After Paul???s exit, GOP leaders optimistic party will unite

Mitt Romney locked down the requisite number of delegates to seal a Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, but not without protest. Supporters of libertarian-leaning Republican challenger Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) exited the convention arena in protest over rules implemented to prevent a Paul insurgency during the nomination process, and Paul himself took his leave Tuesday without endorsing Romney for president.

Though Paul supporters are still fuming over what they perceive as a series of Republican leadership power plays, Republican leaders and Romney staff said Tuesday the party will come together to support the nominee.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during a Politico breakfast event that the endorsement of Paul???s son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will be instrumental in winning the libertarian-leaning Republican contingency to Romney???s side. Rand will receive prominent billing tonight as he addresses the convention; a video tribute to Ron Paul will also play during the evening program.

???I believe Rand???s support for Gov. Romney is extremely significant,??? McConnell said.

While many Paul supporters may remain unhappy with Romney, McConnell said they were not likely to split the Republican vote by opting for the Democratic ticket; the ideological gap was simply too great.

???I bet there???s not a single Ron Paul supporter in America that???s going to vote for Barack Obama,??? McConnell said. ???Not one.???

Lenny Alcivar, the online rapid response manager for the Romney campaign, said Romney was confident that the party would come together over common issues to support him as he took on President Barack Obama.

???There???s room for a lot of different voices in this party, unlike the Democratic party,??? he said. ???We???re totally okay (with the dissent); that???s what conventions are for. But after the balloons drop on Thursday night, this party will have rallied behind the governor???s vision for a stronger economy, and we???re going to take that unified message to swing states all across the country.???

Nevertheless, the last-minute convention rule changes and manipulation of procedure to present a unified front may prejudice some Paul supporters and limit the effectiveness of the video-tribute olive branch this evening.