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Ron Paul Supporters Get One Last Shout At RNC


We turn now to my co-host, Robert Siegel, who's at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, where tonight Mitt Romney accepts his party's nomination for president. We're going to hear about that in a moment. But Robert, first, I understand there's some dissention in the ranks there, at the convention center. What's going on?


Yes, Melissa. In what is a generally very harmonious convention - in which Republicans are learning to love their nominee, and have heard from his wife; and heard from his running mate, whom they do seem to love - the exception is with the Ron Paul camp.

Now, they're a small minority of the delegates and alternates here, but they're a very enthusiastic minority. They're a genuine grassroots group. They cannot be spoken of as a monolith. They'll always remind you, this is a very anti-authortarian bunch. But typically, they believe that they were done in by the rules committee here - that some of their delegates were denied their seats; that new rules adopted by the convention strengthen the Republican National Committee, at the expense of grassroots movements. This is antithetical, they say, to what the party should be.

And so after a day, and a night, of talking about a walkout from the convention - and wouldn't be their first this week...

BLOCK: Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...they decided on the opposite - a mass walk-in. A couple of hundred of them symbolically letting the party know, as they entered the floor, that they are here to stay; that they are not going away. They believe they are the future of the Republican Party. But they are very angry. This is a Ron Paul delegate from Minnesota, Marianne Stebbens, when she was at a news conference outside the hall earlier this evening.

MARIANNE STEBBENS: I have been receiving hundreds and hundreds of emails and phone calls from just regular people, Republicans all across the state of Minnestoa. They are telling me, they will not work for the Mitt Romney campaign; they might - may not vote for Mitt Romney with these rules - are in place. We called - Mitt Romney may lose this election, especially in key battleground states, if this is not rectified.

SIEGEL: And other Ron Paul delegates who were there, held up yellow signs saying, "Grassroots." Many had stickers on their clothes, saying "Remember Maine" - because they felt they were deprived of delegates from the state of Maine. So they're still here, but it's a - it's not the happiest group in the convention.

BLOCK: I can imagine. Now, there was another rule that was passed, and that's about states who stage early primaries. We may remember that Florida was penalized this year, for moving up their primary. And this new rule comes down even harder on states that want to do that.

SIEGEL: That's right. States always want to go early in the primary season, and several states have jumped the gun. Florida did so; it cost them half their delegates at this convention. However, it seems that that is not regarded as adequate enough deterrent. So the new rule is that only four states will be able to have their primary - or their caucus - before March 1st, next time around. New Hampshire will have its first-in-the-nation primary; the Iowa caucuses; and then there will be the Southern primary, in South Carolina; and the Nevada caucuses, which bring in the West.

Anybody else, if they violate that rule and go before March 1st, their delegation would be reduced to 12 delegates next time. That's barely enough to sit on committees. It puts them in, you know, a league with Guam and the northern Marianas. So the attempt is to get people to adhere to a stronger schedule, next time around.

BLOCK: OK, well let's talk about the big event tonight. And of course, that's Mitt Romney's acceptance speech. What are you listening for?

SIEGEL: Well, we're listening to what it means for someone who's been running for president for five years, to introduce himself to the country. This is a big audience. Barack Obama spoke to 38 and a half million people four years ago, when he was the - a challenger, at his convention. And so we want to see what he'll say, and how he will make the Republican narrative that they have a better way of increasing jobs and setting the economy right.

BLOCK: OK, Robert, thanks so much.

SIEGEL: You bet.

BLOCK: That's my co-host Robert Siegel, reporting from the Republican convention in Tampa this week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.