CA GOP Optimistic At LA Convention
By BRIAN CALLE
The California Republican Party’s fall convention over the weekend focused on a theme of moving the party forward and substantial hope for national victories in the 2012 elections. It was held at the J.W. Marriott Los Angeles Live Hotel.
Several unexpected occurrences at convention signaled some shift within the party, including a substantial presidential straw poll victory for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas; a long-time party official’s scathing, center-stage criticism of “moneyed interests” and the infiltration by liberals into the state GOP; and a lackluster keynote speech by a spiraling presidential hopeful.
California GOP Straw Poll
Perhaps the most substantial highlight of the GOP convention was the decisive victory by Ron Paul in the first-ever presidential straw poll hosted by the California Republican Party. With a stunning 45 percent of the vote, Paul walked away as the favorite presidential candidate for those in attendance.
Paul gave a speech at a breakfast event early Saturday before the Los Angeles Lincoln Club. The audience was rabid and excited for Paul’s appearance and his raucous activists infused the convention with energy. A buzz followed Paul wherever he went in the hotel and convention center. Paul’s usual message of unabashed free-market capitalism, non-interventionist foreign policy and limited government ignited his supporters.
Undoubtedly, Paul’s appearance at the venue helped propel him in the straw poll. Although Michele Bachmann, who was also in attendance, finished a distant fourth in the poll.
Jon Fleischman, publisher of the California FlashReport and a long-time state GOP official, told me Paul’s victory was a result of money spent by supporters of Paul, rather than an honest reading of what California Republicans are thinking about the candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. He said that a Ron Paul donor paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $26,000 in registration fees for Paul supporters to vote in the straw poll.
Nonetheless, Paul’s victory speaks to the commitment, energy and loyalty of his supporters.
Texas governor Rick Perry finished second in the straw poll with 29 percent of the vote. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finished with a mere 8 percent of the vote, right ahead of Bachmann’s meager 7 percent.
Here is the final tally:
Ron Paul (374, 44.9 percent)
Rick Perry (244, 29.3 percent)
Mitt Romney (74, 8.8 percent)
Michele Bachmann (64, 7.7 percent)
Jon Huntsman (17, 2.0 percent)
Herman Cain (15, 1.8 percent)
Newt Gingrich (14, 1.7 percent)
Thad McCotter (7, 0.8 percent)
Rick Santorum (7, 0.8 percent)
Gary Johnson (2, 0.2 percent)
Fred Karger (1, 0.1 percent)
Write-ins (15, 1.8 percent)
During the luncheon at the convention, party veteran Tom Fuentes excepted a lifetime achievement award. The cancer-stricken Orange County Republican Party chairman emeritus offered a “fond farewell” to the Republican Party in which he had worked for the past 50 years. But he also took the speaking opportunity to blast some of the state GOP’s more prominent figures, including former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and major party donor Charlie Munger Jr.
Fuentes said, “When next you see the likes of an Arnold Schwarzenegger, do not be afraid to reject him. He and his circle were a cancer in our party — a cancer far worse than mine — for which we will long pay a price.”
He went on, “When next you see a candidate who thinks that only money is the way to win, like Meg Whitman, do not be afraid to tell her and her paid henchmen so. Remind her that ideas are demanded by the people. Not platitudes.”
Perhaps the most poignant shot Fuentes took was against Charles Munger Jr., who has been spending substantial time and money to make the California Republican Party’s platform more moderate. He is the son of Charles Munger Sr., the billionaire investor.
“Remind Mr. Munger,” Fuentes said of Charles Munger Jr., “that he has only one vote in the ballot box, just like you and I do. Sustain our platform as a true conservative Republican platform.”
Fuentes’ warning for attendees of the convention was simple, “When moneyed special interests are set to gut our party’s traditional conservative platform, do not be afraid to stand firm and tell them that we are not just a party of big business and special interests.”
Bachmann Keynote Speech
Presidential candidate and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann had the prime speaking spot at the CRP convention during Friday night’s opening dinner festivities. Bachmann, whose campaign has been on a downward spiral since she won the Iowa Straw Poll, gave a lackluster speech, perhaps another indication that her campaign is on the verge of falling into the political abyss.
During her address to the convention, Bachmann’s remarks did little to inspire. She grabbed some applause for comments about support for Israel, but did not incite the same type of energy and emotion that Ron Paul did during his speech Saturday morning.
In fact, Bachmann was also a little too optimistic, and perhaps out of touch, when she suggested the GOP presidential nominee would win California’s electoral votes against President Obama in 2012.
“I believe that 2012 will be a wave election that goes all across the United States, and will even take in the Golden State,” she said. Her remarks are a bit of a stretch for even the most optimistic Republican. Not to say the Republican Party is doomed from winning elections in California, it just has some groundwork to do first.
Even though she was the keynote speaker, Bachmann finished in an embarrassing fourth place in the convention’s straw poll, perhaps yet another indication that the Minnesota congresswoman will soon drop out of the race for the presidency.
(Correction: This article was modified on Oct. 17, 2011 to clarify that Fuentes was talking about Charles Munger Jr. The original article confused him with his father.)
May 19, 2013