The Oklahoma Republican convention ended with a contestable official result, two delegations, and even fisticuffs. The only certain result is more bad blood than ever between supporters of Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.
Two Oklahoma Republican delegations
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX-14). Photo: US House of Representatives
The Oklahoma Republican primary was a “Super Tuesday” (March 6) primary. At the end of it, Ron Paul got less than ten percent of the vote, and no delegates. Rick Santorum got 14 delebates, Mitt Romney 13, and Newt Gingrich another 13. Three more delegates will be uncommitted.
Last weekend the Oklahoma Republican Party held the convention to choose the delegates. And, as they have done in other States, supporters of Ron Paul sought to choose themselves as delegates. They hope to deny Mitt Romney a nomination on the first ballot and perhaps even challenge and overturn the “binding rules” from the National Convention floor.
Mitt Romney’s supporters do not want that to happen. But after what did happen, no one can claim to have settled anything.
At least 600 Ron Paul supporters (40 percent of total attendees) showed up at the Oklahoma Republican convention. Tempers flared early. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin spoke to the convention to endorse Mitt Romney. Ron Paul’s supporters objected to that and cried “Boo!” several times.
That was only the beginning. Ron Paul supporters, according to PolicyMic, won 9 of the first 15 delegates. The dispute began as the convention tried to choose the other 25. Ron Paul supporters charge that the Oklahoma Republican officials repeatedly set aside the rules. This provoked a chant of:
Follow the rules! Follow the rules!
Then things got worse:
At least three Ron Paul supporters said later that some of Mitt Romney’s supporters struck them with their fists, in the back of the head or in the small of the back.
Someone turned off the lights and moved the movable walls to block people’s view of the proceedings.
Finally, the Oklahoma Republican chairman held a voice vote to pick 25 delegates and 25 alternates. The Oklahoma Republican Party rules clearly state that the convention must hold a roll-call vote to pick delegates. They did not. And after picking this slate, they promptly adjourned the convention.
So Ron Paul’s supporters gathered in the parking lot. They contend that the proceedings inside the convention hall were totally illegitimate. They cited the voice vote and the highly irregular adjournment. So they held their own “rump convention” and, according to the Examiner article, won 95 percent of the delegates.
So now Oklahoma will send two delegations, one that the “official” convention picked, and another that the “rump convention” picked. And if the “official” convention did indeed break the rules, Ron Paul’s people have grounds to contest the delegation.
A delegation contest similar to this took place in the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Then, George S. McGovern’s supporters prevailed and seated an all-McGovern delegation from California. McGovern then lost that election to Richard M. Nixon.
An Arizona Donnybrook
The Arizona Republican convention also ended with bad feelings all around. Again, said someone who saw it, someone turned off the lights to force the convention to adjourn early. Again Ron Paul’s people say that Mitt Romney’s people defrauded them. Arizona is a “winner-take-all” State, and will send 29 delegates. Whether the Ron Paul camp has grounds to contest that delegation is less clear.
Tea Party activists react
Nick Purpura, a New Jersey activist, expressed shock when he heard about the fisticuffs at the Oklahoma Republican convention. But the larger drama did not shock him.
Mitt Romney’s people are running scared. And the Republican establishment is also running scared. They know they chose the wrong candidate, and they do not want a brokered [national] convention. They want to make sure, ahead of time, that Mitt Romney wins on the first ballot. And they’ll do anything they can to make sure of that.
Purpura has already asked New Jersey Republican voters to vote for Ron Paul in the June 5 primary. “Let’s see what happens in New Jersey,” he told CNAV.