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Romney, Paul supporters clash at Nevada GOP

SPARKS, Nev. — Republican presidential long-shot Ron Paul energized a loyal following at Nevada's GOP state convention Saturday with familiar themes, calling for limited government, limited spending and personal freedoms.

Paul told a cheering crowd he'd cut $1 trillion from the federal budget and that people should have a "God-given right" to keep what they earn.

Paul has yet to win a state primary or a caucus outright, but his ardent backers have been turning out in large numbers at county and state conventions around the country to try to win delegates to the national GOP convention in Tampa, Fla. Their strategy is to try to influence the national party platform or vote for Paul if the presumed Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, does not win the nomination on the first ballot.

Cutting government waste and fraud are not enough to control government, Paul said, because "government itself is wasteful, fraudulent and abusive."

He received resounding applause after his 16-minute speech as the crowd chanted, "President Paul, President Paul."

Romney won Nevada's caucus in February with half of the vote. Under party rules adopted last fall, Romney should get 20 of Nevada's 28 delegates for the national convention. Paul would get eight.

But Paul backers were trying to hold out for a bigger delegate count.

Carl Bunce, Paul's Nevada campaign chairman, has said supporters of the Texas congressman would abide by convention rules, but has also said he can't control what they do if they are named a national delegate. Mischief came early at the convention, when a Paul supporter accused the Romney camp of passing out a fake slate of Paul delegates. The list included some known Romney backers.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and party leaders called for civility and unity to defeat President Barack Obama in November.

"When we leave this convention, when we leave the national convention, we are one party with one cause," Krolicki said.

Romney's son, Josh Romney, received wide applause when he told the convention Nevada is important to his father's presidential quest.

"We've been campaigning hard here," he said. "My dad's going to be here a lot."

But when chants of "Mitt, Mitt, Mitt" erupted at the end of his speech, they were quickly drowned out by shouts of "Paul, Paul, Paul" by the large contingent of Paul supporters.

Four years ago, party officials shut down the state convention when it appeared Paul would take most of Nevada's delegates to the national convention. This year backers of the conservative Texas congressman have taken control of the Republican Party in Clark County, the state's largest, and claimed a large share of seats on the state GOP central committee.

Besides the chaos of the convention four years ago, the Nevada GOP suffered national embarrassment when it took two days to count February's caucus results in Clark County. Last month the central committee elected Michael McDonald state party chair, the party's fourth since late 2009.

Delegates to the state convention will also elect a committeeman and committeewoman to represent Nevada on the Republican National Committee.

Current National Committeewoman Heidi Smith of Reno is being challenged by Paul supporter Diana Orrock of Clark County and Carol Del Carlo of Incline Village, former secretary of the state GOP.

National Committeeman Bob List, a former Nevada governor, will face off with James Smack of Fallon, a Paul supporter and vice chairman of the state party.