TAMPA, Fla. - After tough ballot requirements kept most of the Republican presidential contenders off of Virginia's ballot this spring, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul went head to head in the campaign for the first time.
Romney won most of the state's delegates, but Paul still captured 40 percent of the vote.
Now, the Virginia delegates who remain disenchanted with Romney are unsettled by the convention at which he'll be formally crowned with the nomination and which offers far more pageantry than politics.
"Could you imagine if in the 1970s they had the candidate's name on everything already," said Trevor Benson, who pointed to his Virginia delegate access pass with "Romney-Ryan" plastered on it. Benson, an at-large delegate from Surry, is bound by state party rules to Romney but wore a Ron Paul shirt to the delegation breakfast Monday.
The modern primary process has sucked all the drama out of the conventions. There is no question Romney will capture the nomination, no matter how much Paul supporters protest.
But Paul is likely to get some votes during the convention's floor vote even though he won't speak this week. Delegates, particularly those with Tea Party roots, wish conventions still had meaning and they're also standing up against an effort that would strip credentials from delegates not sworn to the presumptive nominee.
"A lot of people have the view that this is where we're supposed to have a conversation about ideas," said Leslie Jones, a delegate from Virginia Beach. "I'm going to this convention to listen to what is said. I don't want it to be a coronation."
In Virginia, nearly two in every five voters picked Paul over Romney. Many saw it as a protest vote against Romney and a difficult state petition process that left former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann off the ballot.
For many of those voters, this week's Republican convention is an opportunity to voice their displeasure with the process.
"President Obama and Romney, their biggest money both comes from Goldman Sachs," said Waverly Woods, an alternate delegate from Virginia's 2nd Congressional district. "Goldman Sachs is going to win the election no matter what."