Several Iowa delegates to the Republican National Convention plan to skip this evening’s session to avoid Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech — the convention’s marquee event. According to delegate Margaret Stoldorf of Red Oak, there were a couple of rows of empty chairs beside her in the Iowa delegation’s section for most of last night’s session.
“The empty chairs represent, I think, personal feelings that cannot be set aside for the benefit of the process, the sake of the state that we all are here representing,” Stoldorf said during an interview this morning.
A spokeswoman for the Iowa Republican Party said the empty seats were in Idaho’s neighboring section on the convention floor, not Iowa’s. Alternate delegates as well as convention guests from Iowa will fill any available Iowa delegate seats on the convention floor tonight.
Still, many of the 22 Ron Paul delegates from Iowa have made no secret about their lack of enthusiasm for Romney. Convention delegate Roger Leahy of Fairfield calls the Romney/Ryan ticket the “lesser of two evils” and he may vote for a third party candidate.
“I’m going to still be thinking about it ’til November whatever it is, 6th or 2nd or something,” Leahy said this morning, with a laugh. “I don’t know. I mean, I’ve never actually voted for the lesser of the evils. I’ve always voted for who I thought was the best candidate on the ballot and I’m still looking at that and I think there may be other candidates on the ballot.”
Aaron Dowdell of Marshalltown, an alternate delegate who backed Ron Paul in the Caucuses, said Romney’s speech tonight may be a deciding factor in how he votes this November.
“After some of the things that have gone on, it’s very tough to just openly embrace (Romney) and openly say, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah! I’m going to do that,'” he said this morning. “You know, so I think that tonight’s going to play a large role in how that’s all going to come together, so at this point I’m a little undecided.”
Iowa Republican Party chairman A.J. Spiker worked on Paul’s Caucus campaign, but Spiker said earlier today that he’ll “work tirelessly” to elect Romney this fall.
“I’ll continue to speak out and support the ticket and I believe Romney/Ryan is the only solution,” Spiker said. “I don’t believe third parties are the way to change the country and so I would encourage everybody that might be looking at a different option to vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.”
Delegate and Ron Paul supporter Jonas Cutler of West Des Moines said today he’ll “work for the Republican Party of Iowa” — plus, his daughter is in a Romney campaign commercial — but Cutler will not say whether he’ll vote for Mitt Romney.
“We are the future of the Republican Party here,” Cutler replied the fifth time he was asked if he’d vote for Romney.
Delegate Brian Kraft of Boone said he’s going to support the GOP nominee.
“I supported Ron Paul, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to vote for Romney,” Kraft said today.
Drew Ivers, chairman of the Iowa delegation and the leader of Ron Paul’s Iowa Caucus campaign, said while some delegates may skip tonight’s speech, he expects his fellow Ron Paul campaigners to cast their votes for Romney this fall.
“Most of the Ron Paul Republicans are brand new. They don’t understand and they’re idealistic and they’re naive a little and they’re young and they think, ‘Well, if I can’t (win), I’m going to take my ball and go home,'” Ivers said. “But I think they will come around to that.”
Stoldorf — the delegate from Red Oak — said Ron Paul delegates who skip tonight’s convention session are being “unfair” to the vast majority of Republicans back in Iowa who support Romney.
“We’re delegates from the state of Iowa and I represent the voters and I’m here to speak for them,” said Stoldorf.
Stoldorf backed Rick Santorum in the Iowa Caucuses but, as a delegate to the national convention, she was one of six Iowans who voted for Romney this week.
“I’m happy to support our nominee,” Stoldorf said.
State Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale — an alternate delegate to the convention who points out his candidate, Michele Bachmann, lost, too — said he’s had “disturbing” conversations with many of the Ron Paul supporters from Iowa.
“I’ve had several of them say, ‘I don’t even know if I’m going to vote,’ and that really upsets me,” Zaun said. “Their candidate lost and they’re supposed to be representatives of the Republican Party and they need to get behind Mitt Romney.”
Tonight’s convention activities begin at 6 p.m. Iowa time. Romney’s speech will occur in “prime time” — during between 9 and 10 o’clock tonight.
(Additional material added at 3:02 p.m.)