The rest of the world may have moved on, but loyal followers of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas are still fighting a rear-guard — and effective — battle for delegates at the state level with just weeks to go before Republicans gather for their national convention in Tampa, Fla.
A federal judge this week allowed delegates supporting Mr. Paul to file an amended complaint in a case in which they accuse the Republican National Committee of manipulating the delegate allocation process.
Judge David O. Carter did, however, grant the RNC's motion to dismiss a previous complaint. The Paul delegates' amended complaint is due by Aug. 20, just a week before the Republican National Convention is scheduled to begin.
Nevertheless, Mr. Paul, though he effectively ended his campaign in May without having won the popular vote in any state, has relied on an intensely loyal cohort of followers and staffers who took advantage of sparsely attended caucuses and entered into state party organizations to expand their influence and increase his delegate count across the country.
Mr. Paul's successful efforts at the Maine state party convention are mired in a dispute with state party officials over the procedures at the May gathering. In an attempt to settle the dispute, state Republican Party Chairman Charles Webster has offered a deal to seat all 40 contested delegates and alternates for the Tampa convention.
But it came with several caveats — one of which would require delegates to sign a statement pledging to vote for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney if Mr. Paul's name did not appear on the ballot.
Brent Tweed, the elected chairman for the delegation, flatly rejected the proposal.
"We will not be intimidated into signing political deals under threat of being unseated," he said. "We are accountable to the Maine Republicans who elected us, not the Mitt Romney campaign."
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Paul has said his lower vote totals would be countered by his supporters' enthusiasm, particularly in states that hold caucuses.
In many of those states, the initial caucuses amounted to nonbinding straw polls, with the real delegate-selection process for the Tampa convention happening at regional and state meetings. Mr. Paul's supporters have been more likely to show up at those meetings and win the delegate slots.
For example, Mr. Paul won 21 of the 25 available delegates in Iowa last month and 32 out of 40 delegates in Minnesota.
Mr. Paul's supporters have also tangled with Republicans in Massachusetts, Oregon and Louisiana over delegates.
In Louisiana, Mr. Paul did not come close to cracking the 25 percent threshold in a March primary that would grant him delegates, but his team focused on the state's caucuses in April, securing 12 national delegates. His supporters also won a majority to the state convention in June, where national delegates were to be named — prompting the state Republican Party to enact last-minute rules to keep his backers in check.
In response, a challenge from Mr. Paul's fans likened the state party and Chairman Roger Villere as "more characteristic of a North Korean Politburo than a democratic American political party that honors procedures and majority votes." A brief filed on behalf of the state party accused the Paul supporters of trying to "hijack" the convention and overrule the will of 200,000 primary voters.
Aside from representation in Tampa, Mr. Paul's campaign also is touting its infiltration into the apparatus of state and local parties, counting the Republican Party of Virginia among its coups.
Paul supporter Chris Stearns, the newly elected Republican Party chairman for the 3rd Congressional District, said the push for new leadership within the party didn't come just from pro-Paul folks, but from like-minded tea party members and supporters of Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II as well.
"The biggest thing is the message, and the message is integrity and sticking to your word and being honest in politics," Mr. Stearns said.
The newly constituted State Central Committee promptly voted in June to hold a state convention as the nominating contest for governor next year after the committee had voted in October to hold a primary. The vote was widely seen to benefit Mr. Cuccinelli, a tea party favorite who is running against Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling for the nomination in a state where voters do not register by party.
"I would love to see a return to conventions as the sole nomination process for our candidates," Mr. Stearns said. "We don't need to be appealing to Democrats when we're running for the nomination."
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