4:41am

Sun June 17, 2012
Presidential Race

Raucous Iowa Convention May Signal What's To Come

Originally published on Mon June 18, 2012 12:10 pm

You know things are going badly when the person at the front of the room has to say, "This is not going well." The fireworks at Iowa's Republican State Convention began even before lunchtime Saturday. At one point during the day, the parliamentarian threatened to kick out the next person who tried to speak out of order.

If Saturday's convention is any indication, Mitt Romney may not be in for smooth sailing at this summer's national convention in Florida.

Why the rancor in Iowa? Many longtime party activists say supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul are taking over and that tone continued throughout the day. Paul backers will make up all but a handful of Iowa's 28 delegates going to Tampa.

Of the 25 delegates up for a vote at the convention, 21 support Paul. They are unbound, meaning they can vote for whomever they choose at the national convention.

Iowa's Image

Delegate Bethany Gates of Benton County worried that going with Paul could tarnish the image of the party — and the state's first-in-the-nation caucus status.

"So far, we've already had two different candidates that are declared a winner," she said. "If we go to national with a third candidate ... we are going to look ridiculous."

Party officials had come under fire after they initially reported that the former Massachusetts governor had won the caucus in January, but then named former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum the winner after a recount. Paul came in a close third, but his supporters have continued to organize on his behalf.

Saturday's event also included calls for unity from several speakers, among them longtime Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. He urged the crowd to deliver the swing state to Romney.

"Either it's four more years of President Obama, or it's a new day," he said. "And every one of you want it to be a new day."

State Party Chairman A.J. Spiker, who left the Paul campaign to assume his new role earlier this year, also called for unity. But then he failed to mention Romney's name during his speech.

Division: What Is It Good For?

Prominent blogger Craig Robinson, who was undecided during caucus season, says the outcome of the convention doesn't represent what happened at the caucuses. He also says the division isn't helping the Iowa GOP.

"It doesn't seem like we're acting like a majority party," he said. "We're acting like a minority party that's having an identity crisis and struggle that is more common after defeat than victories."

But Jeff Taylor, a Paul supporter who was chosen as a national delegate this weekend, said internal disagreements could be good for the party.

"We'd have a bigger audience for the conventions if we were a little bit more of a throwback to the old days, before it was all so cut-and-dried and ... a slick package," he said.

If Paul supporters have their way, the convention in Tampa may be anything but the slick package Romney and much of the GOP are hoping for.

Copyright 2013 Iowa Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.iowapublicradio.org.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. If yesterday's Iowa state convention is any indication, Mitt Romney may not find smooth sailing at this summer's national convention all because of Texas Congressman Ron Paul. His supporters are set to repeat a success they have managed in states all over the country. Team Paul will make up all but a handful of Iowa's 28 delegates going to Tampa. Iowa Public Radio's Sarah McCammon has more.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: You know things are going badly when the person at the front of room has to say this:

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right, folks. This is not going well.

MCCAMMON: The fireworks began before the convention even broke for lunch.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Point of order.

MCCAMMON: There were moments like this one, when a participant tried to get permission from the parliamentarian to speak.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You're out of order. We are trying to be pleasant people here. We're trying to let everyone be heard. We're trying to figure out how to do this fairly and efficiently. And the next person who does that is going to be removed from this convention. Do you understand?

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

MCCAMMON: Why the rancor? Many longtime party activists say Paul supporters are taking over the party, and that tone continued throughout the day.

STEPHANIE ALBRIGHT: Stephanie Albright from Pottawattamie County. Earlier we were told that Ron Paul had dropped out so I went ahead and researched it over my lunchtime. Ron Paul has not dropped out of the presidential election.

MCCAMMON: Bethany Gates of Benton County worried that going with Paul could tarnish the image of the party and the state's first-in-the-nation caucus status.

BETHANY GATES: So far we've already had two candidates that were declared a winner. If we send our delegates to the national and come back with a third candidate who came in third and who has not continued his campaign, we are going to look ridiculous and we will lose our first-in-the nation. So, thank you.

MCCAMMON: Party officials had come under fire after they initially reported that the former Massachusetts governor had won, but then named former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum the winner after a recount. Paul came in a close third, but his supporters have continued to organize on his behalf. The day also included calls for unity from several speakers, among them longtime Iowa U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, who urged the crowd to deliver the swing state to Romney.

SENATOR CHUCK GRASSLEY: Either it's four more years of President Obama or it's a new day, and every one of you want it to be a new day.

MCCAMMON: State party chairman A.J. Spiker, who left the Paul campaign to assume his new role earlier this year, also called for unity, but then failed to mention Romney's name during his speech. Prominent blogger Craig Robinson, who was undecided during caucus season, says the outcome of the convention doesn't represent what happened at the caucuses. And he says the division isn't helping the Iowa GOP.

CRAIG ROBINSON: It doesn't seem like we're acting like a majority party. We're acting almost like a minority party that's having an identity crisis and struggle that's more common after defeat than victories.

MCCAMMON: But Jeff Taylor, a Paul supporter who was chosen as a national delegate this weekend, says internal disagreements could be good for the party.

JEFF TAYLOR: We have a bigger audience for the conventions if we were a little bit more of a throwback to the old days before it was all so cut and dried and kind of, you know, a slick package.

MCCAMMON: And if Paul supporters have their way, the convention in Tampa may be anything but the slick package Romney and much of the GOP are hoping for. For NPR News, I'm Sarah McCammon, in Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.