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Ron Paul's Tampa Hopes Hinge On Cornhusker Convention Chaos [UPDATED]

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RON PAUL
AP

Hey, kids! Do y'all remember the Republican Party's presidential primary season, which took place way back in the early months of 2012? If it rings a bell, you probably remember that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the "winner" of the primary, having notched the required number of delegates to officially earn the GOP nomination. So Mitt Romney is basically done with the GOP's primary process. But that doesn't mean that the GOP's primary process is necessarily done.

Indeed, this weekend, at the Riverside Golf Club in Grand Island, Neb., the Nebraska Republicans will be holding the last of the nation's state conventions. As the always reliable folks at The Green Papers describe it, "Congressional District Caucuses made up of the State Convention delegates from each of Nebraska's 3 congressional districts choose the 9 district National Convention delegates (3 per congressional district). The State Convention as a whole selects 23 (10 base at-large plus 13 bonus) at-large delegates to the Republican National Convention."

Once this is over, then it's basically full steam ahead for Tampa, Fla., and the Republican National Convention. But what happens in Grand Island over the weekend could result in the Tampa convention being a whole lot more interesting than Mitt Romney wants. And as you might expect, the central figure in this bit of final-act drama is Texas congressman and habitually disruptive presidential candidate Ron Paul.

See, as NBC News' Anthony Terrell reports, "If Paul wins a plurality of delegates in Nebraska this weekend, his name will be put forth as a nominee versus Mitt Romney in Tampa." But wait, you are saying, how did he pull this off, given that the only primary-vote plurality he "won" was in the U.S. Virgin Islands? Well, you weren't paying attention to the various processes that have occurred in many of the states whose primaries you may have presumed were won by other people. The Paul campaign's big successes have come after the votes were counted and the media had moved on to shinier things.

While no one was paying much attention, Paul ended up with a majority of the delegates from four states, exploiting the sort of complicated state convention process that Nebraska is wrapping up this weekend. And as Terrell notes, if Paul pulls off the same feat this weekend, he actually crosses a threshold that entitles him to all sorts of interesting privileges:

According to RNC Rule 40, Paul needs a plurality of delegates from five states for his name to be put forth for nomination at the convention. The Texas Congressman has won a majority of state delegations in Iowa, Maine, Minnesota and Louisiana. If he is nominated, Paul will be allotted fifteen minutes to deliver a speech at the convention before the first round of balloting.

Now, according to Paul supporters on the ground in Nebraska, their chances of pulling Nebraska into Paul's column are remote. Laura Ebke, who is running Paul's delegate efforts there, tells ABC News' Chris Good that by her "rough count," the Paulites "have a significant minority," but a minority nonetheless. All the same, Paul's supporters are maxing out their efforts, and they have a plan that they hope to execute:

First, meet up the night before to get everyone on the same page about who to vote for, including the convention chair. Second, get to the convention several hours ahead of everyone else to avoid being caught in line during registration. Third, vote for the convention chair.

The Daily Paul writer says “Stay sharp and show up in force!” The writer then orders Mr. Paul’s supporters to make sure that the convention chair is put up for a vote, and tells them to make sure voting machines are not used to count delegate votes.

That's from the Capitol Column's Natalie Littlefield, who goes on to note that state party officials in Nebraska are gearing up for a potentially bumptious crowd of Paul supporters. As has been the case at other state conventions, the Paul supporters have not submitted quietly to the notion of Romney being the GOP's nominee.

What happens if Paul notches his fifth state and gets submitted for consideration as a nominee in Tampa? Well, in all likelihood, it merely delays Romney's eventual coronation -- Romney will have, in all likelihood, the needed number of delegates to win the nomination. But Paul suspects that he has more support on the convention floor than advertised: Paul Harris of The Guardian reports that "Paul's team has publicly estimated that they may have as many as 500 supportive delegates at Tampa, even though many of them will be officially committed to voting for Romney."

In any event, it's been well known for some time that Paul's supporters plan to descend on Tampa in force. Should their candidate earn the right to give a speech at the convention, it will be a moment they'll celebrate. And if it looks like Paul isn't getting the full measure of what he's entitled to in Tampa, trust me -- it will be hell with the lid off.

UPDATE: Jon Ward has the complete skinny on RNC Rule 40, here. Of particular interest: no matter what happens in Nebraska, Paul's supporters on the convention floor already have the leverage they need to force some chaos in the process that officially nominates the vice president. Per Ward:

Republican officials are still waking up to the fact that Paul loyalists -- who control the majority of delegates in Maine, Minnesota and Iowa, and have sizable contingents in a number of other states -- could very likely enter Paul's name into nomination for vice president. This would force a roll call vote where each delegate of each state is polled on the floor of the convention.

[...]

For example, if Romney chose Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) as his vice presidential pick, but the Paul forces leveraged their impressive foothold in several states to nominate Paul from the floor, then someone like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) could emerge as the preferred pick for many delegates as the convention goes into a roll call vote. And Rubio's name could be entered into nomination, in addition to Paul's, if a plurality of five states voted to nominate him.

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