By B.J. Reyes
When Hawaii’s delegate count was announced on the floor of the Republican National Convention, the count was 17 for Mitt Romney, the eventual nominee, and three for Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas.
Based on the results of the state GOP’s presidential caucus in March, Hawaii’s delegates were shared between Romney, Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. While Santorum’s supporters ultimately backed Romney, Paul’s backers stood firm.
It was indicative of a larger rift between Paul supporters and the RNC, which instituted a rule change on the eve of the convention that led to half of Paul’s delegates from Maine not being seated — and a walkout on Wednesday by some of those same supporters.
Hawaii State Party Chairman David Chang, said he believes the delegation ultimately came around to supporting Romney as the best candidate to defeat President Barack Obama.
Said Chang on Thursday night:
Even on Monday night, when we starting to get ready, the Santorum people were excited about Mitt Romney, even the Ron Paulers – they were really happy with Ron Paul, but in the end they said, ‘You know what, our primary goal is defeating Braack Obama. Mitt Romney is the best candidate to be our Republican nominee and we need to rally behind him.’
That may be true, but at least one Paul supporter said he remains undecided about who will get his vote in November.
Joe Kent, a delegate from Maui and one of the Paul supporters, said he may abstain from voting, he may write in Paul or he might vote for Obama or Romney.
Asked Thursday whether he could support the ticket, Kent, in a phone interview, said:
Not currently. They’re pro-war. They’re against social issues that we’re for. You could say we agree with half of the things he says but the other half of the things we disagree with. And is that really a decent reason to vote for any candidate? We don’t want to lower our standards to support a candidate. We want to raise the standard of candidates around us because nobody gets our vote for free.
A lot of people, I ask them, can you sell Romney to me? And the first thing they do is start bashing Obama. But if I ask them, can you sell Romney to me without bashing Obama, they’re speechless. They have nothing to say. So to me it just seems like a big television show.
Kent said he, like the Paul supporters at the RNC, felt “disenfranchised and ignored” by the national party and the rule changes, adding:
We’re pretty upset about them pulling out half of Maine’s delegation and there were many other states who were treated unfairly as well. … All we want it to be is fair and square. It’s one thing to lose, but it’s another thing to lose illegitimately. Because if it’s illegitimate, then the small guy will never have a chance in the future.