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Deal struck to avoid messy floor fight at GOP convention

Republican Party officials struck a last-minute deal Monday night in an attempt to avert a messy convention floor battle with supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Supporters of the libertarian lawmaker were spoiling for a fight over an attempted change to the GOP delegate rules aimed at limiting their ability to gain delegate slots at future conventions. But the bigger concern for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign was assuaging concerns from a number of powerful longtime party stalwarts that the new rule infringed on states’ rights to determine their own delegates.

In an email to Republican National Committee (RNC) members, James Bopp, an Indiana delegate and GOP power player, said he and other conservative power brokers had reached an agreement with Romney’s emissaries to end the dispute, which threatened to be a distraction on the first full day of convention events.

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“The leadership of the Republican National Committee and the Romney for President campaign has heard the concerns of the conservative grassroots voices in our party and has crafted an amendment to the Rules adopted on Friday to address these concerns,” Bopp wrote in the email to RNC members, which was obtained by The Hill.

“We are pleased that our party has come together to fashion this compromise. This will allow Republicans of all stripes to come to the Convention united and focused on defeating Barack Obama in November.”

The Paul campaign said Monday night it was still reviewing the changes, but struck a positive tone.

“We are currently reviewing and getting feedback from our delegates. While we are not sure how this will ultimately be received, [it] is very positive that the Romney campaign is listening to feedback from the grassroots and looking to find common ground,” said Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign manager.

Under the agreement, a bound delegate must vote for the presidential candidate that they are required to vote for under state law or state party rules, leaving the actual selection of delegates up to the states.

Previously, a proposal would have given presidential candidates the power to veto delegates sent by the states — a change that had Paul supporters crying foul, seeing it as an establishment attempt to stifle the upstart contingent.

The deal strikes a middle ground between establishment Republican leaders and conservative delegates, but is likely to infuriate some Paul backers who had spent much of the last year gaming the system to their benefit and who virulently opposed compromise on the issue.

“We were able to achieve an agreement that accomplished what everyone wanted to accomplish,” Bopp told The Hill. “The Romney campaign wanted to make sure the delegates pledged to support him will actually vote for him ... and at the same time the concern we had was addressed so that state parties have complete control of the delegates.”

Bopp had blasted the Romney campaign’s original rule when it was approved, calling it “the biggest power grab in the history of the Republican Party.” He said Monday he did not know if the Paul camp would be satisfied by the changes — and didn’t care much, accusing them of “causing chaos for chaos’s sake in order to achieve their agenda.”

Organized backers of the 77-year-old lawmaker, who is retiring from politics at the end of the year, were able to build their delegate count during the 2012 race thanks to their outsized influence at state conventions where the delegates were doled out. They seized control of state parties in Iowa, Nevada and Minnesota and caused chaos in other states, including Maine, Louisiana and Oregon.