Maine Democrats haven’t had much to cheer about recently, but they may have something to look forward to. If the Ron Paul faction of the Republican Party can turn the GOP national convention into the circus that they unleashed in Maine this spring, independent voters may be more likely to ride donkeys than elephants in November.

The Paulist faction of the Maine GOP is set to send the majority of delegates to Tampa later this month, despite a raft of complaints by establishment Republicans who feel the state convention that elected the delegate slate was railroaded by political insurgents loyal to the libertarian Texas congressman.

The party stalwarts are threatening to challenge their state’s delegation in Tampa to prevent the upstarts from representing Maine at the convention. They offered the Paul backers a compromise, and the fact that it was turned down flat is a telling sign of what these backers are looking for.

The Maine delegation elected at the convention would have been able to take their seats without a challenge if they agreed to vote for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, who was the winner of Maine’s Republican preference poll during caucus time. The Maine Paul delegates decided they would rather take their chances with a credentials committee fight.

What they are holding out for is a good enough showing for their candidate that would force his name to be entered into nomination. That would mean a prime-time speech and a maybe a chance of winning the nomination, even though as a candidate he did not carry the popular vote in a single state.

Paul’s supporters’ tactics may not make sense politically, but they could provide a spark of spontaneity in a convention that is designed to be a scripted infomercial, like every major party convention since the Democrats exploded into riots in 1968. Paul inspires something much more intense than the commitment Romney gets, as shown by the long line of not-Mitt front -runners Republicans fell in and out of love with during the primary season.

The problem with Paul’s support is not its intensity, but its size. (He only got 10 percent of the votes cast by Republicans nationally this year.) He may be able to use that zeal to steal some of the spotlight in Tampa, but that is not likely to do anything more than cheer up some Democrats.