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Delegates devoted to Texas Rep. Ron Paul lost a battle against the Mitt Romney campaign after their bid to get Paul acknowledged at the Republican National Convention was denied, despite their raucous shouts and boos at the opening of the meeting.
The GOP changed its convention rules Tuesday, forcing delegates to vote for the candidate who won the state primary or be stripped of their delegate spot provided that state law binds the delegates.
Paul delegates from Nevada and Maine led the opposition, booing the move on the convention floor, a sign of the bitterness in the battle.
Utah Republican National Committeewoman Enid Mickelsen is co-chair of the rules committee, which changed the convention rules at the urging of Romney's campaign. She and fellow Rules Committee member Bruce Hough said they were barraged with calls and e-mails from Paul backers opposed to the change in recent days, many of them turning nasty and even threatening.
"When someone says, 'I'm watching you and there's a day of reckoning coming,' you have lost any persuasive power," said Mickelsen, who plans to change her cell phone number.
Hough said he was told that "I was personally a cheater and I need to get on my knees and pray to God for forgiveness."
Because of the change, delegates from states like Nevada where a large contingent was backing Paul were forced to vote for Romney, who won the state's primary, or be ousted as a delegate.
The committee also changed rules that might make it easier to strip Nevada's special exemption that allows it to be one of the nation's first primaries. Mickelsen said she made a pitch for Utah to inherit the spot, but it was argued the state is "too homogenous." She said Arizona is vying to take over the early primary spot.
She said the Romney campaign didn't want to make any decisions on Nevada's status now, because Nevada remains a swing state that Romney hopes to win.
Robert GehrkeTwitter: @RobertGehrke