By Teresa Welsh |
Ron Paul says he won't upset the apple cart at the Republican National Convention—he won't seek to be nominated from the floor and/or ask for a prime speaking spot so long as his son, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, receives one. Party chairman Reince Priebus says he expects Paul to have "a great week" in Tampa and that his supporters "will be welcomed with open arms."
Then why the conference call last week in which Paul's campaign urged his supporters to be civil at the convention? Why the worry among convention organizers Paul might have something up his sleeve? And why won't he concede and endorse the ticket like all the other Republicans?
The Romney campaign fears trouble from the Paul camp with good reason. Paul controls somewhere between 160 and 200 delegates and possibly more, depending on various legal challenges his campaign continues to pursue. Plus, Paul, never known as a team player, plans a rally the day before the convention at the University of South Florida's Sun Dome.
But giving Paul a speaking spot during the convention is not the answer. Conventions are the last opportunity for parties to present uncontested views of their candidates. They are neither a circus requiring a Ron Paul sideshow nor Free Speech Alley at the local college. They are four-day infomercials designed to promote the candidacy of—in this case—Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and the ideas on which they are running.
One can respect the passion of Paul's supporters, admire their focus on liberty and limited government and even acknowledge the support he has amassed over the years without wanting to see him muddle the message in Tampa.
He will get his moment in the sun. The delegate roll call will demonstrate the popularity of his ideas. His son's speech will reflect most of his views and signal a passing of the torch for his followers since Ron Paul is retiring from Congress after this year. The party will acknowledge his efforts in the primaries.
But more than 76 million people saw John McCain and Sarah Palin speak at the 2008 convention. And more than that may watch Romney and Ryan. This is their show.
This is their opportunity to make the case for themselves and against President Barack Obama. It is a fleeting moment in a long campaign, and there are no do-overs. Republicans must get it right the first time. And that means there is no way they can spend a day explaining away whatever Paul might say. There is simply too much on the line.
About Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Brian Doherty Senior Editor of Reason magazine and Reason.com
Stephanie Slade Project Director at The Winston Group
Judson Phillips Founder of Tea Party Nation