Convention notebook: Eat, drink, love ... dolphins

Eat, drink, love dolphins.

That seemed to be the idea Wednesday as a sleepy-eyed Nevada delegation of Republication National Convention castaways took a morning dolphin cruise into Tampa Bay for breakfast.

Most of the three dozen delegates and guests on board were supporters of Ron Paul. He lost the GOP presidential nomination to Mitt Romney the night before as expected despite protest votes from 17 of Nevada's 28 delegates, most of whom were supposed to put their names in for Romney.

Some Romney backers also joined the cruise, which left from the Florida Aquarium at 9 a.m. A few eyed Paul supporters warily until the boat left port, coffee was poured and the jokes began flying.

"Welcome to the S.S. Minnow," said Kurt Criss, a Paul supporter.

"It's a three-hour tour," his wife, Marla Criss, softly sang, drawing laughter.

No, this wasn't "Gilligan's Island," the old TV show where a tropical storm shipwrecked the crew and guests. The Tampa boat was named The Bay Spirit II, and the cruise was 90 minutes long. But Tropical Storm Isaac had disrupted the convention, shortening it from four days to three. And Tropical Storm Ron Paul centered around Nevada had briefly disrupted Romney's nomination Tuesday night, too.

The Paul revolt caused division and tension within the Nevada delegation. But, by the end of the cruise under sunny skies, everyone seemed relaxed. A group photo was taken, and a Romney backer agreed to take a picture of the Paul folks standing together behind a sign that read: "I am The Ron Paul Revolution."

"Now you're one of us," a Paul backer told the Romney photographer.

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Not quite. The photographer was Serena Goldstock, an alternate Romney delegate. She said before boarding the cruise ship that she was furious at the Paul contingent for not following state party rules that bound them to Romney because he won the Feb. 4 Nevada GOP caucus.

"They are liars," Goldstock said. "They went back on their word. They didn't vote the way they were supposed to. Honestly, it's an embarrassment to Nevada."

Wayne Terhune, chairman of the delegation, said he allowed cross-over voting because some Paul backers like him believe the Republican National Committee illegally changed the rules to prevent the Texas congressman from being nominated from the floor.

Terhune said he didn't have the authority to force delegates to vote one way or the other, and it was up to each individual to nominate either Romney as bound or Paul if they thought they had been cheated.

"I don't have a badge and a gun," said Terhune, who was bound to Paul and voted that way. "I cannot tell people what to do. It's up to each delegate to decide what is correct and proper."

The same goes for Nov. 6 when few diehard Paul backers say they will vote for Romney.

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Sharron Angle, the failed 2010 U.S. Senate candidate in Nevada, was a surprise guest on the cruise. She said she had planned to attend a breakfast Wednesday with the Pennsylvania delegation, which is staying at the same Double Tree hotel as the Nevada delegation.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who made a splashy keynote address Tuesday night at the convention, was speaking at the Pennsylvania breakfast, but it was closed to all but that state's delegation.

"So somebody in the Nevada delegation said, 'Do you want to come on a dolphin cruise with us?' And I said, 'Sure,' " said Angle, who was wearing a smart red suit and heels on the cruise boat.

During the GOP presidential primary, Angle backed Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and a conservative favorite. She attended a midday event with him Wednesday, too.

Angle said she understood the frustration of Paul supporters who don't embrace Romney - and probably never will - but she said Republicans need to rally around Romney to defeat President Barack Obama. And she praised U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., his vice presidential running mate.

"I think what we need to do is support our candidate," Angle said. "If we don't, we're going to get the same old, same old from Barack Obama. I think if we get Romney and Ryan on Nov. 7, we'll have an opportunity to fix things. If we have Obama, we will have more economic malaise."

Still, Angle the GOP outsider criticized Republican leaders for changing the rules to block Paul from being nominated from the convention floor. She said it's an example of how the country is being run, where the Constitution and the rule of law isn't always respected and the power brokers win.

"So I can understand the angst," Angle said of Paul backers. "Everything is by executive decree. We can understand acts of God, but it's the unexpected changes we can't understand."

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The morning cruisers did finally spot a school of dolphins in Tampa Bay, where about 500 of the bottle-nosed mammals live, according to the aquarium staff.

But the animals had to be coaxed out of the water after making dolphin noises.

"Somebody, do your best dolphin mating call," one delegate said.

The gray dolphins emerged, coming up for air in ones and twos.

"They're playing games, just like the Republican Party," another Paul delegate said.

Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal .com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.