Minnesota Republican Party officials are urging Republican delegates and voters to unify behind U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills.
Bills tried to showcase that unity this morning as he hosted a breakfast fundraiser for the Republican Party of Minnesota. The featured guest was Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a presidential candidate who has quite a following at this year's convention. Paul urged the party to rally around Bills' campaign, which he says stands conservative principles similar to his own.
"He can't even get their without your support and your money and your work and your effort," Paul said. "But he's the kind of individual who will stand strong."
The event attracted 600 people and raised $12,000 for the Republican Party of Minnesota. Minnesota Republican Party Chair Pat Shortridge thanked the audience, which was dominated by Paul supporters. But Shortridge said he wanted to see them work for all Republican candidates in November.
"This breakfast would not be successful and will not be successful if you're not taking this same passion, this same energy, this same enthusiasm, back to communities, back to where you live and to persuade people to get on the bus," Shortridge said.
But unity could face a big test later today as supporters of Paul and likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney battle to decide which candidate will win the 13 remaining delegates to represent the state party at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL.
The state party will have a total of 40 delegates at the national convention. They include party Shortridge, the state's National Committeeman and National Committeewoman. Twenty of the 24 delegates already selected at earlier conventions are backing Ron Paul over Romney.
And even though Romney is the presumptive nominee, he has little presence at this year's convention. Despite a handful of signs plastered on the convention walls, there are few people vocally supporting him. Romney surrogates, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, are not at the event speaking on his behalf. The party did play a 43-second video message from Romney's wife, Ann.
"President Obama has our country headed in the wrong direction, and it is up to us, together, to get this great nation back on track," Ann Romney said on the video message. "Mitt and I would appreciate your support for the Conservative Unity Slate endorsed by Romney for President."
That Conservative Unity Slate features GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, Deputy Party Chair Kelly Fenton, former Congressman Mark Kennedy and several state lawmakers. The Romney campaign is trying to create a slate that could be attractive to supporters of Ron Paul.
But Paul supporters have been working behind the scenes to ensure that their delegates make it to Tampa. Mark Santelman of Winthrop is one of the Paul supporters who wants to be a national delegate. He said one of the reasons he wants to be at the convention in Florida is to force Romney and other national candidates to adhere to constitutional principles.
"If Romney is the candidate, I'm going to vote for him and work for him, but we want to bind him down," Santelman said. "That's my goal as a delegate is to just get a Republican Party that says OK, we're going to vet our candidates better."
Will be updated...
No need to worry - of COURSE Romney will win. We're just collecting delegates to "shape the party". Be assured we WILL be voting for the "presumptive nominee", whose ascendancy in the GOP is guaranteed.