Sunday, July 31, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Four years ago, the Ron Paul revolution swept through Nevada, drawing a wave of politically disaffected, mostly young, avidly libertarian voters into the stream of Republican politics.
Back then, it was the Paul-ites vs. the establishment. The Republican Party was their Tammany Hall and they weren’t going to stop until they had rousted the compromising, moderate, power-hungry leaders from the GOP ranks.
And they had a pretty notable victory toward that end.
A deftly organized cadre of Paul supporters who had become experts in the arcane rules governing the Republican Party and who had armed themselves with laptops and cellphones to communicate infiltrated the 2008 state convention.
Using the party’s own rules against it, they forced a change that would have allowed them to elect delegates from the floor, yanking the delegate selection process out of the hands of the party elite.
Ultimately, the party leaders, fearing Nevada delegates would go to the national convention to support Paul — who came in second in the caucuses — instead of the party’s nominee John McCain, aborted the convention before delegates could be elected.
It became a national embarrassment for the Nevada GOP. The national party ended up choosing Nevada’s delegates.
Since then, Paul’s Nevada supporters have been working a new strategy. As Paul readies his 2012 presidential campaign, the outsiders have now become the insiders, working to change the state Republican Party from within its own ranks, rather than battling it from the outside.
Again, they’ve been fairly successful.
They’ve spent the past three years working as volunteers at county and state party gatherings. They’ve elected members of their ranks as at least one county party chair and to multiple spots on party central committees and executive boards.
“They have been very successful,” said Heidi Smith, national committeewoman for Nevada. “They are as strong as they ever were. They are all members of the (state) central committee. They have worked hard to get where they are now and instead of fighting the party, they are working within it.”
Not all of their efforts have been successful. At the recent Clark County Republican Party executive board election, Paul supporters were rejected.
But from their position within the party, they’ve been able to effect rule changes — helping pass a rule making the results of next year’s Nevada caucuses binding, rather than winner-takes-all.
That means Paul — and every other candidate competing in the caucuses — will be automatically entitled a portion of Nevada’s national delegates equal to the share of the vote won in the caucuses.
Paul’s supporters also helped elect a new state chairwoman — Clark County resident Amy Tarkanian, the wife of former U.S. Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian — who, so far, has engendered their trust.
“She is going to be a refreshing face for the party,” said Carl Bunce, a Paul supporter who went to the 2008 national convention as a Nevada delegate and who now works for the campaign. “She’ll be able to accomplish what the party needs to raise funds and establish a solid organization that people want to get involved in and donate money to.”
Bunce said the caustic relationship between Paul supporters and the party leadership has largely evaporated.
“All that kind of abrasiveness has kind of gone away,” he said.
At least a tinge of that distrust remains, perhaps. Asked for examples of Paul supporters who have made it onto county or the state’s central committees, Bunce answered:
“I’m not here to out anyone. If they want to be known, they’ll make themselves known.”