The GOP head was quoted as saying:
The GOP's Vance theorized that "most people who vote for Libertarians or Greens or any third party candidate are people who hate Democrats and Republicans and are looking for a third party candidate. But I've always thought that in a really close race like Slade Gorton's (2000) race, yes, Libertarians beat us (Republicans). (Credit to the Seattle PI who can count me among the informed citizenry now)
Vance may have been correct in this case as Republican Slade Gorton lost by 2,229 votes while Libertarian Jeff Jared earned 64,734 votes. For the record I voted for Jared and if he had not appeared on the ballot, I would've written myself in or perhaps my cat as "Chairman Meow." (credit to PJ O'Rourke)
Ryan Sager even wrote a book recently entitled The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party. The title of the book is generous to libertarians as they are not nearly powerful enough to battle for control of either the GOP or the Democrat party.
I have heard many on the right chastise libertarians for leaving the marriage and starting a new life as a third party. It's not just pure libertarians that moved out and didn't leave a forwarding address. The spirit-filled paleo-conservatives in the Constitution party have gone too. Among activists these two segments represent about a million voters nationwide which is a considerable voting block considering the narrow margin of victory in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections. The only two groups remaining comfortably within the GOP are the Rockefeller Republicans and the Religious Right but even their relationship together is strained as they both rally around the troops to save their union.
Since 1996 in my state alone the GOP has blamed one Senate seat and one Congressional seat on the presence of the Libertarians and Constitution parties. Their claim is that there is room for them in the big tent of the Republican party and there's no need for infighting to result in electing Democrats. In other words: Things will be different if you just move back in with me and the kids, darlin'.
The Ron Paul candidacy has shed some light on what that reception might look like. The state GOP in Iowa not only made sure Ron Paul wasn't invited to a major forum but treated his supporters like outsiders in the Iowa Straw Poll. The straw poll itself is nothing more than a fundraising scheme for the local party where each candidate must buy-in to participate. Paul's candidacy not only bought-in but brought many people who would normally not attend a GOP event. But was there room in the big tent after all?
Polling was done among the leadership of the Iowa GOP to predict the outcome of the Straw Poll. As the chart shows below (credit Yahoo news) they just may have let their own bias impact their predictions unless they seriously thought not a single Ron Paul supporter was going to show up to the straw poll.
The media wing of the GOP (also known as Fox News) in a fair and balanced way decided to report Paul's 5th place finish with 9% in this way:
During the Straw Poll the emcee of the event was Laura Ingraham. While Ron Paul supporters marched in to the arena quite loudly she interrupted her own introduction to quip, "The inmates have left the asylum." For anyone who has listened to her radio show (and I have and usually find her quite funny) you'd know that she meant nothing by the comment but I doubt supporters of Mitt or Rudy would ever be compared to insane people.
So at a party fundraiser which was supposed to attract activists, the grassroots candidate and his supporters were seen as the crazy ones and the candidate who paid for bus rides for his supporter and fed them lunch (essentially buying their votes) was considered to be the celebrated champion of the party establishment. Even Reason magazine observed that the Paul supporters were treated as if they had "pissed in the collective punchbowl."
It may come down to Dr. Ron Paul to save the marriage. If as his support grows he is treated with respect as an activist candidate who tried to steer the direction of his party to save it. If he is continued to be marginalized and his army of supporters cast aside as irrelevant, the marriage will be lost. At that point the only hope of staying together is if the disaffected groups succumb to battered voter syndrome...hoping that if they keep going back eventually things will be different.