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The Sandbox

Sandbox: Talking Ron Paul, Paul Ryan & RNC

Tedski and Sam dig in again

Paul and Paul

Sam: So, Tedski, we're back at it this week with lots of good fodder from the whirlwind in Tampa. With a little help from Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, the national media is an in uproar about the Republican Party platform's stance on abortion, which affirms that an "unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life that cannot be infringed." This is big, breaking news if – somehow - you missed the last 28 years, because that plank was adopted in 1984. Ahhh, timely, impartial journalism at it's best!

But really, the two big story lines from the convention: Paul Ryan and Ron Paul. Democrats are really underestimating Ryan. Ryan is young, articulate, and good-looking. He's a serious, thoughtful lawmaker who has earned the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. And Ryan's district in Wisconsin is a true swing district. Bush won it in 2004. In 2008 the district went to Obama 51 to 47 percent. But Paul Ryan has never gotten less than 57 percent of the vote – and that was in his first election.

Moderate Democrats and independents in his district like him. And my guess is the convention will showcase exactly what a powerhouse he really is. Considering that Sarah Palin fought Joe Biden to a standstill in the 2008 vice-presidential debate, Biden has to be shaking in his 1 percent-approved Italian loafers looking at this matchup. Ryan is going to bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the party, and I expect that positive momentum to carry forward onto the campaign trail. (Note to my friend Mittens: you better up your game, Gov., cause your running mate is a lot more inspiring than you are.)

On the other side of the storm are Ron Paul and his army of fervent (occasionally insane) followers. Paul's 2008 surge in the polls caught Dr. Ron and his Campaign 4 Liberty (C4L) team off guard. As usual, he was running for a spot on the stage, a chance to present his views to a wider audience before quietly trotting home to Texas. Instead, in many ways, Paul became the real Republican story of the 2008 election cycle – raising vast amounts of cash online and creating the youngest, most dedicated block of grassroots activists the Republican Party has seen in a long, long time.

Talking with some of the C4L folks ahead of this election, their plan was never for Ron Paul to win the nomination (something even they realized was beyond his grasp), but rather to leverage the momentum Paul gained in 2008 and this year to effect change within the party by mobilizing an army of new precinct committeemen and convention delegates. Much to the chagrin of the Republican establishment, they were successful.

So, of course, the reaction of the GOP has been to do everything in their power to alienate these new activists, including changing or outright ignoring their own bylaws to deny Paul's supporters seats at the convention.

For justification, many GOP stalwarts say that Paul's supporters aren't Republicans – they're Libertarians. Of course, that ignores the bigger picture. Maybe Paulistas aren't Republicans: but they want to be. And in what is likely to be one of the most closely contested presidential elections in history, turning your back on the only people in your party who aren't AARP-eligible seems incredibly foolish. Young people can knock on a lot more doors than senior citizens.

So whether the GOP chooses bring Paul and his followers into the fold – or not – may have a major impact on the presidency in November. At this point, though, reconciliation might not be possible. The abuse that's been heaped on them has a lot of Paulistas raging at the GOP, and it's going to take more than a head-nod and handshake to fix the rift. The GOP would probably have had to add some of their planks to the party platform – extend more than a rhetorical olive branch, at least – something they were clearly unwilling to do.

While Hurricane Isaac didn't head straight for Tampa, the storm made for plenty of split-screen TV shots. Speaking of split-screens....

Will Ryan's policies fly?

Ted: The crowing from some Democrats about Paul Ryan's selection was a bit overdone. The fellow activist who asked me "Why would Mitt Romney give Obama this election like that?" was a prime example. Hubris? Maybe. Then again, the Ryan pick isn't quite the slam-dunk that you paint, Sam.

He piles up decent majorities in his district, which you point out is a swing district. The thing to remember about house members is that they get re-elected because of things like constituent services and personal popularity as much as their stands on issues. These are comparatively small constituencies where personal touches like that can make a big difference. It's a reason why senators are talked about as possible candidates than members of the House, despite their lack of actually getting elected. A state-wide figure is forced to juggle and negotiate multiple constituencies.

So, the question becomes, why not a senator or governor from a swing state? It's not like there are a lack of choices. And this is where your focusing on Ryan's overstated crossover appeal is mistaken. Ryan was picked because of his appeal to the Tea Partiers, not because he gets a few Democratic votes in Waukesha County.

Taken at that level, it seems to have worked much the same way that the Sarah Palin pick helped John McCain. Romney's crowds are more excited, at least when Ryan is around. They know he is far more of a "true believer" than Romney is.

And this leads to a problem with the pick. How much will Ryan's budget proposals fly outside of Tea Party rallies? The Republicans, for example, have been making hay of the supposed "$700 billion cut to Medicare." It's not a cut, but the claim is still being made. Well, Ryan's budget makes a $700 billion cut, one that can't be nuanced away as savings the way Obama's is. It's one of many things in his budget plan that won't be popular once they are highlighted.

By the way, Ryan has benefited a lot from the editorial conceit that cuts in popular programs like Medicare and Social Security are "bold." I'm still waiting for a major editorial page to call a politician "bold" for an unpopular liberal stance. Yeah, liberal media.

Also, by the way, if the program is in crisis, why not implement these reforms right away instead of putting them off for years. Convenient that it doesn't effect the current 55 and over crowd that is a major Romney constituency. So much for "bold."

Of course, the real question is how long we are still talking about Paul Ryan after the convention. In a few weeks, he'll be doing made-for-local-media events in mid-sized cities and fundraising. If he's makes big news, it'll be a problem.

By the way, Sam, your shots at Joe Biden indicate that underestimation isn't just a Democratic problem.

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As for what happens to the Paulistas, I think that what saw at the convention tells you. Paul was unable to speak at the convention, and his delegates are feeling shut out of the platform process.

I attended the 1992 Democratic convention, and I see a lot of the same things that happened to Jerry Brown supporters in that convention happening in Tampa. That year, Brown's supporters were pushing for something called the "humility agenda" (yep, supporters of Jerry Brown actually invoked the word "humility"), and, if memory serves, got a vote on it. But Brown was banned from speaking. He got around this by nominating himself for president.

Convention organizers got a bit of revenge on the once and future governor with their pick of music as he exited the stage: Souza's "The Liberty Bell," better known as the theme song for Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Anyhow, I think the Paul movement will fade (cue the angry replies). It seems so centered on Paul himself (not the most likely candidate for a personality cult, I realize) that I don't see it translating to anything long-term. Have Paul supporters moved en masse to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson? Haven't seen it yet. Will Paul try to get his supporters to support Johnson? Not if his actions last campaign, where he encouraged his supporters to support the nominee of the theocratic Constitution Party, are any indication.

Anyhow, I've bloviated enough. I was waiting for Pat Robertson to claim that Isaac is God's wrath against the Republicans, but no luck. Back to you.

Stripping things down

Sam: Tedski, considering that CNN's big news "story" coming out of Tampa prior to the convention was how much money Republicans were going to spend at the local strip clubs, all that money wasted on booze and babes when it could be generating spiritual wealth instead has to be infuriating for him. So I can fully buy into the Isaac/Preacher Pat/God's Wrath bit.

But back to business: you say that Paul Ryan is "catering" to the over-55 crowd by not including them in any proposed Social Security solutions. Okay. That's true. So are your guys. These days every person under the age of 40 should get a jar of Vaseline included with their tax return. Because we're all being screwed by our grandparents.

When Social Security was created, senior citizens were the least affluent demographic in the United States. Now they're the most affluent age group in the country. So you can tear Paul Ryan down for catering to seniors, but you better include President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and all your other liberal icons right there beside him, because they're all doing it. In Washington, more people are robbed at the point of an AARP card than a gun. At least Ryan has a plan, something that no other member of the House or Senate or our soon-to-be-unemployed president has managed to come up with.

You do make some good points on the Paul-follower front. Except that the movement does have legs, and is no longer really tied to Ron Paul so much as it is the organizers he put in place with C4L. They're focusing on a number of local and congressional candidates across the country, so I don't think this will die with Paul's retirement. BTW, this divide in the Republican Party has local roots as well. When Brian Miller was ousted as Pima GOP Chair in 2011, it had every bit as much - or more - to do with his Libertarian leanings as it did with his statements about the local SWAT team shooting of Jose Guerena.

While I worked for Miller as GOP spokesperson, I don't agree with everything he stands for. Still, in recent years the Pima County GOP has been little more than a seniors' social club. Getting out-organized by the Pima Dems is a time-honored tradition.

Miller was, finally, moving the organization in the right direction. But those good reforms just didn't matter to a lot of people so long as he refused to toe the party line 100 percent. That attitude towards Paul's followers could cost the GOP this election, because - Ron Paul or not - I just don't see these folks walking away from politics or walking in the doors of a Republican Party that remains largely hostile to them.

The fact that three of Arizona's delegates to the convention broke ranks to vote for Paul - as did delegates from a handful of other states - means that Mitt Romney and the GOP have a lot of work to do to bring those folks back into the fold. Expect Mittens to spend a lot of time trying to convince South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to act as his surrogates with those folks while Romney tries to keep his distance so the mainstream media doesn't end up tying him to a letter Paul had ghostwritten back in the Paleolithic era or something.

Switching gears, looks like the local primary elections Tuesday night went down as expected, although I was surprised at the margin of victory in a couple of races. Supervisor District 1 candidate Ally Miller, particularly, pulled off a stronger victory than expected. Her race in November with Nancy Young Wright should be a barn-burner; two women who aren't afraid to get tough, with TOTALLY opposing ideologies. This one essentially sets up the first local showdown between the Tea Party and Occupy movements. Should be juicy.

And finally...

Ted: I'm sorry it took me so long to wrap this up. Just as I got done with cataloging the misstatements in Paul Ryan's speech I ended up getting distracted by Clint Eastwood talking to a chair.

I still am a bit confused why if Social Security and Medicare are imminent emergencies, why Ryan would want to put off fixing them for a decade. Eh, politics.

I realize that living in Southern Arizona where we are treated to images of fun-loving retirees and their "Green Valley Grins" can skew our views of the actual economic status of a large part of our elderly population. However, the median income of the elderly is $15,222, not that much higher than poverty level.

I am glad to see that you acknowledge that the program has brought the elderly out of poverty, but the worry for people on my side is whether or not those changes will send them back into poverty.

I think that changes need to get made in the program (lifting the earnings ceiling is something I'd consider), but I get frustrated by how much of the talk is being done by six-figure income Beltway talkers. It's easy to say "raise the age," for example, when you've got a job you can keep working into your 70s and probably don't need Social Security and Medicare anyway. Let's ask a nurse who is on her feet all day or a worker that spends his day stocking a warehouse if they'd like to wait an extra two years before retiring.

Of course, the way the conversation works on this issue, we never will.

As for the what happens to the Paul movement, we'll see if it results in anything long term. Pat Robertson was able to put together the Christian Coalition from the remnants of his campaign, and it had it's heyday in the mid-1990s. Howard Dean's Democracy for America is an important part of the progressive movement. But political memory is littered with candidates who hoped that their "movement" would outlast their campaign. Concord Coalition, anyone?

I think it depends on what they do early on. If Campaign 4 Liberty ends up just being a vehicle for Rand Paul, who is more a doctrinaire Tea Partier than small-l libertarian, then I think it fades quickly. If you are correct, and it has grown past a Ron Paul personality cult, then it could be a force. The reluctance of the group to support Gary Johnson's campaign because he isn't Paulish enough makes me wonder if they actually have grown, though.

I'll close out with the Young Wright/Miller race. Occupy vs Tea Party? Wow. Nancy Young Wright has been quite liberal on many issues, but Occupy? Geez, man. This woman voted for SB 1070.

See you next week.

Ted Prezelski writes about soccer for TucsonSentinel.com and has been active in local politics for years. Sam Stone is a consultant with Cain Consulting LLC, served as the spokesman for the Pima County Republican Party, and most recently worked for congressional candidate Martha McSally.


Sam Stone is a Republican political consultant in Southern Arizona.

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Sam Stone and Tedski can argue politics all day — at least until somebody's mom calls.

The nitty-gritty

The Sandbox is a weekly back-and-forth between two local polticos: Democratic activist Ted Prezelski and Republican consultant Sam Stone. Not afraid to call things as they see 'em—even about their own parties—they'll kick some dirt around, mine for nuggets both golden and feline, and give Sentinel readers the story behind the stories.