BY STEPHEN OHLEMACHER
WASHINGTON — Rep. Ron Paul’s delegates are trying to mount a floor fight over new GOP rules designed to limit the ability of insurgent presidential candidates to amass delegates to future Republican conventions.
They are getting help from other delegates, though it is unclear whether they can rally enough support to challenge the rules on the floor of the convention Tuesday.
Mitt Romney, the party’s presumptive nominee, has plenty of delegates to win any floor fight. But the dispute could provide an unwanted distraction for party leaders who would rather focus on promoting Romney and defeating President Barack Obama.
“It’s so heavily scripted. This is not the forum in they want to air the proverbial dirty laundry,” said Juliette Jordal, a Paul delegate from Minnesota.
The new GOP rules would bind delegates to the outcome of presidential primaries and caucuses, allowing candidates to choose which delegates would represent them at future national conventions. Currently, state parties choose national delegates, usually at state and congressional district conventions.
The convention’s rules committee approved the new rules last week before the start of the convention in Tampa, Fla. The rules were scheduled for a vote by the full convention Monday but many activities were delayed because of Tropical Storm Isaac.
A handful of Paul delegates tried to provide a taste of what’s to come after Monday’s brief convention session. After the session, a handful of Paul’s supporters gathered near the rear of the convention hall and waved signs bearing Paul’s name.
They included delegates from Oregon, Nevada and other states where the Texas congressman had support. They said they were upset about the pending rule changes.
“It’s going to shut us out of the process,” said Oregon delegate Larry Ericksen, a Paul backer compelled by state rules to vote for Romney at the convention. “We deserve a voice in the process.”
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