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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Over-hyped.
That was the consensus Saturday at the Nebraska Republican State Convention, where Ron Paul’s insurgency was peacefully and soundly derailed.
Any fears that the convention would descend into chaos evaporated early as supporters of Paul and Mitt Romney made it clear that civility would reign — unlike in other states where Paul and Romney supporters verbally clashed, resulting in arrests and allegations of violence.
In the end, the Paul revolution in Nebraska got smoked. Paul, a libertarian Texas congressman, won two of the state GOP’s 35 national convention delegates. Romney, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, won the rest.
“We did it the Nebraska way. In Nebraska, we can have our disagreements but, at the end of the day, we work together,” said Mark Fahleson, state GOP chairman.
Paul’s loss in Nebraska means he will not be guaranteed a speaking role at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
It also means Gov. Dave Heineman does not have to worry about being embarrassed in Tampa.
Heineman was the first governor in the nation to endorse Romney. He spent considerable time mobilizing so-called establishment Republicans to back Romney.
“He was personally invested,” Fahleson said of the governor.
Heineman said he simply wanted the delegation to accurately represent Nebraska Republicans, who gave Romney more than 70 percent of their votes in the state’s presidential primary.
“We had a primary process. Mitt Romney won that and Ron Paul didn’t win a single state. I wanted Nebraska to reflect that,” said Heineman, who was not able to attend the state convention because he was at a National Governors Association meeting in Virginia.
Paul aggressively worked to win delegates at state conventions across the nation, even though he long ago conceded defeat in his presidential bid.
He needed to win a majority of delegates in five states to be given a 15-minute speaking role in Tampa. He has won majorities in four. Nebraska was his last chance to win a fifth.
It was obvious early in the convention that Paul did not have the numbers to win, although he had a strong showing. If early procedural votes were any indication, Paul had about 130 to 150 supporters among the 350 delegates who assembled in Grand Island, but Romney supporters were highly organized and disciplined.
About five members of Romney’s staff were on hand to ensure that pro-Romney delegates knew exactly who to send to Tampa and that the rules were followed. Romney even sent famed GOP attorney Ben Ginsberg to watch over the convention. Ginsberg represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida recount case.
In the end, there were no fireworks. The closest it came to being unruly was when a Paul supporter vigorously objected to a procedural ruling from Fahleson. That ended when Fahleson said he would have the man escorted out of the building.
Both sides seemed intent on treating each other with respect.
In fact, Paul spoke to his supporters the night before via a telephone conference call, and urged them to follow the rules and be cordial.
Several Paul supporters said they were fighting for delegates because they wanted their voices heard at the national convention. They also want to begin changing the direction of the Republican Party, which they believe has strayed from its small government roots.
A few held out hope that they could pull off a miracle in Tampa, upsetting Romney’s coronation.
“I was really hoping for a brokered convention — have a new guy offered at the convention,” said Sean Tyler, a Paul supporter from rural Fremont.
Laura Ebke, the unofficial leader of the Paul forces, said this was just the beginning.
She predicted that the Paul supporters who were getting involved in party politics for the first time would be around in 2014 and 2016.
“We still have a presence in the party, and no one is going anywhere,” Ebke said.
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