The roots of this year's GOP rush to Ron Paul date to 1964, the year Barry Goldwater was the nominee.
The Minnesota delegation's overwhelming vote for libertarian Ron Paul at this week's Republican National Convention was no fluke. It was a long time coming, and the process is not over.
I give you 1964 as the starting point, the year of Barry Goldwater.
Members of Minnesota's GOP establishment were not in support of the conservative Arizona senator as their party's presidential nominee. They saw themselves as moderates, before that became a dirty word, and as vestiges from the days of Harold Stassen, the famous "boy governor" who voluntarily left the State Capitol to serve in World War II, and who, upon returning home, ran for president, one of the first candidates to urge federal assistance to help fix what he called a lagging health care system.
What were the moderate Minnesota Republicans to do in the face of the coming Goldwater onslaught?
The party leadership, with Bob Forsythe as state chairman, persuaded Walter Judd to become their presidential candidate. Judd was both conservative and widely known because of his long service in the U.S. House from south Minneapolis.
The "Goldwaters" and the "Judds" competed furiously within the state party, packing precinct caucuses and fighting through county and congressional district conventions, all the way to the state convention.
At the end, the Judds had 15 votes in the state GOP delegation to the national convention. The Goldwaters had seven.
When the roll call came in San Francisco, that was how Minnesota cast its ballots, becoming one of a handful of delegations to vote against the winning Goldwater. In that minority status, it was similar to this week's Minnesota vote for the ultraconservative Texas congressman instead of the winner, Mitt Romney.
That was not the finale, however.
After the roll call, the Minnesotans caucused in an effort to unify for the fall campaign. They decided to ask Goldwater if there was any chance that he would pick Judd as his running mate.
Several leaders were chosen for the mission -- Congressmen Clark MacGregor, Ancher Nelsen and Al Quie; Forsythe, and national committeeman George Etzell, as I recall. As the Minneapolis Tribune's political reporter, I tagged along.
We walked up Nob Hill to the Fairmont Hotel, where Goldwater had commandeered the penthouse suite. We were met by attorney Richard Kleindienst, a member of the so-called Arizona Mafia that was running Goldwater's campaign.
The main rooms were awash in champagne, donors and expensively dressed women. "We can't talk in here," our host said.
Bedrooms, same deal. "Well," he said, "the bathroom."
It was so crowded in there that Kleindienst had to step into the bathtub. So here they were, national and state GOP leaders jammed into a john to decide the fate of a potential vice-presidential nominee.
Forsythe, one foot on the toilet to ease crowding, said, "We would like to know if there is any possibility that Congressman Judd might be considered for the vice-presidential nomination."
Kleindienst, from the tub: "No." End of meeting.
Goldwater lost, but the Goldwaters did not go away. Two years later, they elected conservative lawyer Harold LeVander governor over several more moderate GOP candidates.
Since then the state party has become ever more conservative. Most recently, through eight years of Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The arrival of the Tea Party and Michele Bachmann. A legislative majority populated by their kindred.
Now we have the libertarians, who cast 33 of Minnesota's 40 votes for the ultraconservative Paul, more than any other state.
They are so far right that Stassen would not recognize them. Nor would Goldwater.
Some Republicans think that with conservative Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan on the national ticket, Minnesota will be in play even though the state has voted Democratic in presidential races since 1972, longer than any other state. Maybe so.
But first the Republicans will have to figure out how to deal with the extremist libertarians. Their votes for Paul in Tampa represent a lot more of the same back home.
Frank Wright is a retired Star Tribune journalist.