TAMPA, Fla. — Maine delegates who support presidential candidate Ron Paul are threatening to boycott the rest of the Republican National Convention unless the party reinstates Paul delegates who were stripped of their status.
But not all Paul supporters in the delegation are convinced that a boycott is the right strategy if libertarians are to gain respect and influence within the Republican establishment.
“It is my firm opinion that we have made huge gains and it would be silly to throw those gains away,” Stavros Mendros, a Maine delegate and Paul supporter, said Monday afternoon. “I don’t think taking the ball and going home is the appropriate response.”
On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee will stage the first full day of activities in a convention that has focused almost entirely on building voter support for Mitt Romney going into the two-month stretch before Election Day.
Some members of Maine’s small delegation plan a final attempt — albeit a symbolic one — to seat additional delegates who support Paul, the libertarian congressman from Texas who finished well behind Romney in the primaries.
Last week, Republican National Committee officials essentially reshuffled the makeup of Maine’s delegation to the convention after determining that the state’s delegate-selection process in May was riddled with illegal votes and parliamentary violations.
As a compromise intended to satisfy the Romney and Paul camps, RNC officials replaced 10 of the 20 Paul delegates with 10 Romney supporters.
The switch gave Romney a 14-10 delegate edge in Maine, including the state’s four undeclared delegates, all of whom support Romney.
After exhausting all other appeals, Maine’s pro-Paul contingent plans to ask the full convention Tuesday to reject the RNC’s revised list of delegates and re-seat the slate of 20 Paul supporters who were elected during the state convention in May.
On Monday, about 35 pro-Paul delegates and alternates from Maine met to discuss the plan and decide how to proceed if their “Hail Mary” is defeated on the floor.
Mark Willis, a displaced Paul delegate, said the majority voted that the 10 remaining Paul delegates and 10 alternates should boycott the rest of the convention.
“What we have said all along is no deals, no compromise,” said Bernie Johnson, a delegate from Lamoine who supports Paul. “Either seat the whole (Paul) delegation or none of us.”
But some members of Maine’s delegation — on the Paul and Romney sides — fear a symbolic boycott would only harm Maine’s standing with the national party and further divide Republicans within the state.
“It’s like putting gasoline on the fire. It is unwise to do that because it doesn’t bring them into the party,” said Hayes Gahagan, chairman of the Aroostook County Republican Committee and one of the 10 Maine delegates selected by the RNC.
A self-described libertarian, Gahagan said he was pleased when Paul entered the race as a Republican. But he plans to support Romney at the convention and on Election Day because his priority is defeating President Obama.
“Like Gov. (Paul) LePage, I support (Ron) Paul’s positions but I support Romney,” Gahagan said.
RNC officials are intent on minimizing disruptions that could detract from the image of a GOP unified behind Romney, so they are likely to resist any attempts to increase the number of Paul delegates.
Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at: