Opening Day Fracas in Tampa
Before the made-for-TV show officially got underway at 7:00 PM, there was a noisy fracas on the floor of the GOP Convention.
The floor, by the way, is a red carpet, and in all other ways the Tampa Bay Times Forum was transformed from a hockey arena into a vintage convention set from central casting. Nets of red, white, and blue balloons are suspended from the ceiling (blocking the big screen), those little vertical signs indicating where each state delegation is seated dot the floor, and the Texans are all sporting red, white, and blue shirts and white ten-gallon hats. They will presumably throw these into the air when the balloons descend.
The controversy was over two issues: the seating of Ron Paul delegates from Maine and a rules changes that would: 1) require the make-up of any state's delegation to reflect in the future the vote totals in that state's primary election and 2) enable the RNC to introduce changes that would have been previously submitted to convention delegates.
The protest erupted over the announcement that the Credentials Committee had ejected about half of Maine's Ron Paul delegates owing to alleged irregularities at the state's nominating convention. RNC Chair Reince Priebus called for a voice vote to accept the Committee's recommendation. The volume of "nos" seemed about equal to the "yeses," but the Chair ruled the motion passed. This triggered the eruption.
Paul delegates yelled "point of order," while Romney delegates, as instructed, chanted "USA." The next committee chair to speak, a woman from Puerto Rico, was drowned out and stepped away from the podium. It took several minutes for Priebus to gavel the convention to order.
What's interesting in the debate about the rules changes is that other grass-roots conservative organizations, including Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, joined the Paulists and libertarian Republicans to issue protests.
In another sign of the stage-managing of the convention by the Romney folks, only the prospective nominee's totals were announced by the two clerks. If a state voted 21-6 for Paul, only the 6 votes were announced, and no running delegate total was displayed.
You don't have to like Ron Paul, or to long for the days when the nominee was selected in a smoke-filled room after multiple roll-call votes, to feel that Priebus's team has acted with a heavy hand. A little drama in the roll call vote that nominated Romney wouldn't have hurt the ticket.