Minnesotan Republican leaders say they are leaving the GOP convention confident that conservative Minnesotan voters will unite behind the party ticket. However, some delegates are heading home angry with the national Republican Party and its nominee, Mitt Romney.
Minnesota Republicans will unite to vote for Romney and running-mate, Paul Ryan, said the state's Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge.
"The overwhelming majority of Republicans from all wings and parts of the party are committed to replacing Barack Obama and making him a one-term president," Shortridge said.
However, some Republican leaders here even predict Minnesota may be a competitive field in the presidential race. Thirty-three of the 40 Minnesota delegates voted for Ron Paul over Mitt Romney. Many say Paul supporters are unlikely to support Romney in November because of the way they were treated at the convention. Paul was not allowed to speak, and his supporters are furious over what they say was an unfair process and rule changes that will make it more difficult for fringe candidates like Paul to win national convention delegates in the future.
On Thursday, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty urged the Minnesota delegation to unite behind Romney.
"In these moments where we have endorsement battles and primary battles, we have a process and people are going to compete and compete vigorously for the mantle of endorsement or primary winner," Pawlenty said. "But after that process is complete then we need to lock arms and join hands and go shoulder-to-shoulder forward as a team."
The delegation gave Pawlenty a standing ovation. Even Paul's backers had praise for the way Minnesota Republican officials have treated them. But that doesn't mean they're buying into the unity message.
Minnesota Ron Paul delegate Mark Zasadny of Roseville said if the election were held right now he would vote for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president.
"It seems like the clear message was like the grassroots movement is not really welcome in the Republican Party. So that's kind of hard to swallow when they come around and say, you know, 'OK, are you ready to unite behind the Romney campaign and the RNC,'" Zasadny said. "And it's like, 'well you just tried to cut our throats.' So how are we supposed to respond to that?"
Minnesota delegate Bill Batchelder was a big Rick Santorum fan. His Bemidji company even manufactured the sweater vests Santorum wore and sold to raise campaign money.
Batchelder said even if Paul supporters don't back Romney it's unlikely to greatly affect the vote in Minnesota.
"I don't think the Ron Paul people are going to be out in the streets working against Mitt Romney," he said.
Batchelder says he will do what he can to help convince Paul supporters to back Romney.
“I don't think the Ron Paul people are going to be out in the streets working against Mitt Romney.”Bill Batchelder, Minnesota RNC delegate
A Republican presidential candidate hasn't won in Minnesota since 1972. But Republican leaders insist this year may be different. Shortridge said he thinks many Minnesotans will identify with the vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who is from neighboring Wisconsin.
Shortridge said he also thinks Pawlenty's connection to the Romney campaign will boost regional support for Romney.
But unlike Iowa and Wisconsin, Minnesota does not appear to be a competitive field in the 2012 presidential race. Obama won the state by almost 10 percentage points four years ago.
Washington University political science professor Steven Smith said Ryan could help in Minnesota, but only slightly. Romney's campaign in Wisconsin could spill over to Minnesota, he said.
"It's possible that Minnesota will see more ads and maybe even a little bit of candidate attention as a by-product of efforts to reach western Wisconsinites," Smith said. "If that happens and there seems to be a tick up in Romney's fortunes in Minnesota, then who knows what the dynamic of the campaign might be at some point along the way. They may decide that Minnesota is worth attention."
Regarding the dispute between Paul supporters, Romney and the Republican establishment, Smith said the tea party movement's enthusiasm for the GOP ticket — now that Ryan is the running-mate — far outweighs any damage Paul defectors could cause.