TAMPA, Fla. - Mitt Romney's nomination as the GOP's presidential pick Tuesday night is inevitable, but delegates at the Republican National Convention greeted with cheers some of the candidates vanquished by Romney in the primary.
Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain were all circulating in the Tampa Tribune Forum Tuesday afternoon, where Republican delegates were gathered to nominate the GOP ticket.
Later Tuesday, Rick Santorum, Romney's most formidable primary opponent, was set to address the crowd on welfare reform.
Paul created the biggest stir, entering the convention hall to raucous cheers. He was soon trailed by a throng of television cameras and reporters and autograph-seeking delegates.
Paul made two laps around the convention hall, stopping to chat with delegations from the caucus states where he enjoyed the most support, including Maine, Hawaii and Minnesota.
Paul told The Washington Examiner he was enjoying the reception and had no idea what to expect when he arrived today.
But others in the hall grumbled that Paul knew exactly what he was doing - purposely trying to detract from Romney's big moment.
"I think he's really obnoxious," a delegate from Oregon told The Examiner. "I think it disrupts the convention and I think that is the purpose of him being on the floor is just to disrupt the convention."
Oregon's 25-member delegation includes 13 delegates who voted to nominate Ron Paul instead of Romney. Those members, the delegate said, "are basically trying to hijack the vote."
Paul backers don't see it that way. They told The Examiner that the convention should serve as a place for delegates to debate about their party's priorities and candidates.
"We become unified when we leave here on Thursday night and until then, we don't officially have a nominee," said Ken Nelson, a North Carolina delegate backing Ron Paul.
Nelson said as soon as the convention ends, he plans to work to elect Romney.
Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman, was greeted like a rock star by the Minnesota and Texas delegations who were seated side by side, with the aisles soon clogged with people trying to get near her.
"I sure wish folks would get out of the aisle," one Texas delegate complained. "I'd like to get to my seat."
Cain made the rounds above the convention floor, with autograph seekers and fans jogging beside him as he hurried along.
"I've got an interview folks," Cain said to the trailing crowd."I've got to run. Good to see you, good to see you!"
While anger simmered among the establishment GOP over the floor's parade of Romney's one-time opponents, some in the GOP said they were not worrying about Paul creating a stir on the convention floor.
Allen Alley, leader of the Oregon delegation, likened the Paul backers to those who supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in 2008.
"I think he's adding to the excitement, he's adding to the energy," Alley said.