Saturday May 05, 2012 | 09:42 AM

Thousands lined up outside the Augusta Civic Center for today's Republican State Convention. The line started early as Ron Paul and Mitt Romney supporters angled to take control of the convention.

That contest is expected to unfold at the beginning of proceedings when delegates elect the convention chairman.

The build-up intensified on Thursday when Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster emailed delegates warning that Paul supporters had threatened a convention take over. He urged delegates to arrive early Saturday.

Paul supporters immediately took to Twitter to decry the email as an attempt to snuff out dissent.
The vibe at the convention was a bit more collegial early Saturday morning.

There were occasional cheers from the gallery -- , “Who’s for Ron Paul!” -- followed by cheers from his supporters.

State Rep. Aaron Libby, R-North Waterford, a Paul supporter, said the campaign had no desire to disrupt the convention.

“Our feeling is that we think it’s important to have our voice heard,” Libby said. “This election is far too important. We believe Ron Paul is different from all the other candidates.”

He added, “The idea is to make our presence felt today and everything will be kumbaya on Sunday.” 

Paul supporters are well-organized. This morning his volunteers handed out folders containing instructions on how to vote, who to vote for and stickers that delegates can place directly on their ballots.

The battle for control of the convention will unfold something like this: Paul supporters will attempt to elect the convention chair, the secretary, the national committeeman and woman, and a minimum of 13 convention delegates, which would give the campaign the majority of the 24 delegates that will go to the national GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.

If Paul wins enough state delegates he can speak at the national convention. That's the goal for his campaign.

The event was supposed to begin at 9, but at 9:30 organizers were still scrambling. Meanwhile, the line outside of the Civic Center was still snaked down to Rooster’s, a restaurant near the bottom of the complex entrance.

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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