CARSON CITY — The Nevada chairman of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign took exception to a Republican National Committee lawyer who suggested Nevada’s presence at the national convention could be jeopardized if Paul supporters swamp the state delegate contingent.
Carl Bunce called the RNC opinion “creative writing” and maintained Paul supporters will abide by rules that first-round balloting at the national convention be apportioned based on the outcome of the Nevada caucuses. Mitt Romney won that contest with 50 percent of the vote.
The state GOP convention is Saturday in Sparks.
In a letter to state GOP Chairman Michael McDonald, RNC lawyer John R. Phillippe Jr. said it would be “highly likely” Nevada’s 28 delegates to the national convention in Tampa, Fla., could be jeopardized if Paul supporters take slots that should go to Romney, the presumptive nominee.
The letter, first reported by the Las Vegas Sun, also said an “authorized representative of the presidential campaign” should be allowed to confirm whether or not a delegate “is an actual supporter” of a particular candidate.
Bunce countered that rules adopted by the state party last fall and forwarded to the RNC say that delegates are elected at the state convention, but the allotment of delegates to particular candidates happens afterward.
“If Romney’s the guy, what are they worried about?” he said. “It’s obvious to those of us in the Ron Paul campaign ... Romney did not have the delegates or the force to get his delegates to the national convention.”
Paul supporters have been taking control of local and state Republican parties across the nation, a move designed to influence platforms and allow them to vote for Paul should the national convention proceed to an unlikely second round of balloting.
Bunce predicted the 50 percent to 60 percent of state convention attendees will be Paul backers.
“It’s going to be a Ron Paul rally, that’s what it’s going to be,” he said, adding, “It will be a lawyer fest, probably.”
The Texas congressman is scheduled to speak at the convention.
Paul came in third in Nevada’s caucuses. But with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum now out of the presidential primary race, Romney is expected to be allotted 20 Nevada delegates. Paul would get eight.
The tiff over delegate selection could signal a repeat of the 2008 Nevada GOP convention fiasco, when party leaders shut down the convention when it appeared Paul would take most of Nevada’s delegates to the national convention.
Paul backers then staged their own convention to elect delegates while a Nevada GOP committee appointed another delegation of mostly prominent party regulars and contributors. An RNC panel finally brokered a compromise, but expressed dismay over what it called the “ineptness” of the Nevada GOP.
What Saturday’s convention will bring is anyone’s guess.
“I guess we’ll have to see what happens,” said Bob List, Nevada national committeeman and former governor who faces a challenge from James Smack — a Paul supporter and state GOP vice chairman — to retain his position on the RNC.
“There’s certainly some uncertainty in the air,” List said.