TAMPA, Fla. — One of the biggest hits at Ron Paul's pre-convention rally in Tampa was the speech of Maine Republican National committeewoman Ashley Ryan, elected earlier this year at a contentious Maine state convention. Ryan spoke to the crowd about the fact that her delegates weren't seated last week.
"The credential committee used faulty logic to rule against my state’s duly elected delegates," Ryan said. She called the actions taken by the rules committee "devastating." The crowd went wild.
Ryan, 21, is a math major at the University of Southern Maine. She's also the new face of the Paul insurgency, and a — largely accurate — sense among Paul's young supporters that obscure party rules have been used by Establishment insiders to deny them the convention presence they thought that — through their own use of party rules and processes — they'd won.
Paul World's hopes now ride on Ryan, who said Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton called her after she was elected and told her, "Thank you so much, you've been such a big moral victory for the office, our spirits have been lifted."
"I am still on an adrenaline rush this high," Ryan said after her speech.
She said that the Maine delegation is "trying to stay positive," and that they'd found allies in delegates from Texas and elsewhere.
"Even though [the credentials committee] ruled against us, they felt really bad about ruling against us," Ryan said. "They felt like we were put in an awful spot."
She said that the Maine contingent was considering trying to pull off "kind of our Hail Mary," an unlikely-sounding plan: "If we wrote the credentials report down, that would open up the credentials report for the entire convention to vote on, and the convention could vote to seat the Maine delegation, they could vote to seat the entire Oklahoma delegation" she said.
Ryan feels that she's been "hugely underestimated, by members of our insider party in Maine — I think I've been underestimated across the board."
From the Paul perspective, Ryan's task is important. The hopes for this election cycle are all riding on what the delegates can accomplish at the convention, and so far the news has been bad. Romney allies pushed through a rules change that would effectively prevent a Paul-type insurgency in the future, and the Maine and Oklahoma delegations didn't even get seated. A few tense sessions with Rules Committee chair John Sununu didn't make things easier. (Ryan said that her impression of Sununu was that he was "very sarcastic" and "has a very demeaning sense of humor").
Ryan doesn't plan to run for public office, though "everybody's always throwing that around."
"I never expected to be on stage giving a speech in front of thousands of people," she said. "I guess it's something you just get used to."
"The cool thing about the RNC is that even though I'm in public here, I'm still very much behind the scenes," Ryan said. "It's really a grassroots position, even though it's a national position."