TAMPA, Fla. — Top advisers from Mitt Romney’s campaign tried to get as far away as possible Tuesday from a proposed delegate allocation rule change that has angered the Ron Paul nation, as well as the tea party conservatives Romney desperately needs to rally for the final sprint to November.
It’s an esoteric reminder that some actual party business gets done among the scripted TV production that is the national convention, and that the changes to rules and platform planks proposed by the delegates here can have a far reach.
Paul entered the Tampa Bay Times Forum Tuesday just before the convention got under way, buoyed by loud cheers — a stark reminder that he remains the preferred candidate of an extremely vocal faction of the GOP.
A proposed change in the way delegates to the national convention are selected would allow the candidates to choose their own delegates, rather than the current process in which individual state parties choose them. Paul forces tried to hijack Romney’s smooth nomination process in Tampa by voting in their own delegates at certain state conventions, weakening Romney’s delegate count and worrying party officials who fear a proposal from the floor to nominate Paul.
Party leaders have offered compromise plans aimed at appeasing aggrieved Paul supporters. Early indications are that hasn’t worked, and tea party conservative types signed on to the Paul protest. Sarah Palin posted her opposition to the proposed rule changes on Facebook, and RedState’s Erick Erickson warned that the GOP is “rapidly moving to shut out the grassroots.”
“I think we’re willing to work with the Romney campaign but it seems like in his push for conformity he’s putting unity at risk. We’re no real threat — Ron Paul’s not going to get the nomination here, give us our chance to vote for him on the first ballot,” Mark Zasadny, a Paul delegate from Minnesota, told TPM Tuesday. “The appearance is they’re trying to crush dissent and kill the grassroots movement.”
It’s all terribly exciting for fans of parliamentary procedure and insurgent candidates. But it’s also exactly the type of thing Team Romney was trying to avoid in Tampa, billed by the campaign as a chance to showcase a unified GOP. And so the Romney campaign has tried to get as far away from the fight as possible, as quickly as possible.
“Party rules, honestly, that’s not the campaign,” Beth Myers, wholed Romney’s VP search, told an audience in Tampa Tuesday.
She shared the panel with top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, who lamented the rules fight.
“Do we really have to talk about the rules?” he said. “Can’t we talk about Ann Romney’s speeches?”
There are signs the Romney campaign is trying to keep the story off the radar. An Ohio TV station reported Tuesday that the Romney campaign tried to set conditions before granting an interview with Romney and Paul Ryan that would have made the fight with Paul supporters in Tampa off-limits.