Monday, May 20, 2013
WASHINGTON — It's been more than two months since Mitt Romney captured enough delegates to claim — unofficially, at least — the Republican presidential nomination.
Matt McDonald is one of the 24 delegates who plans to represent Maine at the Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month. Unlike the vast majority of delegates nationwide, however, McDonald doesn't plan to cast his vote for Romney.
He and 19 other delegates from Maine are fighting to cast their votes for Ron Paul, whose 158 delegates equate to roughly one-10th of Romney's total.
"We are realistic," McDonald said Wednesday, "but for the integrity of the process, we were elected as delegates (for Paul) and we are going to go and support Ron Paul."
Paul delegates from Maine and several other states are currently battling to preserve their "seats" at the Tampa convention, which begins Aug. 27, in the face of challenges by Romney supporters and others. In Maine, two Republicans contend the 20 pro-Paul delegates were elected improperly during a disorderly state convention in May and therefore should be tossed out.
In some ways, the unflinching support of Paul delegates from Maine and several other states is more than symbolic. If Paul can accrue the plurality of delegates in at least five states, his name will be placed in nomination formally alongside Romney's, earning him a prime-time slot to address the convention — and, therefore, the nation.
However, Paul supporters also hope to introduce some of the libertarian stances espoused by Paul during the campaign into the Republican party platform, which serves as the national party's guiding principles.
Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said delegate challenges such as those playing out with the pro-Paul delegates were more common in the past.
"The main reason these happen is to gain some leverage in shaping the party platform or the speaker schedule," Zelizer wrote in an email. "In fact, the challenge itself in this day and age is a way to gain media attention for a candidate or a cause. Given that Paul is a candidate with a message, the challenge helps keep the arguments in favor of libertarian conservatism alive."
To secure the nomination, Romney spent months battling Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and others during a heated GOP primary that cost the campaign tens of millions of dollars and brought to light issues in Romney's background now being highlighted by the Obama campaign.
So for many Republican faithful, the national convention is a chance to rally around Romney and formally introduce their candidate to the rest of the voting public through a scripted, made-for-TV production.
Long gone are the days when potential Democratic and Republican nominees jockeyed for support of delegates during behind-the-scenes meetings and floor debates.
Paul's delegates from Maine insist they have no intention of disrupting that process, with one delegate declaring, "We're not the Occupy movement."
Even so, they said, Paul and his supporters should have a place — and a voice — on the convention floor.
"There is no reason that having different ideas or having a discussion should tear the party apart," said Eric Brakey, a Paul delegate from Maine who also directed the candidate's campaign in the state. "A convention is supposed to be where people come together and have discussions."
Republican National Committee officials have yet to give Paul a formal role at the convention -- or if they have, it hasn't been publicly announced. Paul's son, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, who is also popular with libertarians and Tea Party members, will speak, however.
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