That's why the Romney slate included Kevin Jourdain, Holyoke City Council president and local pro-life leader, who stood up for Romney back in the 2008 campaign as a "pro-life governor" who "was always there for us"; and Cuban-born Framingham Selectman Nicolas Sanchez, who could speak for Romney's inclusion of Hispanics.

Both Jourdain and Sanchez lost on Saturday. So did a number of big-name Romney supporters: his lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey; 2010 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker; House Minority Leader Brad Jones; sheriffs Lew Evangelidis, Frank Cousins, and Tom Hodgson; and Plymouth County DA Tim Cruz.

The candidates who won spots instead, under the banner of a "Liberty Slate" or "Unity Slate," range from thoughtful, well-spoken libertarians to somewhat nutty conspiracy theorists. They are overwhelmingly white and male.

Many were part of the Liberty Preservation Association of Massachusetts (MassLPA), formed in 2009 by disgruntled Paul supporters. MassLPA partnered with fringe groups, including the John Birch Society, Oath Keepers, and Free State, and focused primarily on opposing a local pandemic-response bill, which conspiracy theorists believed was an attempt to impose martial law.

Take David Kopacz of Ware, a co-founder and vice-president of MassLPA, who has spoken and written about the dangers of United Nations "Agenda 21" and FEMA concentration camps. He will be a RNC delegate from District 2.

AVOIDING A FIGHT

There is talk, among national Ron Paul supporters, of delegates like these — and an unknown number of others across the country — finding loopholes that allow them to vote against their pledged candidate or to abstain from casting a vote at the RNC.

But Massachusetts Liberty delegates tell me they plan to honor their commitment to vote for Romney on the first ballot. They say they are not going to Florida with the intention of embarrassing Romney.

"Happy to be going to Tampa," delegate-elect Renato D'Amico wrote in response to my inquiry. "I love supporting the Republican agenda. Smaller government is the only way to have a free society."

Of course, if somehow Romney does fail to get the necessary votes for nomination on the first ballot, "trying to stop the coronation is ultimately still the goal," says Capone.

What you don't find among even their most positive statements is praise of the candidate to whom they are pledged.

If they feel mistreated in Tampa, it probably would not take much for them to start spouting their real opinions of Romney to the media.

The question for the Romney campaign is what will make these delegates happy enough to behave. It is not yet at all clear that a speaking slot for Paul, and an "audit the Fed" plank in the party platform, will be enough.

It's also far from certain that Romney's team has any interest in making them happy. Until now, they have dealt with Paul diehards in their typical aggressive style — removing them and their signage from anywhere Romney appears.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them do the same in Tampa. That may be fine with most Paul delegates, whom the media don't seem to take seriously anyway.

But a battle with his own local delegation might be an irresistible story line — one that Romney surely doesn't want spoiling his big party.

To read the Talking Politics blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@phx.com. Follow him on Twitter @dbernstein.

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