TAMPA – As the formal nomination of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney got underway, a very, very vocal minority of Ron Paul supporters from Maine let their disappointment be known.
The elected Maine delegates were upset that through procedural maneuvers the party denied them the right to sit on the floor--so it was from the balcony they chanted, "Seat Maine now!" and interrupted proceedings to the point that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus had to ask the audience for "respect."
After attracting a media scrum of cameras and audio recorders, the group was peacefully escorted--or walked out--of the convention floor by security officials. The Mainers continued to voice their frustration in the hallways with a rousing chant of "Ron Paul!"
Paul, the Texas congressman who has inspired a passionate following based on his libertarian ideals, had visited the floor earlier in the day to meet with his supporters.
Though narrowly defeated by Romney in the Maine primary, Paul was able to get supporters into 21 of the 24 delegate spots to the national convention. Romney's camp cried foul and took advantage of procedural rules to diminish the Paul presence. The seated Maine delegation cast 14 votes for Romney and 10 for Paul.
Brian Violette, an alternative delegate from Aroostook County in Maine, was one of the most vociferous Paul-ites. He says he's disappointed with how the Mainers were treated by party officials.
"We were elected by the people of the Republican Party," he says. "You have to protest for election fraud and if you don't stand up for election fraud now, I mean, if your votes don't count, why even bother? Why even vote if your vote doesn't count?"
Violette calls the situation "ridiculous."
"We would have probably stood in line and voted for Romney in November, but not if he's going to do this for us," he says. "Not if he's going to disenfranchise the voters of the state of Maine. If you're going to do that, I will not stand with this party. This is ridiculous. These people were elected by the state and they're not allowed to be on the floor."
Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican elected with Tea Party support in 2010, declined to attend the convention due to his disappointment with how things proceeded.
"We're very glad we had the support of him," Violette says.
Following the Maine skirmish, the nomination process continued as scheduled.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.