It’s going to be a heckuva state Republican convention, promises state Rep. Cary Condotta, R-Wenatchee, co-chairman of the Washington state Ron Paul campaign – and if you judge by what happened over the last weekend at county Republican conventions, he might be right. The national pundits say Mitt Romney is all but inevitable as the party’s presidential nominee, with only a bare, outside chance of being shouldered aside at the national convention, now that Rick Santorum has dropped out. But that hasn’t dissuaded the more libertarian crowd that backs Ron Paul. They’re making an enthusiastic grass-roots stand in caucus states like Washington, where delegates aren’t bound to candidates. And if you haven’t heard about it — well, nobody ever seems to notice this stuff.
Back on March 3, of course, when 50,000 people participated in Washington’s Republican precinct caucuses, Mitt Romney had a healthy lead. He captured 37.6 percent in the straw poll that took place that day. Ron Paul was second with 24.8 percent. But that was way back then, when Santorum was in the running (he was third at 23.8 percent) and more importantly, the poll doesn’t make a whit of difference. All those precinct caucuses really do is elect delegates to the next round of conventions at the county and legislative district level. Now that second round of conventions is taking place, and then those conventions elect delegates to the state convention. The whole process is so incredibly boring that only the most dedicated party activists bother taking an interest, and you have to think that is pretty much the way it’s supposed to work.
Except that’s what makes it interesting. Because nobody pays attention, a well-organized political campaign can take people by surprise. Take the Chelan County convention. Condotta was there, of course, but Washington State Wire has heard this from others as well. The Paul delegates stormed the gates last Sunday and they just weren’t going to listen to those who said Romney was inevitable. So there was round after round of balloting, until 3 a.m., and still Chelan County didn’t manage to seat all the alternates. Pooped-out Republicans trickled out the doors and then somebody finally demanded a quorum count.
In Spokane, the convention started at 7 a.m. and went until 1 a.m. In Yakima County, Condotta says, 27 of 35 delegates went for Paul. There are at least 10 more counties to go; some, like King County, hold multiple conventions. But the way things are going, Condotta says 25 percent of the delegates who are elected at the county level may be Paul supporters. And the more who go to the state convention, the better the chance of sending at least a few of them to the national convention.
The state Republican Party doesn’t keep track of these things. Delegates can always change their votes, so it really doesn’t matter. And perhaps a word of caution is in order. When nobody does a formal count, anybody can claim anything. But when the state’s Republicans gather in Tacoma from May 30 to June 2, with 1500 delegates and 1500 alternates, the Paul forces certainly could make things a bit more interesting. Sort of like the way the Pat Robertson forces stunned the Republican establishment at the 1988 state Republican convention, which, by the way, also was held in Tacoma.
“It is happening across the nation,” Condotta says. “In Colorado he is on a par with Romney. We think in Minnesota he got the bulk of them, and we think he got the majority in Louisiana. So the story is all over the Internet now that he is the one who can stop Romney. It is happening in state after state, and there are several more they think are going to go that way, so this thing is far from over with. It’s the hottest thing going politically, and I think we’re definitely going to have a battle here. It is not over, not in the state of Washington. We may not win the thing, but we are going to have delegates going to national.”