TAMPA — The evening began calmly enough. Wounds had been healed. A short video, produced by the Ron Paul campaign and approved by the RNC, paid tribute to the career of the man from east Texas. Look, there was Mike Lee! There was Jim DeMint, wishing that previous presidents had listened to Paul’s wisdom! After a short speech from Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul got a lengthy at-bat, and used some of his time to straight-talk Republicans on the Pentagon budget. “Republicans must acknowledge that not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well-spent,” he said.
I watched some of the speech standing next to Jesse Benton, who’d been Ron Paul’s spokesman, then Rand Paul’s campaign manager, then Ron Paul’s campaign manager. It felt like the end of the Paul/Everybody Else spat.
Shortly after 8 p.m., Ron Paul delegates and their friends staged a march out of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. They chanted “As goes Maine, so goes the nation” (which given its life as a sarcastic joke about Alf Landon was … ironic, I guess) and sported buttons that read “Remember the Maine.”
I’d wondered if the delegates had one more protest in ‘em. On Tuesday, I happened upon a few delegates huddling near the robust Minnesota delgation, talking about which of their alternates had loud voices. When I asked for some details, a New Hampshire Paul delegate glanced at my media badge and stopped talking.