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Commentary: Blocking Ron Paul out

There’s an elderly lady in Royal Oak who has sharpened and repaired my razors and table knives for years.

She has spent her life in business for herself, and does excellent work. She also isn’t shy about expressing her political opinions. She now works out of her home, and since the campaign started, her home has been decorated with Ron Paul signs.

Customers are invited to take a brochure explaining how both parties have led us down the wrong path. She was one of more than two million people across the nation who voted for Paul in the primaries. She knows her man lost the nomination.

She might have been able to accept that. But this week, in a development little noted by the commentators, Mitt Romney probably lost her vote, thanks to some ham-handed suppression tactics at the Republican National Convention. Ron Paul had nearly two hundred delegates at this convention, some of them from Michigan.

They wanted to place his name in nomination, to hear somebody extol his virtues, and take a few minutes to demonstrate for him. That would have happened at any other convention.

But not this one. Those running it wanted no dissent, no focus on any candidate other than Mitt Romney. There was a rule, however, that delegates on the floor could place a candidate in nomination if they had signatures from five states.

Ron Paul’s supporters indeed passed that test -- and then the party changed the rules on the spot to make it eight states.

That was deliberately done to silence those who backed Paul. They couldn’t prevent a hundred and ninety delegates from casting votes for Paul. They just wouldn’t allow them or their candidate to be heard. And that could turn out to be a major miscalculation.

Romney supporters undoubtedly feel that Paul’s troops will never vote for President Obama, and they are almost certainly right.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have anywhere else to go. There is another candidate who hopes to capitalize on the way the Paul forces were snubbed in Tampa. He is Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president.

He may well be on the ballot in every state. He is certain to get at least a few hundred thousand votes -- libertarians always do. And if he can peel off a substantial chunk of the two million who supported Paul in the primaries, Mitt Romney will lose this election. Paul, by the way, once ran for President as a libertarian himself. Johnson used to be the Republican governor of New Mexico. 

Yesterday, Johnson sent an e-mail message saying, “The Republicans are trying to shut down liberty at their convention. But they cannot silence the liberty message that Governor Johnson and Congressman Paul are taking to every corner of America.”

Ron Paul himself is unlikely to endorse Johnson. His son is a Republican senator from Kentucky, and his dad doesn’t want to hurt his career. But many of Paul’s supporters don’t care about that.

Mitt Romney is only the second native-born Michigander to win a Republican presidential nomination. The other was Thomas Dewey, who managed to lose in nineteen forty-eight in the biggest upset in political history. It would be ironic if history were to repeat.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.