The leadership of the Minnesota Republican Party decisively beat back an insurgent challenge this afternoon by supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul, dashing their hopes of sending Paul delegates to the national convention in St. Paul three months from now.
With 14 delegates up for grabs, Republicans backing de-facto nominee John McCain took all of them, after several hours of sometimes-bitter arguments and confrontations on the floor of the GOPâ€™s state convention.
Boos, shouted protests and parliamentary maneuvers consumed several hours of the conventionâ€™s first day, delaying the formal endorsement of Sen. Norm Coleman. At one point, a shoving match broke out between a McCain supporter and a Paul backer.
Marianne Stebbins, a longtime party activist who headed Paulâ€™s campaign in Minnesota, failed to be named a national convention delegate. Taking the podium before voting began, she implored her fellow Republicans: â€œWe do think the party is losing its way â€¦ itâ€™s strayed from its core principles. Weâ€™re hoping to recreate the 1964 Goldwater movement â€“ he lost, but won the Republican Party back.â€
Some Paul backers complained party officials unfairly stacked its slate of preferred candidates, a vetting process defended by party chairman Ron Carey. Serving as a national convention delegate â€œis not an entry-level job,â€ he said. â€œWe looked at people who truly had quality, not just people who raised their hand at the last minute.â€
Despite the raw emotions on display today, it wasnâ€™t immediately clear how long the obvious fissures in the party will persist.
Not surprisingly, among the GOP heavyweights elected as national delegates were Coleman, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Minority Leader Marty Seifert.