Ron Paul Supporters Cause County Convention Chaos
After 25 state election contests, Ron Paul remains without a single win. But the Texas congressman isn't giving up hope of capturing the Republican nomination.
Aides say Paul is banking on his organization to help him pick up a plurality or even a majority of delegates in several state conventions, including Maine, Washington State, Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota and Iowa.
And as the campaigning continues, there are signs that Paul supporters are willing to make the nominating process messy.
They're accused of muddying county conventions in Colorado and Iowa last weekend.
In Iowa, a half dozen counties reported disruptions during conventions. The most egregious example occurred in Polk County, where Paul supporters illegally tried to become delegates.
"They were abrasive, offensive, and self-centered," said Kevin McLaughlin, GOP chairman in Polk County.
In Colorado, Ron Paul supporters shouted down Denver County GOP Chairman Danny Stroud, demanding rule changes in favor of their candidate.
"A small, loud group attempted to hijack the assembly and trample on the rights of those who took time out of their busy lives to participate in the political process," Stroud said in a statement to the Denver Post.
Colorado GOP Executive Director Chuck Poplstein says he "not totally surprised" by the action of the Ron Paul supporters who, because of previous elections, are naturally inclined to be suspect of the system. But, he added, the supporters did eventually behave themselves.
Paul Campaign Chair Jesse Benton calls the allegations against his supporters "silly," claiming that those who are complaining are frustrated with being out-organized.
"These silly complaints are all spin and whining from supporters of other candidates who are frustrated that Dr. Paul's supporters have out-organized and out-hustled them," said Benton in an email.
However, Iowa's McLaughlin said Paul supporters were attempting to become delegates illegally.
State law clearly defines the manner in which delegates are elected, at precinct caucuses, yet some Paul supporters argued for a rule change that would allow them to be seated.
They were eventually voted down, but not before some protesters were thrown out because of repeated disruptions, including sneaking around backstage. Some were caught rifling through delegate packets trying to find precincts where people did not show up so they could claim those seats.
"They wanted to be seated even though they were not elected," said McLaughlin.
The Iowa Republican newspaper reports that much of this behavior was inspired and encouraged by Ron Paul's Iowa campaign itself, led by his state co-chair's Drew Ivers and David Fischer who in an email told supporters the key is "to get elected" and "to be aggressive."
"Remember, to get elected, the first key is to be aggressive so make sure you jump up as soon as nominations are open. If there are any votes, make sure you vote ONLY for Ron Paul supporters. A vote for anyone who is not a Ron Paul supporter could cost us seats at the District and State Conventions."
Benton, asked about the Iowa campaign's tactics as defined in this email, responded to ABC News via email.
"David and Drew are deeply respected men of unimpeachable integrity and are spearheading a convention operation second to none," he wrote.
McLaughlin said that it's difficult to pin all the disruptions on Ron Paul supporters, admitting that some could have been Occupy Wall Street protesters. But, he says, the Paul supporters were the most vocal and have given their candidate a bad name in the county.
The disruptions slowed down the convention by at least a couple of hours.
"In my experience it was all very unusual," said McLaughlin, a veteran GOP member who has served through many conventions.
In Iowa, the drama is expected to continue at the district conventions in April, but McLaughlin says the strategy of aggressive disruptions so far has not produced any extra delegates for the Texas congressman in his state.
"That's just not going to happen," McLaughlin said.