Irked by changes to the presidential nominating process that will make future contests more favorable to establishment candidates like Mitt Romney, Ron Paul backers at the Republican convention loudly booed House Speaker John Boehner as he presided over the final adoption of those rules on the convention floor.
Though not as fractious as some had anticipated—Paul supporters had talked of staging a little rebellion and trying to nominate Paul from the floor at the convention—the spat highlighted the divided nature of the party just as the presidential race hits the home stretch.
The divide centered around several changes to the nominating process pushed through Friday at a meeting of the powerful Rules Committee by Romney’s top legal advisor, Ben Ginsberg, that were designed to make it more difficult for an insurgent campaign to secure delegates en route to the convention. The changes dictated that delegates be bound to vote in accordance with the results of state primaries and caucuses, thus limiting the ability of candidates to boost their support later on at state conventions.
Paul lagged significantly at the polls, but his supporters quietly worked behind the scenes to propel their chosen delegates into the mix, meaning that he could have more support on the convention floor than he enjoyed at the ballot box. The new changes effectively nixed that strategy for future campaigns, drawing the ire of Paul supporters, activists and other conservatives who said the change would limit grassroots campaigns.
On top of that, the Republican National Committee also barred twenty Paul supporters from Maine from serving as delegates, saying that their election violated party rules.
Fast forward to Tuesday, where Boehner stood before the convention and put the new rules up for a voice vote to all the assembled delegates. Though both the ayes and nays boomed as loud as each other, Boehner quickly said the rules were adopted and moved right along, prompting a chorus of boos and chants of, “Shame on you.”
Paul himself has been hesitant to embrace his party during what is otherwise a tightly choreographed, unanimous show of party loyalty and fervency. He declined to speak at the convention, claiming organizers offered him a speaking gig on the condition that he let them vet his speech and that he offer a full endorsement of Romney. In an interview with the New York Times, he said he doesn’t “fully endorse” Romney’s candidacy, and later told Fox News that he was unsure if he would even vote for him.
Jon Terbush is a Boston-based writer whose work has appeared in Talking Points Memo, Business Insider, the New Haven Register, and elsewhere. He tweets about politics, cats, and baseball via @jonterbush.
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