TAMPA -- After a day of hard-fought, back-room negotiations, Minnesota’s delegation at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night overwhelmingly cast their votes for libertarian U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
Of the Minnesota’s 40 delegates, 33 voted for Paul, one chose Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and six chose former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who eventually locked up the nomination with 2061 votes.
Minnesota’s delegation made up the largest single bloc of Paul support on the convention floor.
“It feels great,” said John Kossett, 56, a Paul delegate from Vadnais Heights. “It’s been a long road and it’s good to finally have the votes counted.”
The insurgent Paul delegates were vastly outnumbered and constantly beat back by the Romney campaign and convention organizers who did not want a public and embarrassing fight on the convention floor.
Romney’s campaign and Paul supporters had been frantically negotiating for weeks. Both sides were locked in frenzied back-room negotiations in the hours leading up to the roll call vote. As a concession, Romney’s campaign offered a prime speaking slot to Paul’s son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
But that was hardly enough – and many Ron Paul supporters remained furious at the convention floor maneuvering by the Romney campaign.
Moments before Minnesota delegates cast their votes in front of the cameras and a national audience, Romney supporters came over to hand out campaign blue and white campaign signs that said “Mitt.”
Many Minnesota delegates rejected the signs, shaking their heads no.
Yelena Vorobyov, a 30-year-old delegate from Apple Valley, said she was furious that convention officials told them they could not bring Paul signs during the floor session, yet hundreds of Romney signs suddenly emerged on the convention floor.
“They cheat at every level,” she said.
Marianne Stebbins, who led Minnesota’s Paul delegation and announced the state’s roll call, said she was relieved to finally stand up and support Paul on a national stage.
Stebbins had been negotiating through the day for a rule change to benefit Paul in the next election, an effort that ultimately failed.
“I am just glad we recorded our votes; it’s a great moment” Stebbins said. “Now I plan to continue to talk to Republicans and help to change their hearts and minds that liberty is the future of the Republican Party."
While Stebbins announced the tally of Minnesota delegates’ votes, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann stood by her side, smiling.
“Great job,” Bachmann told Stebbins afterward. “Really good job.”
Bachmann then directed delegates to sign Stebbin’s speech, providing a memento to remember the convention.
Stebbins said she picked up one more Paul supporter than she expected.
That vote came from former RNC National Committeewoman Pat Anderson.
"I voted for Paul," Anderson said as the convention's attention turned to the next state.