Ahead of next week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, the party and its presidential front-runner Mitt Romney have made a compromise to allow some delegates who support Texas Congressman Ron Paul to have a seat at the nominating table. And some Florida Republicans are saying this inclusiveness should be a model for Republican leaders in the Florida Legislature.
Sally Bradshaw is a Republican strategist who has worked on state and federal campaigns for more than two decades.
“I’m currently working with Speaker-designate of the Florida House, Will Weatherford, and the Republican House Campaign Committee and I have worked in the past as the Chief of Staff to Gov. Jeb Bush and managed two of his three campaigns," she says.
Bradshaw says, for Libertarian-leaning Ron Paul to have had a shot at the Republican nomination, he would have had to carry the majority of five states during the primary. And though he didn’t, he and his vocal supporters have still managed to get some of his ideas incorporated into the Republican Party platform.
"There’s a heavy focus on the U.S. Constitution, which is a new section of the platform. There’s a discussion of putting together a panel on the gold standard," she says. "So I think you’ve seen a real effort by the Romney campaign.”
But that’s not good enough for some of Ron Paul’s Florida supporters. David Foster, of Tallahassee, is hoping to carry on Paul’s legacy, after he retires next year, with his grassroots group called Liberty Avengers, which tries to help elect candidates with similar platforms. Foster says, Romney’s last-minute compromise feels like pandering, and he and fellow Paul supporters will not get behind the presumptive Republican nominee.
“The thing that frustrates me the most, is that they have an opportunity right now to expand the Republican base," he says. "So, it’s almost as if they’re trying to throw the election because they’re not embracing this young movement of people who have come forward.”
But one longtime Republican Florida lawmaker, state Sen. Mike Fasano, says, there’s always going to be some disagreement about candidates within a party, and he applauds Romney’s inclusiveness.
“It’s important that the party open their tent up to all different types of suggestions and recommendations from people that are Republicans," he says.
That’s especially needed right now within the Florida Republican Party, he says. Fasano has served in both state chambers for the past 18 years, and will be returning to the House of Representatives next session. This year, he and a handful of other Republicans diverged with the Senate majority party when they voted against one of the party’s priority bills, which would have turned over 11 state prisons to private companies.
“And the President of the Senate, who happens to be Republican, removed me as a chairman because of that. That’s not what we want as a party. We should welcome everyone who has an idea," he says.
And, further highlighting a division in his party, Fasano says, some Republican lawmakers seem to consistently vote based on the goals of the conservative Tea Party, which backed political newcomer Rick Scott for Governor in 2010.
But, he says, he’s encouraged by what he sees as more independent-thinking Republicans who are now stepping in to lead the Florida Legislature.
“People like Will Weatherford, who will be the Speaker of the House come November, future leaders, people like Richard Corcoran and Jack Latvala, they just don’t follow based on this is what this particular group wants you to do. And I believe that is a good thing for our party," he says.
And Sally Bradshaw says, overall, the Florida Republican Party is a uniform group with similar goals.
“The Tea Party, to their great credit, has refocused our party, in some ways, on the issues that matter. We believe in less government. We believe the tax dollars we send to Tallahassee and to Washington should be spent wisely," she says.
And, with about 25 years’ experience on campaigns, she says, she’s rarely seen her party so unified as they are right now around defeating President Barack Obama in November.