The floor of the Republican National Convention became a scene of widespread discord Tuesday after a senior Romney attorney pushed through a rules change that would crowd out grassroots insurgent candidacies such as Ron Paul in 2016.
“Right now, the states choose their delegates their own way,” said Virginia delegate Matthew Hurtt, a Romney delegate who has been sympathetic to Ron Paul. “They sort of rammed this rule change through, and we weren’t able to change it on the floor, and a lot of the shouting on the floor was opposition to that rule.”
Shouts of “Ron Paul” could be heard throughout the hall as GOP rules committee chairman and former George H.W. Bush Chief of Staff John Sununu, a senior Romney backer, announced the results.
The Virginia delegation to the Republican National Convention led by Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell, a member of the RNC rules committee since 1972, objected to the motion Tuesday in protest, but it was not heard.
"I think that the no votes won the voice vote," Blackwell said. "And it is reasonable to say that it was a fairly close vote, but we are talking here about huge numbers of delegates.
"It's being portrayed in the media that these were Ron Paul people -- absolutely not."
Under the change, the presidential campaigns will get to choose their delegates from the states rather than letting states decide to select them through a convention process such as happened this year. Delegates would be bound by the results of the primaries and caucuses.
It would also give Romney enormous power in selecting delagates in 2016 should he win the White House.
"This is a power grab, simply to stifle any insurgents, they changed it from a plurality of 5 states, requiring at this next convention that you have a majority of eight states to have your name placed into nomination before the convention," Blackwell said. "There's only one reason for that sort of thing, and that's to make it more difficult for the folks who aren't in the majority to even express themselves.
The rule change was spearheaded by a Romney delegate from the District of Columbia named Ben Ginsberg,who initially backed Michelle Bachmann, according to Blackwell.
Opponents contend that this will allow high-dollar donors to be selected as delegates rather than grassroots activists.
Part of Maine’s delegation walked out in protest amid the ruckus that ensued.
"A lot of people who get elected as delegates and alternates to the convention are people who have been paying their dues for years and years," said Stavros Mendros, a Paul delegate from Maine, told the Associated Press. "I think it's a big mistake for the RNC to make."
The shouting had less to do with Paul than it had to do with opposition to the Romney people’s powerplay against grassroots activism, according to Hurtt who was in the middle of the fight.
Groups such as FreedomWorks and conservative blogger Erick Erickson of RedState were among the notables who opposed the rule change. And grassroots delegates found themselves powerless to change the rule from the floor of the convention.
“It was a powerplay by insiders point blank,” Hurtt said. “It doesn’t matter where John Sununu is from or what his resume is, it was a power grab by insiders who wanted to centralize more power within the party and to ignore grassroots activists.”
As a result the Tea Party has been effectively shut out of the 2016 convention, according to Hurtt.