by state Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, who focused on its broader objective: "A call for a return to principles that made America great."
While conventioneers debated, one of the state GOP's top targets -- U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. -- held a campaign event nearby, where she decried her likely Republican rivals as "extreme."
All three -- U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and St. Louis businessman John Brunner -- had addressed the convention earlier, to rousing applause.
All had jabbed at McCaskill over the federal budget, her late personal tax payments and her support for the federal health-care changes, dubbed by the rivals as "ObamaClaire." The convention repeatedly cheered.