Ron Paul's supporters are relegated to the back of the bus during the Republican National Convention after the GOP leadership assigned states whose delegations are flush with the Texas congressman's representatives to the outskirts of the convention center in Tampa, Fla.
The GOP hopes the whole process will go off without a hitch -- but Paul's libertarian faction could cause a kerfuffle.
States with a significant number of Ron Paul delegates will be seated as far from the main stage as possible when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney accepts the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night, according to a seating chart obtained by Politico.
The Republican National Committee has not tried to explain the reasoning. "There's not a bad seat in the house," spokesman Kyle Downey told Politico.
The Paul camp took the distant but clustered seating in stride. "I am glad so many of our delegates get to sit close together," campaign manager Jesse Benton told Politico.
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The Ron Paul faction at the convention has gelled in five states: Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Oregon. They've also laid claim to majorities in Nevada, Iowa and Minnesota. The haul represents 177 Paul supporters at the convention, who were won through meticulous on the ground organizing even though the Texas congressman did not win a single primary.
Paul cheekily sidestepped calls to hand his delegates over to Romney, insisting he has no sway over his followers. But the 77-year-old has made no efforts to charm the Romney campaign, telling the New York Times, "I don't fully endorse him for president." He also held a rally in Tampa for his supporters Sunday, and turned down an offer to speak at the convention.
Delegates from Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa, which have votes at the convention but not on Election Day, will all enjoy a better view than Paul's representatives. Delegates from potential swing states Michigan and Ohio will enjoy a front and center view for the Tuesday night's roll call vote, which should formally make the 65-year-old Romney the Republican candidate.
The ceremonial vote was originally slated for Monday night, putting it out of the spotlight of major news outlets' cameras. But the formality was pushed back a day due to Hurricane Isaac. While some Paul delegates have promised to throw their weight behind Romney, a candidate only needs five states to be officially recognized on the floor. The stage for a coup could be set.
The prospect of Paul being recognized at Romney's coming out party has some party leaders sweating. Vice presidential pick Paul Ryan took to Fox News to play nice with the Ron Paul Revolution crowd.
"We see eye to eye on a lot of issues and believe in some ... limited government," Ryan said. "We believe in academic freedom. We believe in the founding principles. We believe that this is a watershed moment for America, whether or not we're going to reclaim the American idea or we're going to become, you know, a cradle-to-the-grave welfare state, which is where I think the president is taking us."