TAMPA — A break from script came in the concession line, midafternoon Tuesday, as Brian Albarelli barreled forward with no intention of buying a hotdog.
"Why is Maine's delegation being blocked?" he demanded of Charlie Webster, chairman of Maine's delegation.
Albarelli, a 31-year-old Ron Paul supporter from Vermont, grilled Webster for nearly two minutes about why the Republican National Committee last week invalidated Paul's Maine delegates.
The loud argument marked a departure from the Republican bonhomie, attracting nearby journalists and curious conventioneers.
It was just the beginning. The proceedings at the Tampa Bay Times Forum later featured a brief interlude of protest from the unseated Maine delegates, who then filed out into the hallways with their friends for an impromptu rally of about 30 people.
"Remember the Maine!" they shouted. "Remember the Maine!"
"Something stinks in Tampa," declared Elaine Ribeiro, who put a plastic lobster-adorned clothespin ("For Maine!" she explained) on her nose to illustrate the point.
Many went into detail about the behind-the-scenes wrangling that stripped them of their credentials. The short story: The RNC last week quietly replaced 10 Paul supporters in the Maine delegation with Romney backers, claiming irregularities.
Peter Harring, a founder of the tea party in Maine and Paul delegate who lost his credentials as part of the move, stared into the cameras. "If it can happen to me," he said, "it can happen to anybody."
Suddenly, in the hallway, near the ketchup and mustard pumps, a counterprotest broke out: "Romney! Romney!" chanted a group of about 10 other Republicans, who faded after a couple of minutes.
The Mainers, though, still wanted to talk. Cody Morgan, 19, of Exeter began to cry. He said he had assumed the RNC would change course and give seats to the unseated. "We didn't think it'd be this disingenuous," he said.
Though their cause won little support inside the Times Forum, they had friends on the outside. A few blocks away, several dozen Paul supporters gathered at Gaslight Square Park. As delegates inside the Times Forum prepared to announce their votes, the Paul supporters bowed their heads and prayed to send "positive energy." But it wasn't enough to change the script.
Times reporter Kim Wilmath contributed to this report. Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com.