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POLITICS

Romney's rivals get their moment in Tampa

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Politics,Susan Ferrechio,Campaign 2012

TAMPA, Fla. - The GOP hopefuls who pushed Mitt Romney through a grueling primary season were warmly received by delegates Tuesday, though some grumbled that the more fanatical supporters of Ron Paul were disrupting what Republicans want to be an unbroken, disciplined display of unity during the convention.

Paul, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain were all circulating Tuesday afternoon in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where Republican delegates were gathered to nominate the GOP ticket.

Later Tuesday, Rick Santorum, who had been Romney's most formidable opponent, was set to address the crowd on welfare reform.

When Republican National Convention leaders took the roll call Tuesday, 2,061 delegates voted for Romney, while 202 delegates chose someone else, most of them backing Paul and a few backing Bachmann or Santorum.

Paul created the biggest stir, entering the room to loud cheers. He was soon trailed by a throng of television cameras and reporters and autograph-seeking delegates.

Paul made two laps around the convention hall, stopping to chat with delegations from the caucus states where he enjoyed the most support, including Maine, Hawaii and Minnesota.

He told The Washington Examiner he was enjoying the reception and had no idea what to expect when he arrived today.

But others said that Paul knew exactly what he was doing -- purposely trying to detract from Romney's big moment.

"I think he's really obnoxious," a delegate from Oregon said. "I think it disrupts the convention and I think that is the purpose of him being on the floor is just to disrupt the convention."

Paul backers didn't see it that way.

"We become unified when we leave here on Thursday night, and until then, we don't officially have a nominee," said Ken Nelson, a North Carolina delegate backing Paul.

Nelson said as soon as the convention ends, he plans to work to get Romney elected.

Bachmann was greeted like a rock star by the Minnesota and Texas delegations, who were seated side by side. She urged her delegation to push for changes in the proposed committee rules that she and other nonestablishment GOP candidates fear will stifle grassroots candidacies like her own.

"We're all going to support the minority report!" Bachmann, wearing a tailored beige suite, exclaimed to cheering Minnesotans.

Bachmann's appearance created so much excitement that the aisles were clogged with people trying to get near her.

Cain made the rounds above the convention floor, with autograph seekers and fans jogging alongside him as he hurried along.

"I've got an interview, folks," Cain said to the trailing crowd."I've got to run. Good to see you, good to see you!"

While the parade of non-Romney candidates aggravated some in the GOP establishment, others shrugged it off.

Allen Alley, leader of the Oregon delegation, likened the Paul backers to those who supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in 2008.

"I think he's adding to the excitement, he's adding to the energy," Alley said.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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