By Russell Berman - 08/28/12 09:40 PM EDT
TAMPA, Fla. — The Republican Party on Tuesday voted to nominate Mitt Romney as its candidate for president in 2012.
Now all Romney has to do is accept.
Romney’s nomination won’t become official until he delivers his acceptance speech on Thursday, campaign officials said. At that point, he will legally be able to spend money raised for the general-election campaign.
The nomination has not been in doubt since April, when Romney accumulated enough pledged delegates through primary and caucus elections to clinch the GOP’s premier prize. Romney’s top rivals during the primary, former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), had released their delegates to Romney in advance of the convention.
The lone holdout was Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), whose supporters have made their presence known in Tampa throughout the week. As states announced Paul’s delegate totals on Tuesday afternoon, the congressman’s supporters cheered loudly.
During the alphabetical roll call, votes from New Jersey gave Romney the 1,144-delegate total needed to clinch the nomination. New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, was set to deliver the convention’s keynote address later Tuesday night.
Minutes later, the convention voted by acclamation to nominate Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) for vice president.
As Romney’s delegates were announced, delegates packing the convention floor at the Tampa Bay Times Forum held up blue “Mitt!” signs. The roll call paused for an extended ovation when New Jersey put Romney over the top.
Paul has refused to endorse Romney’s candidacy, and in a sign of the lingering tension between the two camps, while states announced Paul’s delegate total from the floor, only Romney’s count was repeated from the podium of the convention.
Earlier in the afternoon, Paul supporters made a failed bid to force a roll call vote on the convention rules over a dispute surrounding the seating of Maine delegates. Critics of the process began chanting, “Seat them now!” and “Point of order!” as the reports of the committees on credentials and rules were introduced.
The chants became louder and scattered boos erupted as the chairman of the convention, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), moved to approve the rules by a voice vote.
The ayes and nays appeared evenly split, but Boehner declared, "In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it."
Opponents of the rules motion booed loudly, and Boehner was forced to shout his introduction of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to move the convention forward.
After the procedural votes, the convention moved to the nominating process. Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu placed Romney’s name into nomination.
“Mitt Romney knows how to fix the unfixable and help people perform to their highest potential,” Sununu said. “Mitt Romney is the right man at the right time and will be a great leader for our country.”
Aside from occasional shouts from Paul supporters, the roll call followed the ritual in which designated speakers — often governors and party chairmen — used the brief opportunity to boast about their states.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who in June survived a recall attempt by Democrats, received one of the loudest cheers of the night when he announced the state’s support of Romney and its native-son vice-presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan.
Idaho bragged that it was the first state to sue over Obama’s 2010 healthcare law, and Illinois’s state treasurer, Dan Rutherford, predicted that come Jan. 20, the state would be the home of the nation’s “most recent former president.”
The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, boasted about Kentucky’s fondness for horses and its prowess in college basketball. But when he announced the state’s delegates for “Mitt Romney,” he briefly slipped up and said, “Mitch.”
Other states trumpeted the GOP's long-running ascendancy or, in the case of Democratic bastions like Oregon, predicted that they would soon turn from blue to red, becoming “the New Jersey of the West.”
— This story was originally posted at 5:08 p.m. and has been updated.