Jae C. Hong / AP
Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- Mitt Romney must find a way to unify a fractured GOP (08-28-2012)
- Paul rallies supporters on eve of Republican convention (08-27-2012)
- Ron Paul, Mitt Romney delegates stand at the ready (08-27-2012)
- With GOP’s cold shoulder, where do Ron Paul’s supporters go from here? (08-27-2012)
- Paul backers from Nevada resort to backup plan at convention (08-26-2012)
- Nevada’s delegation of Ron Paul supporters finding it hard to keep hope alive (08-25-2012)
- More news from the GOP convention
- More Sun political news
TAMPA, Fla. — For the handful of Nevada Mitt Romney supporters in a delegation controlled by a band of would-be Ron Paul revolutionaries, the Republican National Convention has become more an event to endure than a celebration of their candidate.
Nevada’s 28-person delegation contains just five people who personally support Romney.
They know their guy will walk out of Tampa as the Republican nominee on Thursday. But first, they have to spend the better part of a week with a cadre of people they neither like nor trust.
“Yes, I was elected an alternate (delegate), much to the dismay of some of the Ron Paul delegates,” former state Sen. Sue Lowden said before remarking that she and others who supported Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum in the primary have managed to move on.
While Paul’s supporters control the Nevada delegation, the alternates are almost all Romney supporters, meaning the two sides are roughly equal in force when it comes to activities off the actual convention floor.
It makes for some awkward encounters.
At a breakfast Monday, the delegates were polite to each other, but the tension was evident. One Romney supporter insinuated someone had “walked off” with a batch of guest passes to the convention hall. A Paul supporter accused a Romney supporter of trying to “take over the delegation.”
Typically, such breakfasts are headlined by a guest speaker, a party superstar or at least an elected official. But most of Nevada’s top elected Republicans have steered clear of the convention.
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Joe Heck remained in Nevada.
Gov. Brian Sandoval is in Tampa, but only because he will deliver a primetime speech before the convention. He apparently hasn’t scheduled any time with the Nevada delegation.
“You won’t see him before this group,” Lowden said. “They’ve booed him. Why would he come here?”
Sandoval has not released any details about how he is spending his time in Tampa.
While the intra-delegation rivalries appear petty, the bigger question is how they might translate to the general election.
When that question is posed, the Romney delegates quickly deny any concern about rivalries and divisions.
“I don’t see those divisions,” said state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, who is attending the convention as a guest. “I see just the opposite. I see a consolidation of support. The Tea Party, the so-called establishment Republicans, even many of the Paul supporters … are coming together. They have to to get President Obama out of the White House.”
“That’s the motivating force, right there,” alternate delegate Patty Cafferata said.
Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, the only elected Republican in attendance in Tampa, dismissed any concern of rivalries.
“We are here to nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan,” he said. “Every convention has its themes and intrigues, but the bottom line is we will do the business we came to Tampa to do and leave energized to cause a change of administration.”
Wes Rice, a Romney delegate from Douglas County, said Paul supporters won the delegation fair and square. He holds no ill will toward them.
“I don’t think the Ron Paul people and the Romney people are enemies,” Rice said. “We have a different vision.”
How that competing vision plays out in November, however, “remains to be seen,” he said.
“But I can’t see how anyone who claims to be a Republican would vote in a way that would guarantee Obama victory,” Rice said.
Indeed, the larger division may be among the Paul forces. Some see the convention as a step in a protracted battle to rebuild the party to better adhere to the Constitution.
Others want to continue a knock-down-drag-out fight to nominate Paul.
“To some of them, I’m a campaign sellout,” said Carl Bunce, Paul’s former Nevada campaign chairman, who is more aligned with the longer-term goal. “I got them in their (delegate) seats and now I’m a sellout.”
The first test of that unity likely will be today, when Paul delegates are expected to launch a challenge to a series of rules changes pushed through by the Romney campaign.
Depending on how that fight goes, the second test will be when it comes time for Nevada to formally announce its delegation vote. According to binding rules, Romney, who won the caucuses in February, gets 20 votes and Paul gets eight.
Perhaps one of the more dramatic moments of the convention will be when Chairman John Boehner conducts that state-by-state roll call vote to formally nominate Romney.
At that time, delegation chairman and devout Paul loyalist Wayne Terhune will take the microphone for Nevada.
And as of Monday, even he didn’t know exactly what he is going to say.