GRAND ISLAND -- The effort by Ron Paul supporters to gain control of Nebraska's delegation to the Republican national convention was squashed Saturday in a rout that left Paul with only two pledged delegates in the state's 35-member contingent.
The outcome of delegate selection balloting at the Republican state convention represented a big victory for Gov. Dave Heineman, who worked actively behind the scenes to personally contact Nebraska Republicans who made the delegate selections.
Heineman was the first governor to endorse Mitt Romney at the advent of the GOP presidential primary and caucus process, and his ability to deliver Romney delegates from his home state -- as well as his leadership of the state party -- were on the line.
If Paul supporters had won control of Nebraska's national convention delegation, that would have given them the fifth state required to place the Texas congressman's name in nomination when the GOP meets in Tampa next month to formally name Romney as its presidential nominee.
Paul's nomination would have given him an opportunity to spotlight his libertarian views along with some leverage to try to influence the party's platform and priorities.
National representatives of the Romney campaign came to Grand Island to keep watch over Saturday's proceedings.
After the Paul effort had been squelched, GOP State Chairman Mark Fahleson complimented leaders of the Republican Liberty Caucus for "their professionalism (in) helping make sure the state convention was conducted the Nebraska way."
Once Paul supporters lost two early test votes challenging rules and the seating of some delegates, they accepted the outcome rather than attempting to derail the proceedings with the kind of endless parliamentary maneuvers and outbursts that characterized some other state party conventions.
National Committeeman Pete Ricketts said his message to the Liberty Caucus is "the Republican Party needs you (and) welcomes folks who come in to make us a stronger party."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl headed the list of speakers at the convention, arguing for the need to defeat President Barack Obama in November. But all the speeches served as a prelude to the late-afternoon appearance of Republican Senate nominee Deb Fischer, who held top billing at the convention, staged at the picturesque Riverside Country Club.
"Nebraskans want a senator who's going to represent Nebraska," Fischer told the gathering of more than 500 Republicans. "Bob Kerrey and Ben Nelson had their chances. It's time for someone new and someone different."
If she's elected, Fischer said, "the very same Senate seat that gave us Obamacare will become the Senate seat that repeals it."
Nelson cast the deciding vote that cleared the path for Senate passage of the health care reform law.
When Democrats call her "a welfare rancher (for holding) a federal livestock grazing lease," Fischer said, they're saying "farm programs and conservation programs are welfare. Really?"
Jindal, a Romney surrogate and potential vice presidential choice, said Obama wages class warfare, "managing the slow decline of this country (and) demonizing those who have been successful."
Sen. Mike Johanns told the convention that Obama "snubs his nose at the Constitution" and Kerrey is a Senate candidate "whose time has passed."
The president has exhibited "a reckless disregard for the limits of government," Johanns said.
In other action, the convention elected former GOP State Chairman David Kramer of Omaha as the party's new national committeeman succeeding Ricketts, who did not seek re-election.
Joyce Simmons of Valentine was elected national committeewoman, succeeding De Carlson, who also chose to step down.
Paul supporters won their two national convention delegate slots in the 2nd Congressional District after controlling early county conventions in Douglas and Sarpy counties.
Romney won the other seven delegate seats decided by congressional district, and a Romney slate of 23 at-large delegate candidates was elected en masse. The three remaining seats in the delegation go to a trio of state party leaders, all of whom will vote for Romney.