Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 | 2 a.m.
The Nevada delegation’s demonstration for Ron Paul during the Republican National Committee roll call vote Tuesday was their way of demanding recognition and respect from the GOP.
But to much of the rest of the Republican Party, it was simply the latest reason to shed their waning shreds of respect for Nevada.
“It’s very embarrassing,” rural county chairman Wes Rice told the Sun. “We just lied. We all promised to do what we were supposed to do and didn’t do it.”
Nevada wasn’t the only state whose delegates were itching to undo the new rules on representation the Republican National Convention’s rules committee adopted last week. And it wasn’t the only state whose delegates sought to ballot Ron Paul.
But it was the only state in which delegates broke their own rules, eschewing their obligation to vote 20-strong for Romney on the first ballot, instead throwing almost all the delegation’s weight to Paul.
“The spokesman last night really betrayed our state and our party,” said Bob List, former Nevada governor and current Republican national committeeman.
Nevada’s Republicans have had several turns in the national spotlight in the past year, but each time they have walked away with their image more tarnished.
Last October, Nevada’s GOP leaders supposedly struck a gentleman’s agreement with the Republican National Committee: In exchange for dropping back in the order of early caucuses, Nevada’s delegation would get prime treatment at the RNC.
But Nevada’s disorganized February caucuses — and the 36-hour recount that followed — were enough of a fiasco that the RNC began to reconsider that deal.
It was discarded entirely after the Nevada GOP’s state party convention.
Ron Paul supporters — who had been the driving force behind the February recount — flooded the convention, successfully electing 22 members of their slate to the 25-person delegate squad and making clear that though they were bound to vote for Mitt Romney on the RNC’s first ballot, they intended to find some way of promoting Paul.
Nevada’s established Republican leaders disowned the Paulites and the state’s GOP structure as a result, setting up a parallel “Team Nevada” operation to deal with national organizers and donors.
But the Paul supporters’ cries became louder as it became clearer that Paul would be excluded from the roster of speakers at the Republican Party’s Tampa festivities.
By political party time, the Nevada delegation had been pushed to the back of the auditorium, where their microphone was kept at a low level throughout the ceremony — save for during the roll call vote that has so upset the rest of the Nevada Republican Party.
“In the spirit of freedom that inspired the founding of our country, and in honor of the liberty that has made these states the greatest country on earth, we proudly cast 17 votes for Congressman Ron Paul,” Wayne Terhune said, flanked by members of the delegation bearing Paul stickers and signs.
Reactions from the Republicans around them were mixed — even among Paul supporters.
“I thought it was in poor taste,” said Beth Billings, a dedicated Paul delegate from Louisiana, which was seated directly in front of the Nevada delegation. “I thought it was something Dr. Paul would not approve of.”
“But there were plenty of Mitt Romney signs, and Ron Paul was also a nominee,” said her friend Marcy Allen, also a Paul delegate from Louisiana.
Members of Tennessee’s delegation, which was seated across the aisle, were also reservedly unimpressed with the display.
“It’s not anything that accomplishes anything,” Tennessee delegate Martha Brown said. “It’s kind of a useless exercise.”
Even some Nevada Paul supporters agreed with that impression.
“There was nothing really to gain by making this statement. ... We have gained nothing, but we certainly have lost a whole bunch of credibility,” said an obviously frustrated James Smack, vice-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party and former Ron Paul supporter. “Right now I’d just like to apologize to every Republican in the state of Nevada. What happened tonight was wrong.”
But other prominent Paul supporters shunned the idea that the demonstration had caused any real damage to the party — at least not any more than already existed.
“If people were upset about what happened last night, I apologize for that,” state Ron Paul campaign chairman Carl Bunce said. “But the Nevada GOP was an embarrassment to me when I got involved. They were as corrupt as this party is at the national level.
“I’ve always seen this as a long-term goal to reshape the party. I try to respect the process until it’s disrespected. And you can only do so much when they keep pushing you back.”
But as we’ve seen, what really matters is what the national party thinks. National RNC officials declined to comment to the Sun about their impressions of Nevada’s demonstration.
Nevadans who have spoken to them, however, say that Republican leaders are aware that the Nevadans who spoke on the RNC floor do not speak for Nevada as a whole.
“They feel badly for the good state of Nevada,” List said. “They understand it was a small contingent of a minority people representing a very tiny minority of Nevada.”
“I don’t think most people were paying attention to it at all,” Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki said. “I think in some ways what occurred yesterday will provide even new momentum and cohesiveness going forward.”
Whether that is true remains to be seen. Most Paul supporters who attended the RNC remain vehemently opposed to voting for Romney. Some are even considering helping campaign against him.
But if that is the consequence of this convention, Nevada’s non-Paul supporters seem comfortable with it.
“If the [Ron Paul people] want to go their own way, good riddance,” List said. “We’ll pick up a lot more independents and conservatives to take their place.”