TAMPA, Fla. — Republican leaders averted a floor fight at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, but not without boos, yelling, bruised feelings and allegations of cheating.
Before the state-by-state convention vote for the GOP’s presidential candidate, Ron Paul supporters lost a voice vote to seat more of their delegates from Maine.
“We were robbed!” a backer of the Texas congressman shouted in response. Paul delegates began chanting “seat them now!” The majority behind Mitt Romney tried to drown them out with chants of “USA! USA!”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus had to intervene and gavel the convention back to order.
Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu then presided over a voice vote on even more controversial RNC rule changes. The modified rules were intended to shorten the primary process and, critics charge, strengthen national party leaders at the expense of state and local Republicans.
Ron Paul supporters were the most vocal in their objections, as is their custom, but a broader cross-section of conservatives opposed the rule change. Longtime GOP national committeeman Morton Blackwell wrote in a letter to delegates that they “would amount to a power grab by Washington, D.C. party insiders and consultants designed to silence the voice of state party activists and Republican grassroots.”
A chief complaint was that the rules changes would advantage early front-runners like Romney over conservative challengers, including not only Paul but runner-up Rick Santorum and tea party favorite Michele Bachmann.
It was unclear to delegates and eyewitnesses whether the voice vote actually carried. The “no’s” were quite loud in some parts of the convention hall, but Sununu ruled that the “ayes” had carried the day.
This occasioned another noisy protest as Paul delegates and other disgruntled Republicans chanted “point of order!” Security stood alert as tensions escalated, but eventually the outcry died down and the James Brown music started playing.
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