TAMPA, Fla. -- Republicans here claim to want to disperse political power: return it to the states, the marketplace and the people. But Team Mitt tried to collect even more power in the hands of itself and the Republican Party -- which is what caused a rules fight that seemed very obscure, but that in fact provided a glimpse into the ideological and temperamental split in the GOP.
On the floor of the hall Wednesday night, RNC lawyer Ben Ginsberg downplayed the rules confrontation, resolved on Tuesday, at least for the time being.
"You know you're having a very good convention when a rules fight is all there is to argue about," Ginsberg said.
As if to show a lack of hard feelings, Ginsberg was on the floor for a speech by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, whose father Ron Paul's cadre of delegates were at the center of the fight.
"I like Dr. Paul and have worked with him for years on the Hill," said Ginsberg. "We get along fine."
Not really. Ginsberg, who has worked with and for every GOP president and campaign since Bush One -- and who is a central figure in the GOP's D.C.-based establishment -- tried to push through a rule giving party leaders the power to pick (or replace) delegates representing candidates, and even the party's nominee, before the convention.
The move misjudged the mood and background of many of the people here. "It was tyranny at its best," said Bob Ide, a delegate from Idaho. "They should have run these guys off the stage."
But many other delegates -- especially the large contingent from Texas -- were irate as well. I sat with the delegation Tuesday night and they were all glad to join with Paul on the matter.
The "compromise" got rid of the delegate-replacement language, but kept other features that will reduce the power of state and local party officials. That's the place where Paul -- and any other anti-establishment and Tea Party types -- can work their will.
"All we want is to make sure that the popular vote in a primary is what controls the outcome in delegates," Ginsberg told me.
But the result will make state and local conventions irrelevant. And soon enough, the big convention will be irrelevant, too.
It'll all be big money.