Will Ron Paul pull off one last delegate surprise?

Ron Paul supporters in Nebraska appear on the verge of winning a plurality of delegates from their state to the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla. That could lead to him getting 15 minutes to address the convention audience.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
In this February 2012 photo, Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks during a campaign stop at Bethel University in Arden Hills, Minn.

Does Ron Paul have one last surprise to pull on the Republican establishment prior to August’s GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.?

Well, perhaps we should ask whether the forces of Ron Paul have one last trick up their collective sleeve, as opposed to focusing on the Texas libertarian himself. That’s because Paulites in Nebraska appear on the verge of winning a plurality of delegates from their state to the Tampa confab.

If they manage to accomplish this feat at their state convention this upcoming weekend, then Representative Paul will have won a plurality of delegates from five states, since his supporters have already captured the largest share of delegate votes from Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, and Minnesota. Under Republican National Committee rules, that means he’d qualify to have his name officially placed in nomination, and he’d get 15 minutes to address the convention audience.

That would be 15 minutes of air time that the forces of presumptive nominee Mitt Romney would find difficult to control. For this and other reasons, Paul supporters are rallying their social media forces to urge on their Cornhusker fellow believers.

“The meeting in Grand Island [Nebraska] on July 14 is going to be a showdown,” begins a post on the Daily Paul website. The author goes on to encourage Nebraskan Paul supporters to follow the model that worked in Maine – challenge voting machines, hire sheriffs for security, and so forth.

Wow, sounds like an interesting time, doesn’t it? Paul’s success in organizing in Nebraska appears to have already created fissures within the state’s GOP. As the Nebraskan political blog Leavenworth Street noted last week, Mr. Romney won 70 percent of the vote in the state’s May presidential beauty contest. Paul took 10 percent.

But that vote was nonbinding. By out-organizing Romney’s people at county conventions, Paul’s folks now have a majority on the GOP State Central Committee.

“Aren’t you proud of that Nebraskans? You have the opportunity to embarrass the Republican candidate, potentially screw up the opportunity to elect Romney over Barack Obama, and allow the Paulites to take over the platform committee and insert whatever Ron Paul plans (that voters have rejected) into the GOP platform,” wrote contributor Street Sweeper on the blog.

Hmm. Guess they’re a Romney person. The factional dispute has become heated enough that current state GOP chair Mark Fahleson has abandoned his plan to become a Republican National Committeeman and has announced he’ll stay in his post until the end of 2013. This averts the Paul-establishment warfare that might have broken out over the selection of his replacement.

What does Paul think of this? He’s not publicly saying. The official Paul campaign website makes no mention of the Nebraska dispute. Instead, it’s looking forward to a rally that Paul is planning in Tampa on Aug. 26 at the University of Florida’s Sun Dome.

“We have the Sun Dome rented, and we have plenty of room for a lot of people to come.... This is a very important event for us,” says Paul in a video to supporters posted on the site.

Paul goes on to stress that he needs lots of people to show up to help “validate” his libertarian message.

“It really is important that our numbers are there. If we can’t get but 200 people, our views aren’t validated,” he says.

Frankly, it sounds as if Paul is looking at the rally as his own mini-convention, where he’ll showcase his anti-Federal Reserve, anti-intervention-overseas views. In that sense, he could view it as more important than actually getting his 15 minutes of fame at the convention itself if his name is placed in nomination. The rally will be longer, after all: It runs from noon to 6 p.m. Plus, given the bored reporters that will be sitting around Tampa waiting for news to break out, it’s a pretty sure bet that it will receive extensive, and free, media coverage.

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