TAMPA - It was a rare un-scripted moment: Many GOP officials were accusing the Romney camp of a "power grab" that would give Mitt Romney significantly more power over the primary process if he were to win the 2012 election and then run again in 2016.
Opponents said the proposed change, which would effectively allow presidential nominees to vet and choose their own delegates at the party convention, was aimed at muting the power of insurgent candidates such as Ron Paul.
The move prompted an uproar from Texas Republicans, who select their delegates through successive votes in conventions at precincts, then districts and finally statewide.
Butch Davis, a member of the RNC Rules Committee who fought off the proposal, said the existing Texas system often elevates grassroots activists and party faithful toiling in the trenches, but the proposed change would have instead allowed GOP leaders and presidential candidates to hand-select delegates and reward donors with delegate spots.
A compromise was agreed upon this afternoon which says delegates must vote for the candidate to which they are bound but the rules changed barely passed on the convention floor, and not without lots of objection.
Around 4:15, convention officials voted to seat the delegates, which didn't include 10 delegates from Maine who were Ron Paul supporters. On the floor of the convention hall, a chant of "seat Maine now," started. The vote seemed split pretty evenly between "Ayes" and "Nays" according to many people on the floor of the convention, but it passed "without contest."
Then, Speaker John Boehner then led the vote for the rules change. Again, the "Ayes" and the "Nays" sounded of a similar volume but was declared to be passed.
A loud and prolonged booing began on the floor. Many political commentators said they'd never seen such a controversy in recent conventions. Some in the Texas delegation continued to chant "Point of order" throughout the next speaker.
Under the deal, delegates who are bound to a presidential candidate who hasn't bowed out of the race or released them to vote for another contender are barred from casting a vote for a different person.
During this convention, the change effectively would mean a delegate bound to Mitt Romney could not opt to throw his or her support behind Ron Paul, who has not freed his delegates. Any vote for another candidate would be voided and the delegate would lose his or her position.
Under the compromise, states would still able to select individual delegates under their own laws and party rules. GOP leaders agreed to remove the rules change provision that would have allowed state-party-selected delegates to be disavowed.