After Ron Paul supporters revolted over the RNC’s rules on Tuesday, Republicans offered an olive branch on Wednesday with a video tribute to Paul and a speech by his son, Sen. Rand Paul.
It didn’t work.
Dozens of Paul delegates and supporters staged an organized, angry and very loud walkout from the convention floor, filling the halls with anti-RNC chants. It was the second day in a row in which Paul delegates’ anger at Republican officials over efforts to prevent them from claiming other candidates’ delegates boiled over into open defiance.
“As Maine goes, so goes the nation! As Maine goes, so goes the nation!” protestors shouted in unison, a reference to demands that the RNC seat Paul delegates who the state party replaced with Mitt Romney supporters.
“We got railroaded by a freight train of hypocrisy,” James Martin, a Paul delegate from Virginia, told TPM. “We’re trying to raise the integrity of the Republican Party, and if they won’t do it from the top down, we’ll do it from the bottom up.”
The Paul contingency waited until after the Paul-centric convention opening had concluded before the protest got under way.
The convention began Wednesday night with a film showing clips of various Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Jim DeMint, Mike Lee and Mitch McConnell, praising Paul’s small-government vision.
“The longer we go and the deeper in debt we get, the more apparent it was that Ron Paul right all those years,” DeMint said in the video, to cheers from the crowd.
Not mentioned in the film was what separated Paul from the men toasting him: the congressman’s pointed refusal to endorse Romney.
That decision likely killed whatever chance Paul had of being awarded a speaking slot. But his son, who is closer to the Republican Party establishment, backed Romney months ago and took the stage Wednesday to sell conservatives on his candidacy.
Rand Paul’s speech did not mention Ron Paul by name, referring only to how his grandfather lived to see “a certain congressman from Texas run for the presidency of the United States.” Paul supporters burst into applause at the shout-out.
In a nod to his father’s movement, Rand Paul also briefly chided Republicans for not taking a more libertarian position on civil liberties and for shielding the military from spending cuts, two signature issues for both Pauls. But in the end, Rand Paul decisively cast his lot with the party’s current nominee, saying the party needed someone “who will lead our party and our nation forward.”
“I believe that someone is our nominee: Gov. Mitt Romney,” he said.
Paul and non-Paul delegates alike cited the younger politician’s backing of Romney as indicative of a broader divide with the movement that reduced his influence within it.
Lawton Sack, a delegate from Georgia who voted for Romney, predicted before Rand Paul’s speech that it was unlikely to have an impact on the Paul delegates from his state that he’s tried to help ease into the party.
“A lot of people have turned against Rand Paul for [his] endorsement of Romney,” he said.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.