Republican grassroots activists and the GOP establishment clashed in their first official meeting since a dust-up at last year’s presidential convention deepened fissures in the party.
A conflict over rules adopted at the convention — strongly opposed by Ron Paul delegates — reared its head again at the Republican National Committee spring meeting this week in Hollywood, Calif., and continues to create headaches for RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as he rolls out a new agenda for the party.
The activists gained a victory on Wednesday as a RNC panel amended changes made at the 2012 convention in Tampa which the Paul delegates and other conservatives said disenfranchised the grassroots and empowered the party elite.
The rule change made at the convention “was clearly aimed at Ron Paul supporters and conservative activists skeptical of Romney’s record — forcing them to choose party over principle — and it helps give GOP insiders more leverage at picking the nominee,” grassroots activist Jason Pye of United Liberty, a free market and limited government website, told Newsmax.
“For example, if someone ran as a delegate and pledged to vote for Mitt Romney, but then finds out something unsavory about him and they switched to another candidate; they would have been stripped of their delegate status,” Pye said.
A change to the rule was adopted by a thin majority on Wednesday by the RNC Rules Committee and will need a three-quarters vote from its 168 members when it goes before the full body on Friday
The compromise version of the measure would allow delegates to maintain their status at the convention if they voted their conscience, but their vote would be recorded according to the appropriate party rules or state law.
The grassroots activists were unsuccessful in overturning another contentious rule adopted in Tampa, which allowed the RNC to change its rules at any time or any place in between party conventions.
The dispute comes after Priebus irked many conservatives last month with his roll out of an in-depth study of what went wrong for Republicans in last year’s elections.
Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh criticized the study for suggesting that conservatives were “disrespectful” and “out of touch.”
“I’m sorry, but we’re not disrespectful to anybody. Look at what these focus groups have got these poor guys believing. Look at this, ‘Our party is narrow-minded.’ Republicans are not narrow-minded,” the conservative commentator said on his radio program.
The battle over the RNC rules only adds to the existing party divisions and gained heft last week when a who’s who of conservative heavyweights sent a letter to the RNC, siding with the Paul delegates’ criticism.
More than 60 conservative leaders signed the letter asking Priebus to “undo the rules power grab done in Tampa.”
Signed by numerous well-known conservatives such as Edwin Meese III, Gary Bauer, and Phyllis Schlafly, the letter warned against “allowing political consultants and other elite minorities to shed our principles in the name of political expediency.”
Other signatories to the letter include Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; Erick Erickson, editor of RedState; and Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.
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