AUGUSTA, Maine – With Mitt Romney's nomination all but decided, Ron Paul supporters wrested control of the Maine Republican Convention and elected a majority slate supporting the Texas congressman to the GOP national convention, party officials said as the two-day convention neared its end Sunday. The results gave the Texas congressman a late state victory.
The names of 15 at-large delegates from Maine to the GOP nominating convention in Tampa, Fla., were posted Sunday as votes for the other delegation seats remained undecided. Maine is allotted a total of 24 delegates to the national convention.
"It's certainly a significant victory," said Jim Azzola of South Portland, Cumberland County coordinator for Paul. The votes were to become finalized when the convention closes.
Paul, the last challenger to remain in the contest, finished a close second behind Romney in Maine's GOP caucuses in February but those results were nonbinding. Not everyone, however, had a chance to cast a ballot before the results were announced. A snowstorm forced the cancellation of some caucuses including one in a Paul stronghold. Romney won the February straw poll with 39 percent of the vote to Paul's 36 percent. Santorum trailed with 18 percent and Gingrich got 6 percent.
Romney's aides say they do not view Paul as a threat to winning the nomination. But Romney and his team have also been mindful not to do or say anything that might anger Paul's loyal supporters.
"I think he's being very careful because he knows how important the Ron Paul voters are -- they obviously represent a very different dynamic," said Mike Dennehy, a former top aide to Republican John McCain's 2008 campaign. "They are the most passionate and the most frustrated of any voters heading to the polls. And many of them are independents."
In the 2008 contest, Romney won 52 percent of the Maine caucuses, more than double John McCain's 21 percent and Paul's 19 percent. But McCain left the 2008 state convention with 20 delegates, leaving Paul with one. Three were uncommitted.
Saturday's turn of events in a neighboring state to where Romney served as governor would indicate the GOP has not yet united behind the presumptive nominee, and there are indications the infighting may last all the way to the national convention.
Paul supporters accused the Romney crowd Saturday of dirty tricks to garner more delegates.
"We came here to see democracy in action. We are floored by what happened, absolutely floored to see the cheating," said Elizabeth Shardlow of Auburn, a Paul activist.
Charles Cragin, a Romney supporter who lost Saturday's bid to chair the convention, called the turn of events at the Maine convention "bizarre." Cragin said the Paul-led delegation may not be recognized at the national convention because of violations of rules of procedure this weekend in Augusta.
"They have so phenomenally screwed this up that they will go to Tampa and not be seated," Cragin said.
Another Romney supporter, delegate John Carson of Kittery, acknowledged "this is a split convention."
"The Paul supporters have had a successful process and should be congratulated on that," said Carson, a veteran of numerous state conventions. "I think it's important that the Romney camp and Paul camp come together and support a single candidate," Carson said, adding that candidate should be Romney.