Dozens of delegates for White House also-ran Ron Paul walked out of the Republican National convention for a second straight day, angered by rule changes they say squelch grass roots political rights.
It was a rowdy end to Texas congressman Paul’s presidential bid, which fell short against rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who accepts the party’s nomination on Thursday.
Paul was not given a speaking slot at the convention in Tampa, Florida, but organizers aired a video tribute to the longtime lawmaker, and his son, Senator Rand Paul, did get to address the delegates Wednesday, praising the American system which led an immigrant’s son like Ron Paul to run for president.
Several loud supporters headed into the halls of the Tampa Bay Times Forum where they marched around the building chanting “As goes Maine, so goes the nation.”
The reference was to last-minute efforts by the Republican Party to award half of Maine’s delegates to Romney, and preventing the ousted Paul delegates from being seated at the convention.
“This walkout was specifically in support of the Maine delegation and how it was treated,” Ann Barnet of Nevada said.
GOP officials “have violated a lot of their own rules. It’s not a clean process,” she added.
Ron Paul won 154 delegates in this year’s state-by-state primary race, coming in third behind Romney and ex-senator Rick Santorum.
But Paul’s backers, through savvy and persistent maneuvering, managed to control additional delegates in the process, and they were pressing — unsuccessfully, in the end — to have Paul’s name entered into nomination before the roll call vote on Tuesday.
“We feel that this process has become a sham. How can these people stand up there and talk about the constitution if they don’t follow their own rules?” said Adam Bates, a Ron Paul supporter from Oklahoma who heard the chants and joined the group.
“The GOP can’t even run a convention, and want us to believe they can run the country.”
Paul lit a fuse under the party’s libertarian wing, uniting legions of young supporters behind his anti-tax, anti-war message.
The surge in popularity for the movement has coincided with US weariness at expensive overseas wars and seething anger at the 2008 financial crisis that made fiscal discipline more appealing to voters.
Paul, 77, retires in January, leaving the causes of personal liberty and small government without their Washington champion just as they appear to be gaining traction.
Son Rand, elected in 2010 as part of the Tea Party surge, is a constitutional conservative and libertarian, and he is the most logical person to take up the baton from his father.
But his endorsement of Romney alienated many in the movement who say the nominee, and former multimillionaire businessman, shares none of their beliefs.