Washington, D.C. — Some might say the Republican Party will have experienced three conventions this year.
First, there was the mini-convention for Ron Paul and his people the weekend before the actual GOP convention last month in Tampa, Fla. UW Election Eye has encountered fervent Paul partisans all around the country, and they have been a very motivated bunch in their sometimes-quixotic libertarian quest for their man’s nomination.
The rally in Florida was a chance for them to vent some of their frustration at the process, some of which spilled over at the “big-tent” convention itself. But normally these are occasions in which disparate groups, as at all political-party gatherings, have to play well together, or appear to. As my colleagues showed in their coverage of the Democrats’ convention last week in Charlotte, S.C. they’re about presenting united fronts and compromising for the sake of potential victory.
But then there’s the Values Voter Summit. It’s not about party unity. It’s instead the go-to protest space for social conservatives. Primarily hosted by the Family Research Council, it’s been the place for disenchanted socially conservative “values voters” — those worried about the impact of the recent HHS mandate on faith-based non-profits, abortion and same-sex marriage — to make their collective voice heard. That sometimes includes odd, but still telling, straw-poll winners in off-years. And if Mitt Romney loses the nomination, it’ll probably only grow in importance as a magnet for those politicians wanting to appeal to conservative activists.
Paul Ryan, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint, and Michelle Bachmann, among others, are slated to speak this year.
Controversial Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin will not be appearing (and neither will Ann Romney unlike as reported, for that matter), as at the Paul rally, this weekend’s summit remains the single best place for disenchanted conservatives to air their grievances with the party establishment. The Akin fracas and Huckabee’s involvement in it, along with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, are the kinds of events and people that demonstrate the unstable nature of broad-party alliances (witness the rise of multiple Tea Parties), and the importance of these alternative conventions.
I’ll be covering the convention.
It will be the culmination of my reporting series on religiously inclined voters, that I started back in January. I’ll be tweeting and posting photos from the summit, but also hope to talk to regular folks about why they believe what they do. It doesn’t just matter for them, not any more.