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GOP officials and the Mitt Romney campaign have cut a deal with Texas Rep. Ron Paul's campaign to allow some — though not all — of Paul's delegates from Louisiana and Massachusetts to be seated at the Republican National Convention. The status of Maine's delegates remains unsettled.
The compromise would appear to avert a potential public clash with Paul supporters during the convention's opening day Monday.
Among Republican delegates descending on Tampa for the GOP presidential convention will be scores of Paul loyalists, who had been uncertain about the degree to which their party and presumptive nominee Romney would allow them to participate.
The key looks to be in part the GOP's embrace of Paul's call for an audit of the Federal Reserve, a move hailed by his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, as "great news" and "long overdue." (Romney on Monday endorsed the concept during an appearance in New Hampshire; the party on Tuesday included it in its proposed party platform.)
The fate of the 20 Paul-committed Maine delegates, elected during the state's GOP party convention in May, was still unclear, but negotiations were continuing.
Pro-Paul delegations from Iowa, Nevada and Minnesota have already been credentialed, without challenge, for the convention.
Romney and the RNC had been pursuing a legal strategy that appeared designed to prevent Paul from coming into the convention with "the support of a plurality of the delegates from each of five or more states."
Why? Reaching that threshold, according to the party rulebook, would allow Paul delegates to place the longtime congressman's name into nomination during the convention and the candidate to make a speech. Paul has not sought to be nominated from the floor.
But as Josh Putnam, a campaigns and elections expert, has noted, the scenario of restive Paul supporters on the convention floor presented a headache for Romney and Republicans, who naturally want to project party unity and power coming out of the convention.
By challenging the Paul delegates, Romney and the party held a bargaining chip, said Putnam, who writes the FrontloadingHQ political blog.
The message from Romney and the GOP: "We will get our way if we want to, but if you guys are willing to go along with where we're going, we'll let you be part of this," Putnam said.
Paul is a libertarian whose views attracted Tea Party conservatives as well as young people opposed to war spending.
During the Republican primaries, Paul pursued a strategy of picking up delegates in caucus states and at state conventions. The actual number of delegates he secured remains unclear, but estimates put the figure at at least 100.
"The Paul folks have flexed their muscle in 2012," Putnam said Tuesday, "and I imagine the RNC will punch back — not quell the rebellion, but figure out a way to incorporate these people that keeps them united as a party."
Indeed, it appears that the participation of Paul delegates in shaping the party platform during meetings that are being held in advance of the convention, and Sen. Rand Paul's scheduled convention speech, may have resulted in a deal that will placate the congressman's supporters for now.
Or at least some of them.
"We want to redefine the party from the ground up," said Carl Bunce, a pro-Paul delegate from Nevada who chaired the congressman's Silver State effort. "The natural step is to take it to the convention, though the establishment wants to mute any dissent for the imaginary 'party unity' that they produce as a giant TV show."
"We're just asking for a fair, open and transparent process," Bunce said. "And Republicans have refused to give us that at a national level."
Ron Paul will hold a rally on Sunday; the convention opens Monday at 2 p.m.
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