Poor Ron Paul.
The veteran Texas congressman running for the Republican presidential nomination by arguing for dramatic changes to the federal government can't get love from Orange County-related political figures.
This week, conservative radio host/lawyer/author Hugh Hewitt--a former, post-presidency aide to Richard Nixon, declared that he'd vote for Democrat Barack Obama over the libertarian-leaning Paul in a general election contest.
On his national radio broadcasts and in blog posts, Irvine resident Hewitt has repeatedly mocked Paul's "baffling" and "incoherent" foreign policy and national defense stances.
Indeed, Hewitt's best word for Paul is "nuttery."
Former Irvine state Assemblyman and GOP U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore, now a visiting senior scholar at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, shares Hewitt's view. He said polls showing a strong Paul candidacy are wrong. He predicted Paul won't finish above fourth place in the upcoming Iowa caucuses for two reasons.
"I have firsthand experience with Paul supporters and they don't deliver," said DeVore, who is backing Rick Perry and still firmly believes the Texas governor will defeat Mitt Romney for the nomination. "And half of Paul's supporters aren't Republicans."
Costa Mesa Congressman Dana Rohrabacher also isn't impressed with Paul. Rohrabacher, the senior member of Orange County's congressional delegation, recently endorsed Romney and, in Twitter posts, has ridiculed Newt Gingrich and Paul.
Another prominent local Republican donor/activist, who asked for anonymity, called Paul "a nut, a freak, a loser," but admitted he is "stunned" by "all the bad choices" for Republicans in the race to topple Obama next November.
Despite the stinging attacks, Paul enjoys a vibrant, loyal base of supporters in OC. One of those is Allan Bartlett, a member of the local Republican central committee. Bartlett disputes DeVore predictions about Paul and Perry in Iowa.
"Is he kidding me?" said Bartlett. "Ron is running first in some polls and his guy Perry will be lucky to finish in fourth place. That guy can't even debate. He's finished."
Bartlett says he understands why some OC Republicans despise Paul.
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"Ron's support is strong across demographics and especially for Republicans who are just tired of the candidates and the leaders that we've been getting," he said. "The one thing about Ron is that he tells the truth and some people don't like that."
According to Bartlett, no current Republican president candidate generates more excitement in Orange County than Paul, a claim he says would become obvious if the candidate holds a public event here before the June California presidential primary.
"It would be huge, ginormous," said Bartlett. "Ron has the most devoted support here. There is some [lesser] excitement for Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, but not for Newt or Mitt. If the nominee is Newt or Mitt, a lot of Republicans in Orange County will be holding their noses like they did with John McCain in 2008."
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly