Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Blog

GOP Grassroots Planning a Floor Fight over New Rules

The AAI team arrived at the Republican National Convention today, making it through delays and heavy turbulence. As the event kicked off, it was clear that the appearance of unity in the ranks of the Republican Party is one of its chief goals this week. The Romney campaign has so far been unable to engender such unity, so instead it is seeking to changes to the convention rules to help solidify the party. The proposed changes have drawn fire from supporters of Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, as well as State Party officials, who view the move as a power-grab that wrests control of the nominating process from the states and grassroots of the party.

The rules change would not take effect until 2016, but it would allow presidential candidates in the next cycle to choose and/or refuse delegates to the national convention. If elected, Mitt Romney will have gained enormous power over the primary process should he seek re-election in 2016. If he fails in his presidential bid, the new batch of candidates in 2016 will have the ability to choose the delegates they win in each state. “It shifts the power to select delegates from the state party to the candidate, Republican National Committee Vice Chairman Jim Bopp told The Washington Times on Sunday, “And it would make the Republican Party a top-down, not bottom-up, party.”

A coalition of Ron Paul supporters, conservative activists, and State GOP officials are planning to mount a floor fight to force a vote on the new rules, which could prove to be a messy, unwanted distracted from the intended display of party unity. Ron Paul supporters are particularly vocal in their opposition, as some have speculated that the rules changes are a direct response to Ron Paul's candidacy. To force a roll call vote, the opponents of the new rules must secure the backing of a majority of six delegations, setting the stage for a rare floor flight on Tuesday.

Inside the heavily-guarded convention center, Ron Paul supporters pulled some stunts, including placing some "Ron Paul" signs over the "We" in a banner that read "We Can Do Better."

The disagreement over the proposed rule changes puts RNC chairman Reince Priebus and other GOP officials between a rock and a hard place. If Priebus sides with Romney in favor of the changes, he risks the disillusionment and anger of the conservative base of the party. If he sides with the grassroots against the changes, he will have butted heads with the party’s nominee.  Regardless of whether the new rules are adopted, the debate at the convention will highlight the very divisions in the party that the new rules seek to sweep under the rug.

Changes to the Convention Schedule

Hurricane Isaac has effectively forced the Republican Party to cancel the first day of the convention, compressing the event from four days to three, and costing the GOP a day's worth of presenting its uncontested narrative in every major news network.

Among the major changes:  South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's speech has moved to Tuesday night, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks on Wednesday night and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush delivers his remarks Thursday night. Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, had her speech moved up to a prime-time slot as well. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal decided to cancel his GOP convention speech, as Isaac’s trajectory appears to be headed toward his state.

Besides the obvious logistical shuffling, Hurricane Isaac also presents a potential image problem for Mitt Romney and the GOP. Should the storm take a turn for the worse, or cause serious harm to Louisiana on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it could give Romney the appearance of callousness if the event continues. The storm is also a major distraction from the GOP’s best chance to reintroduce and rebrand Romney for the remainder of the election. Major news outlets today reportedly shifted resources and coverage away from the convention toward covering the hurricane in Louisiana, which presents a problem for Romney who needs all the exposure he can get to receive a bump from the convention. Despite these potential problems for image and media coverage, Romney and the party so far have no plans to cancel to the convention.  

Platform Preview

While the final version of the Republican Party platform has yet to be ratified, the details that have emerged so far indicate that the document will likely be divisive. Presidential nominees are usually able to shrug off questions about the more extreme planks in their parties’ platforms, as they do not represent any binding policy positions for the candidate. This latest platform however, will likely pose a challenge to Mitt Romney, as its positions largely reflect those of the conservative fringe of his party. The platform content is a huge victory for social conservatives, as it includes planks calling for constitutional bans on abortion and same-sex marriage. Such platform content will likely extend the unwanted attention Rep. Todd Akin drew to the Romney and Ryan’s stances on social issues.

Leaked details on the platform also point to extreme language on foreign policy, Israel, immigration, and monetary policy. Immigration language in the platform largely reflects the views of SB-1070 architect Kris Kobach. The platform will also likely include a “ban on foreign law,” a common smoke-screen for anti-sharia and anti-Muslim sentiment.

Thus, there likely will be too much extreme content in the Republican Party platform for Mitt Romney to simply shrug it off as irrelevant. Also, Americans are not showing their usual disinterest and ignorance of the contents of the party’s platform. A Pew Research Center poll showed that Americans this election cycle have a greater interest in the ultimate contents of the platform than Mitt Romney’s convention speech. Thus, the “most conservative platform in history” could potentially grab more headlines than Romney’s attempts to reintroduce himself to voters.

Protests Outside

Outside the convention, there was a mini-confrontation between the police and protesters (including Ron Paul supporters) over an unsanctioned march outside the official protest zone. But it wasn't the 3500 policemen and women present (including 1700 from the National Guard in riot gear) who dispersed the protesters, it was Hurricane Isaac, which unleashed some heavy and sudden showers causing many to leave the spot and seek shelter. Tomorrow, the real show begins, so stay tuned!

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