Here is the video from Newsmax (Relevant video starts at 11:25):
Romney was asked if there is a growing libertarian movement in the GOP. He answered, “I don’t really see any change in the libertarian effort. There has long been a libertarian strain in American politics. It typically comes together with the Republican Party, but it’s been part of conservatism for a long time. The good thing about libertarians is that when they are called to show up somewhere they do, and when they get a call in the night saying hey, we need you to show up at CPAC, or show up at a straw poll, or show up at an event, they’ll show up, and you gotta congratulate them for that, but I don’t think there’s a growing portion of Americans who are, if you will, Ron Paul devotees, but he has an influence, and welcome his participation to our party. It’s a big tent party.”
When asked for comment about Romney’s downplaying of Paul’s CPAC win by CNN, Paul spokesman Jesse Benton wrote in an email that, “”It takes a tremendous amount of both support and organization to win a straw poll with the prestige of CPAC’s. We are proud that Dr. Paul has both. The message of liberty and sound money is growing every day, and Dr. Paul is honored to be one of the leading spokesman.”
Notice the obvious contradiction between Romney’s statement that the GOP is a big tent party, and his complete dismissal of Ron Paul and the libertarians. I would think that if the Paul supporters are so motivated and dependable, then they would be just the kind of activists that a Republican candidate for president would court, not dismiss. Paul’s CPAC win wasn’t because the deck was stacked with his supporters. The message behind his victory was that Republicans are looking for a truly conservative candidate, which is something that neither Romney nor Palin actually are.
The Republican Party is small right now, and it is a big mistake for any candidate to ignore the will of the GOP’s activists. No matter who the Republicans nominate in 2012, they will likely lose to Obama, such is the power of an incumbent president, but Romney seems completely ignorant of the battle being waged for the future direction of the Republican Party.
I do have to give Romney and Newsmax credit for properly separating the corporatized Tea Party movement from Paul and libertarians. They are not the same thing. I think the Tea Party will fade away as soon as the economy improves, but the libertarians are a group of passionate, dedicated, long term activists, who have already demonstrated their potential during the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign. Mitt Romney or any other mainstream Republican is a fool to ignore them.