The Republican National Convention adopted two controversial rules on Tuesday. But a fight over their adoption threw a wrench in the convention's carefully scripted events: pitting the likes of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and grassroots activists on one side with Mitt Romney's campaign and establishment Republicans on the other.
The days-long fight reached climax just hours after the Tuesday RNC session began, with supporters of the rules cheering their adoption and opponents booing against them. Moments before, some delegates even laid out angry - yet unsubstantiated - claims of meddling to keep a delegates away from a committee vote.
At issue: two rules dubbed Rule 16 and Rule 12.
The first is a compromise of an earlier proposal, named Rule 15, that was vehemently opposed by many grassroots activists, including many Ron Paul supporters. It addresses delegate selection in future Republican presidential primaries - instituting stronger enforcement mechanisms to compel delegates to vote as they are bound by their states. In the original proposal, future presidential candidates would have had veto power over who could become a delegate.
The second rule concerns the RNC's ability to change its rules in between its conventions.
Both rules were adopted on the convention floor by a voice vote. Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, chairman of the Rules Committee and a top surrogate for Romney, presented the rules. House Speaker John Boehner held the audible floor vote to adopt them.
Though the voices "for" and "against" sounded about the same, Boehner declared: "The ayes have it."
That caused opponents on the floor to erupt in a chorus of boos.
"What [Rule 16] does, we're no longer picking the bodies in the seats," RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski explained about the compromise rule.
"What we're doing is we're implementing a penalty phase so that you can do what you've always done, as far as putting delegates...in chairs. But if those people do not vote the way they're bound to do, then essentially it's all null and void. They're no longer delegates."
On Rule 12, Kukowski said: "What has been a long time thing with the RNC rules is, you can only vote on them every four years at national convention....Four years is a long time. So essentially that rule is making it so that the RNC as a body can convene in between conventions and change rules."
The floor catcalls followed a similar drama that played out in the rules committee itself.
About an hour before the floor vote, committee members discussed and debated the rules in a meeting.
The rule governing delegate selection was the most contentious. Yet it passed by a vote of 78-14.
Sarah Palin reacted to the original measure on her Facebook page Monday night.
Calling it a "controversial rule change" that is "so very disappointing," Palin added: "It's a direct attack on grassroots activists by the GOP establishment, and it must be rejected."
Some delegates reacted angrily to the committee passage of Rule 16.
"This takes us away from state sovereignty," said Colorado delegate Florence Sebern. "It takes us away from local control in our states. And it moves us towards, as a Republican Party, central control and top-down decisions. That's what this is."
"Are we the Republican Party?" she added.
"My inbox blew up. I had over 8,000 Coloradans emailing and calling me saying, 'Stand firm on these two issues.'"
Her anger was backed up by others outside the convention. Many grassroots activists, including tea party sponsor FreedomWorks, urged opposition to the rules.
Julianne Thompson, a national Romney delegate and a Georgia State Coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, wrote an open letter to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and members of the Rules Committee.
"With your current attempt at this rules change, you are essentially striking the first blow that chips away at that freedom, and you disenfranchise the very people that turned the tide for the GOP in 2010 by returning power in the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans," Thompson wrote.
"I would like to hope that our nominee is unaware of the skullduggery that occurred with regard to this attempt at shutting out the people that have unified to help him win in November," Thompson added.
"The audacity of creating a firestorm when there is an opportunity for unity and peace that is needed to win back the Senate and take back the White House is irresponsible and I seriously question the motives of those behind this attempt."