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Ron Paul Takes Bulk of Nevada Delegates

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(Photo Credit:  T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty Images)

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SPARKS, Nev. (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul trumped presumptive nominee Mitt Romney in Nevada’s national delegate count Sunday, but he will only be able to parlay those supporters into votes for his longshot bid at the national GOP convention if Romney fails to win the nomination in the first round.

Of Nevada’s 25 delegates elected Sunday to go to the national convention, 22 openly support Paul and three back Romney. The state’s three other delegates are state party officials.

The results were certified as the state Republican Convention that was supposed to wrap up by 7 p.m. Saturday slogged into a second day. Paul supporters were successful not only in winning the lion’s share of national delegates but in outing the state’s national committeeman and committeewoman and replacing them with supporters of the Texas congressman.

Romney won Nevada’s caucus in February with half of the vote. Under party rules adopted last fall, Romney was to get 20 of Nevada’s 28 delegates for the national convention, and Paul was to get eight. Besides the 25 elected at the state convention, the other three Nevada delegates are state GOP Chairman Michael McDonald; National Committeeman Bob List; and National Committeewoman Heidi Smith.

List and Smith are Romney backers and their terms will end after the national convention.

Paul loyalists and state convention officials said Nevada’s national delegates will abide by that allocation in the first round of balloting in August at the national convention in Tampa, Fla. Delegates would be free to vote their preference in subsequent ballots in the unlikely event Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, fails to clinch the GOP nomination in the first round.

“If there’s a second ballot, shame on the Mitt Romney campaign for allowing that to happen,” said James Smack, a Paul supporter who will replace List on the Republican National Committee.

Neither the RNC nor the Romney campaign were expected to challenge the makeup of Nevada’s delegation, despite an implied earlier threat from a national party lawyer that Nevada’s delegation might not be seated in Tampa if it was packed with Paul backers.

Four years ago, party officials shut down the state convention when it appeared Paul would take most of Nevada’s delegates to the national convention. Paul backers have been building a grassroots network since then, and in 2012 took control of the Republican Party in Clark County, the state’s largest, and claimed a large share of seats on the state GOP central committee.

Carl Bunce, chairman of Paul’s campaign in Nevada, sought to assure convention goers that they are committed to rebuilding the party and defeating President Barack Obama in November.

“We’re working to grow this party,” he said. “There’s going to be growing pains in this party.”

“I do not want this party to fall apart,” he said, urging Republicans to unite.

But he also urged the Paul contingent within the party to show constraint and cooperation.

“Just because you have the power doesn’t mean you have to wield it,” he said. “Just because you have the sword doesn’t mean you have to strike.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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