St. Cloud, Minn.

As they have been at state conventions throughout the country, Ron Paul supporters are out in full force here at the Minnesota Republican party convention this weekend. But one might hardly know that from being on the convention floor. The only sight of Paul’s name here is on a brochure sticking out of a lone delegate’s pocket and two small “Ron Paul 2012” posters hanging haphazardly on the right-side wall.

Instead, the Paulites have plastered the convention hall with signs for Kurt Bills, a candidate for U.S. Senate. Bills, a state representative and high school economics teacher, is the liberty crowd’s choice in a competitive field of three with former state representative Dan Severson and Pete Hegseth, the former director of Vets for Freedom. Bills is considered the favorite to win, with the pro-Paul bloc aided by around 40 state legislators supporting the Bills campaign.

But there was an early sign that the Paulite crowd may not have the organizational strength to carry Bills across the finish line early. Several Bills supporters attempted unsuccessfully to amend the rules, but their efforts were stymied.

Aides for the Hegseth campaign say that’s an indication the Paulite bloc is closer to 38 or 40 percent of the delegates. If that’s the case, Hegseth may have a chance to consolidate the non-Bills vote and deny Bills the 60 percent support needed to win the party’s endorsement.

Hegseth says he feels “confident,” but he hasn’t stopped working the floor to convince delegates supporting Severson to move their support after the first ballot. Even with a lower-than-expected slate of Paulite delegates, Hegseth will need every vote he can get this afternoon.

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