In Ron Paul hats.
At the 2016 Republican National Convention, Maine delegates will probably be seated on the roof, somewhere between Michael Steele and American Samoa. As the state's chosen delegates continue to back Texas congressman Ron Paul in the face of opposition from establishment Republicans, their standing in the GOP appears to be declining faster than the nation's debt is climbing.
First, some quick background. Through district caucuses and a state convention held in May, Maine Republicans selected 24 delegates to send to Tampa this week. Despite the national party's lean toward Mitt Romney, Mainers chose only four delegates who back the former governor of Massachusetts, while picking 20 who dig Paul. Incensed by the insubordination, GOP attorneys and activists pulled every stunt imaginable to silence the Paul delegates, including arguing that all 20 were fraudulently elected by illegal votes. It stuck, and last week the Republican Party's Contests Committee ruled that half of the Paul delegates would be replaced by Romney people.
The response was loud. Governor Paul LePage, a Romney supporter himself, announced that he refused to participate in Tampa. As for the Paul delegates, some considered boycotting the convention altogether, but the group ultimately vowed to fight to the end. Which is why the Phoenix found all 10 remaining Paul delegates, some wearing baseball hats with the congressman's mug embroidered on the crown, on the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum Tuesday afternoon.
"Two of the Romney delegates are just sitting there with us, not talking," said Kevin Pierce of Camden. "We said 'Hi' to them, but they weren't interested." Added Bryan Daugherty, a member of the Bangor GOP Leadership Team: "They didn't just throw out Ron Paul delegates. Among that group were a priest, a pastor, a Native American, and a number of veterans."
Though frustrated by the disenfranchisement, Pierce and Daugherty said that there have been some perks to the mistreatment. For one, they've gotten a tremendous amount of attention from the press — a bonus for any Paul supporter. They've also found sympathizers in delegates from other states who are in similar binds — especially Iowans, who invited Maine Paul supporters to a party Monday night.
As the Phoenix went to print Tuesday, all of Maine's Paul delegates — even those who were unseated — were meandering around the Forum waiting for a decision from the national credentials committee, whom they petitioned to reinstate the original slate. Their chances of reversal were slim, but they got a boost from candidate Paul himself, who was walking through the hall with more than 50 members of the media in tow. As photographers snapped pics, cries of "PRESIDENT PAUL" rang loudly, as did responsive "ROMNEY" taunts. In that quick but fierce vocal spat, the Paul people not only overpowered their neighbors, but showed once again that they won't go quietly.