TAMPA — A coalition of grassroots Republicans are pushing for a potentially distracting and noisy floor fight at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday to undo rules changes that weaken insurgent candidates and state parties.
The group, which includes supporters of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, as well as some top state party officials who back Romney, is working to oppose changes to the Party rules allow presidential candidates the right to refuse delegates to the national convention.
The move is a reaction to Romney's effort to solidify control of a Republican Party that is only partly in his corner, and the revolt is a sign of the deep unease that remains in some corners of the party with the former Massachusetts governor.
The revolt's leaders include key figures in the conservative movement and on the committee. Virginia delegate and longtime RNC member Morton Blackwell, a former Reagan aide who founded a conservative training academy called the Leadership Institute, called them the "worst-ever changes" to the party rules. In an email to delegates to the convention, Blackwell urging them to vote for the amendment to the Rules Committee report referred to as the committee's minority report.
"If the Rules Committee Report were to pass without adoption of the Minority Reports, it would amount to a power grab by Washington, D.C. party insiders and consultants designed to silence the voice of state party activists and Republican grassroots," he said.
To force a roll call vote on the minority report, the opponents must secure the backing of a majority of six delegations, setting the stage for a rare floor flight on Tuesday afternoon.
The rules changes were forced through by the Romney campaign, led by the soon-to-be Republican nominee's top lawyer, Ben Ginsberg. Ginsberg said he was making the changes "to correct what we saw as a damaging flaw in the presidential election process in 2012."
The rules are a direct response to Ron Paul's candidacy, where delegates pledged to Romney vowed to cast their ballots for the libertarian icon. A separate rule that is going unchallenged limits the importance of state conventions, making it impossible for a candidate to win control of a delegation without winning primaries or caucuses.
"This is the biggest power grab in the history of the Republican Party because it shifts the power to select delegates from the state party to the candidate," said Indiana National Committeeman Jim Bopp in an email to RNC members late Sunday, calling it an "overreaction" to Ron Paul. "And it would make the Republican Party a top down, not bottom up party."
Blackwell warned that the deck is stacked against the effort to undo the rules changes, leaving unsaid that the Romney campaign is the driving force behind them.