The Republican establishment has quelled the Ron Paul Revolution, at least for 2012.
Using a mix of charm and procedural hardball, Mitt Romney's campaign and his allies who control the Republican National Committee have ensured that the Texas congressman will neither speak nor be formally nominated at next week's convention. It's a significant victory for Romney, who could have been faced with a raucous rebellion from the Paul crowd if he hadn't extended an early, and diplomatic, olive branch to what has become a key constituency.
The libertarian septuagenarian controls the state delegations from Nevada, Iowa and Minnesota. But a candidate needs five states to be officially recognized on the floor. Paul supporters have made claims to Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Oklahoma and Maine. But Romney's coterie of lawyers skillfully used the rules and interpersonal negotiations to peel each away.
The 168-member Republican National Committee approved a report Thursday by the Romney-friendly "committee on contests" that invalidated Paul delegates elected in Maine based on irregularities at the state convention. The RNC voted to split the at-large delegation in half, effectively depriving Paul of control.
Paul's high command and key supporters were disappointed but surprisingly conciliatory. Most are adamant that there will be no trouble during the televised proceedings that begin Monday.
"We knew we were walking into a snake pit, but you've got to put up the fight," said Virginia delegate Christopher Stearns, who worked closely with the Paul campaign on the convention platform and the rules. "You've got to have a discussion. Otherwise, it appears as though there's nothing going on."
"It was a fair hearing, and I thought it was an acceptable environment," Stearns added. "The majority rules, and the will of (the) minority shall be heard. It's unfortunate, but that's the circumstances we have right now."
To dissuade Paul supporters from disrupting this week's pomp and circumstance, the Romney campaign and its surrogates have bent over backward to show respect to the Paul forces. There have been months of previously unreported behind-the-scenes phone calls and meetings between Romney and Paul representatives to try to build bridges and reach compromise agreements. The establishment made significant concessions on the platform to the Paul people even before the group convened, and then they allowed up-or-down votes on proposals from Paul supporters during preconvention meetings.
It's a marked contrast from four years ago, when party leaders for all intents and purposes froze out Paul completely. While Republicans held their convention in St. Paul in 2008, Paul drew more than 10,000 people to a counter convention in Minneapolis.
"I hope that Ron Paul supporters and delegates saw a Republican National Committee that was fair, open and honest," RNC chairman Reince Priebus told POLITICO. "I think you're seeing the beginning of a very peaceful conclusion to this and everyone being on the same page to elect Mitt Romney."
POLITICO and the Tampa Bay Times have partnered for the 2012 presidential election.