TAMPA, Fla. – Maine Republicans who support Ron Paul continued their counter-campaign at the Republican National Convention for a second day Wednesday, refusing to sit on the convention floor and then joining a larger group that marched out in protest.
About 100-plus Paul supporters from Maine and other states left the convention hall around 8 p.m. and marched around the interior walkway of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, shouting, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.”
The small protest did not disrupt events on the convention floor, where thousands of Republicans were waiting to hear from Mitt Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
But it was another attempt by Paul’s supporters to call attention to what they say was unfair treatment of pro-Paul delegates and alternates from Maine who lost their seats to Romney supporters when Republican National Committee members ruled they were improperly elected.
The issue was the subject of a brief but boisterous floor fight Tuesday, in which Paul’s supporters from Maine failed to reseat the displaced delegates, prompting loud chants of “Seat Maine now!”
“We are simply trying to protect the rights of every delegation here,” said Andy Stinson, an alternate from Maine who lost his seat when RNC officials reshuffled the makeup of Maine’s delegation. “What is being done to Maine can be done to any other state.”
Brent Tweed, a Paul supporter who was elected chairman of the Maine delegation during the state convention in May, said he was unsure who organized Wednesday night’s small but loud march. He said Maine’s delegation did not coordinate it.
Tweed said most of the Paul supporters from Maine’s delegation agreed to attend the convention to see a video tribute to the Texas congressman and hear a speech from his similarly libertarian-minded son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“Now we are leaving and are not coming back,” Tweed said as he walked through a tunnel toward the last security checkpoints. The Paul supporters’ seats will likely be filled by Maine alternates who support Romney.
Maine’s dispute with the RNC doesn’t appear to have caught on with the vast majority of Republicans who are in Tampa to nominate Romney.
In fact, many delegates from states where Paul is less popular would struggle to explain what the shouting, boos and chants of “Seat Maine now!” were all about Tuesday.
The dispute began at the Republican State Convention in May, when Paul supporters won control of the proceedings and elected Paul supporters to fill 20 of Maine’s 24 seats to the national convention.
Two longtime Maine Republicans challenged the legality of the results with the RNC, arguing that the state convention was poorly run, and riddled with illegal votes and parliamentary violations.
Last week, RNC officials agreed and settled on a compromise in which 10 of the 20 Paul delegates were removed and replaced by Romney supporters.
Maine’s Paul delegates appear to have the most ardent support among Texans, who have repeatedly re-elected Paul to Congress over the past 30-plus years. Many Texans were in the group that marched out Wednesday, clearly identifiable by their white cowboy hats.
Many supplemented their hats with stickers that read “Remember Maine 2012” — a play on the historic slogans “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember the Maine” — and featured a picture of Paul.
Not all Texans who support Paul joined the protest march.
Don Zimmerman, an alternate who serves on the state’s Republican Executive Committee, said he didn’t disagree with the march, but he didn’t join because “it’s not where I’m coming from.”
That said, Zimmerman felt angry that convention leaders didn’t allow Maine’s Paul contingent to make its appeal on the floor, and about rules changes that he sees as a power grab by RNC officials at the expense of grass-roots political activists.
“It’s all abuse from people in power,” he said.
For some Romney supporters, the brief dust-up Tuesday ranged from an unnecessary distraction to a curiosity. Others said they barely noticed or weren’t on the floor.
Mark Zaccaria, a Romney supporter and chairman of the Rhode Island delegation, was on the floor and didn’t seem to have a problem with the brief disruption.
“We know there is passion there, and I love to hear the old saying, ‘As Maine goes, so goes the nation,’ ” Zaccaria said before Wednesday’s protest march.
Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party and a delegate supporting Romney, said earlier Wednesday that the dispute could have implications for party politics back home. But he said his biggest concern is the state’s relationship with RNC officials.
“In the short term, I have been frustrated because some of the antics have not been appropriate,” Webster said of Maine’s vocal Paul supporters. “But overall, it won’t affect our standing with the RNC.”
Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:
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