Rep. Ron Paul faces long odds in his last chance to win an official presence and speaking slot at the Republican National Convention.
Paul supporters are organizing for the Nebraska state GOP convention on Saturday, which could give the libertarian Republican candidate enough support to grant him a 15-minute speech at the party's August convention in Tampa. Under RNC bylaws, Paul will qualify as a candidate for the nomination in Tampa-and be afforded a speech at the convention-if he can demonstrate plurality support among delegates in five states. Paul controls a plurality in Iowa, Minnesota, and Maine, and he could meet that mark in the still-disputed Louisiana delegation.
Those involved in Nebraska's convention, however, say Paul is a long-shot to win there.
"We have a rough count," said Laura Ebke, who runs the Nebraska chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus and is leading the organization of Paul-backing delegates. "We don't have a majority. We have a significant minority."
Nebraska GOP Executive Director Jordan McGrain shared that assessment. Having seen the list of registered delegates, McGrain said the Ron Paul faction is "not that close" to overtaking the convention majority.
Aside from Heineman, the Romney campaign does not have a presence in Nebraska working against Paul, according to McGrain. The campaign does not have an office in the state. Paul's campaign did not have staff working on the convention as of Wednesday, Ebke said, although she has been in touch with the Paul campaign during phases of the Nebraska primary process.
To some extent, the outcome of Saturday's convention has already been determined, as it will reflect campaigns' success or failure to organize in February and June.
The state-convention delegates, who will vote on Saturday, were chosen at county conventions in the first 10 days of June. To attend and vote at those events, participants had to register by March 1. Ebke said she was in touch with Paul's campaign in February.
Of the 400 state-convention delegate seats, not all are expected to show up. Paul's best chance, at this point, is for Romney's supporters not to attend. Nebraska's Republican governor, Dave Heineman, has been making phone calls on Romney's behalf, according to sources in Nebraska, while the state party has remained officially neutral.
Both the state party and Paul's supporters hope for a peaceful event, after other states have seen confrontations between Paulites and state-party officials, some involving police. At Louisiana's convention, a dispute arose over procedure, and after pressing the convention chair for recognition, Paul supporters proceeded according to their understanding of convention rules-and turned their backs on the chair who had opened proceedings. A majority of attendees staged their own proceedings at the other end of the room, after one Paul supporter was accosted by police.
"We are both troubled by the rhetoric and heightened tensions surrounding the upcoming NEGOP Convention this Saturday in Grand Island," Ebke and Nebraska GOP Chairman Mark Fahleson said in a joint statement issued this week. "There is something called 'The Nebraska Way.' It's honesty. Being cordial and neighborly. Practicing The Golden Rule. And, when differences occur, shaking hands and agreeing to disagree in a respectful way. It's important to us that the NEGOP Convention be conducted 'The Nebraska Way.'"