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Paul backers, McDonnell clash on convention floor

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

TAMPA, Fla. - Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell had a terse exchange with Ron Paul supporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention Tuesday before the roll call vote to officially nominate as Mitt Romney as the party's presidential standard-bearer.

Moments before McDonnell stepped to up to the microphone to award 46 delegates to Romney and three to Paul, he was approached by some young Virginia delegates. The delegates were tied by state party rules to vote for Romney but hoped to vote for Paul.

Paul supporters had a petition with about a dozen names of Virginia delegates sworn to Romney who wished instead to cast votes for Paul. They claimed about 25 people were truly Paul supporters but not everyone wanted to publicly sign the petition.

"There's a vote of 46 for Romney and three votes for Ron Paul ... and that's what we're going to do," McDonnell said.

"But you're going to disenfranchise [Paul supporters]," said Braedon Wilkerson, a delegate from Lynchburg.

"I don't think I am," McDonnell responded. "I'm going to represent the votes that I've got and Ron Paul has his proportionate votes. We had a primary, it was 60-40. And under the rules, the way [the votes] are apportioned, this is the number I've got.

"Listen, I appreciate the fact that you guys are fighting for your guy. It took me a while to get on board, and I believe Mitt Romney is the right guy. Ron Paul has brought a lot to the party."

McDonnell endorsed Romney in the primary in January after Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race. McDonnell made known he preferred someone with executive office experience, and only Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, fit that bill at the time.

The small group of Paul fans cheered emphatically later when McDonnell publicly announced the three votes for Paul, but they were hoping for more.

"We wanted to vote our conscience," Wilkerson said.

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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