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Ron Paul 'Revolution' strikes at GOP state parties

Ron Paul’s third campaign for president may not lead to the Texas Congressman being nominated at the Republican Convention in Tampa this August -- notwithstanding a lawsuit filed by supporters in attempt to make that happen -- but, from Maine to Alaska, the “Paul Revolution” has swept state Republican parties.

Out of the national spotlight, Paul activists have mastered obscure local party rules to win key positions of power at state conventions, infiltrating the Republican establishment across the country, including in the key swing states of Iowa and Nevada.

In Massachusetts, they even beat out many prominent pro-Mitt Romney supporters to win spots as Romney delegates. They are informally bound by party rules to vote for Romney still, but the open secret in both parties, is no one is really bound – one of the issues at the heart of the Paul supporters’ lawsuit against the national party.

Ben Margot / AP

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, cheer as Paul speaks at the University of California at Berkeley, Calif.

Paul’s strategy has always been to motivate “the remnant” to gain influence by getting involved in party politics, and described how that would happen to a small group of reporters in Columbia, S.C., in mid-January.

“We don't win over the insiders by becoming like an insider,” Paul said. “We win the inside over by making the outsiders become more appropriate.”

But what Paul activists have done in many places is learn the rules of the insiders and use them against them.

After being described as “an outlier for the Republican Party,” Paul Wednesday morning on MSNBC, explained how supporters will achieve his long-term goal of bringing the GOP around to accepting his political philosophy.

“I want to work on the platform,” Paul said, “but we know platforms don't change people's attitudes. That's what we want to do -- get attention to changing the attitude, so that we, who are perceived as outliers, become the insiders. And that's what's happening. … We're winning state delegations, state chairmen and small offices, anywhere from city councils to county commissioners.”

Paul supporters are winning elections and becoming party insiders: chairmen, national committeemen, executive board members, elected officials, candidates and delegates.

- In Iowa, four of Paul’s former aides hold leadership positions at the state party, including chairman A.J. Spiker – who was Paul’s state co-chair. At least six members of the Iowa State Central Committee are Paul supporters.

- In Alaska, Republicans voted Russ Millette as the party’s new chairman and Debra Holle Brown as co-chair, both Paul supporters. Local reports call this a sea change in state politics, after “at least 12 years of the Alaska GOP being run by what those party newcomers call ‘establishment Republicans.’”

- In Nevada, Paul supporters won 13 of 14 new elected executive board spots at the Clark County GOP. Four years after having the lights turned out on them at the state convention in 2008, Paul supporters now hold positions at local and county GOP offices across the Silver State.

- In Minnesota, the state Republican Party endorsed Paul supporter and economics teacher Kurt Bills for the GOP Senate nomination. He will face incumbent Democrat Amy Klobuchar in November.

- And in Maine, 21-year-old Paul supporter Ashley Ryan was elected as the state’s new Republican national committeewoman. The Paul campaign claims she is likely the youngest national committeewoman.

“Look at the next generation,” Paul said on MSNBC. “I mean, there is so much excitement out there. The big deal is that the next generation are sick and tired of what they're getting and they're looking for something.  And what we're offering seems to appeal to the young people.”

Paul also explained that the goal of his movement “is to show that there's a political benefit toward accepting some of the views that we have.”

“I believe we're actually doing a favor for the Republican Party. If they would look to us for guidance and to realize that if they would accept some of these things, they might have an easier time winning.”

That said, not everyone's sold on just how lasting the impact of the "revolution" will be, considering Paul wasn't able to win a state in the GOP primary and didn't stop Romney, the most establishment of all the candidates, from becoming the nominee.

Asked which mattered more -- influence over party platform or being a state party chairman, Steve Schmidt, John McCain's 2008 campaign manager, dismissed either and said Paul supporters would be little more than a "hassle we'll have to deal with."

"I'm not sure that either have a particularly big influence on the direction of the party," Schmidt said on MSNBC. "When you have a state chairman who takes over a state party and the state party's dysfunctional, it's no longer relevant to the political goals of electing a majority, whether that's on the Democratic side or Republican side. Typically you see something that is taking place in California, for example, where you know the Republican parties become a small ideological clubhouse, totally faded to irrelevance where they-- factions gather twice every year to pass resolutions, denouncing the other faction, and it's a small clubhouse where people are relevant in the sphere of that small clubhouse, but no longer relevant in terms of being able to shape the outcome of an election -- to recruit candidates, to raise money, to register voters. And that's the direction these dysfunctional parties will go."

Jeff Johnson, a Republican National Committeeman from Minnesota, though, addressed the anxiety some in the establishment have over this increased participation by Paul’s followers.

“Ron Paul haters, get over it,” Johnson said. “If we don’t grow, we die as a party.”

Nearing the end of his career, Paul, 76, calls his movement an “ideological revolution,” one he says is “alive and well.”  

And this year, as Paul disciples become more involved and win elections, it’s a movement the Republican Party is being forced to deal with.