GOP makes room for Rep. Ron Paul at Tampa convention
The Paul campaign and the Republican National Committee have been working closely over the past few months to work out logistics in order to include the Texas congressman and his supporters in the August convention in Tampa.
"They've just treated us like a friend and like a coalition," said Jesse Benton, a spokesman for the Paul campaign. "They have been honest brokers in working with us and treated us with respect."
Paul will hold a rally with supporters Aug. 26 at the University of South Florida's Sun Dome — a venue convention planners helped him get.
"We have worked closely with congressman Paul to secure a location for this event," said Kyle Downey, a spokesman for the GOP convention.
Planners have also kept Paul's platform committee delegates in the loop as they begin the process of assembling that document.
Despite this cooperation, Paul, unlike all of the other former GOP presidential contenders, has not endorsedMitt Romney for the nomination.
In an interview with the Fox Business network last week, Paul — who is no longer actively campaigning for president but has not officially suspended his bid — said he had "not made a decision" whether he'll vote for Romney in November.
Benton said Paul's movement has matured enough to remain relevant well past the primary contests. For instance, the congressman said in June he expects to have about 500 delegates and alternates in the convention hall out of the total of about 4,400.
"Our success brings us some clout," Benton said.
During the 2008 GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Paul was largely ignored by planners and ended up holding a counter-rally with supporters. But this year, deference to the Paul campaign began early.
In April, when the RNC wanted to start a joint fundraising operation with the Romney campaign following former senator Rick Santorum's exit from the race, they made sure to touch base with Paul's staff. Benton said at the time the congressman gave his "blessing to begin assembling the Victory organization Republicans will require to guarantee a win in the fall."
Paul and Romney were generally friendly throughout the primary election. During the slew of Republican debates, the two saved their most withering attacks for other Republican contenders on stage, sparking rumors that they were somehow in cahoots.
In February, Santorum accused the two campaigns of working together to undermine his presidential bid, a charge both camps denied at the time.
Relations between the candidates' supporters were more acrimonious, particularly in several states where Paul backers packed local conventions to try to win delegate slots.
In Iowa, Paul supporters swarmed several county elections; disruptions caused by the Paul backers caused one meeting in Polk Country to stretch to nine hours.
Deborah Robinet, an organizer of the Ron Paul Festival — a three-day event taking place just before the convention that is not affiliated with the Paul campaign — predicted a fun and drama-free convention as long as Paul supporters and delegates are not treated poorly.
"We take our cues from him," she said of Paul. "He's a smart man and a peaceful man."
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