DES MOINES — Unity was the theme of the Republican Party of Iowa convention, but there were undercurrents of tension and takeover.

“We all want to defeat President Obama,” Sen. Chuck Grassley said in a call for unity.

If Obama is re-elected he will have “the flexibility to be even more liberal, to do more things by executive order and be more destructive of the values that have made America the greatest country in our history,” Grassley said.

Electing Mitt Romney will take “every Republican, every conservative, every defender of the Constitution … and we’ve got to be working arm-in-arm,” he said.

A fired-up Gov. Terry Branstad set the tone for the convention Saturday in Des Moines when he told more than 1,600 delegates that despite launching the president in 2008, Iowa will be the “state that sinks Barack Obama” in 2012.

However, there was tension throughout the day stemming from the success of backers of Texas Rep. Ron Paul in taking control of much of the party apparatus.

Since caucus night in January they’ve filled top party posts, loaded the slate of delegates to the Republican National Convention and wrote a platform reflecting many of the libertarian-leaning congressman’s positions.

However, Paul’s state chairman, Drew Ivers, rejected the suggestion of an insurrection.

“It’s not an attitude of takeover,” Ivers said. Instead, “young, aggressive, new activists who are saying they don’t see much difference between the Republicans and Democrats” are trying to move the party to the right. “Toward this Grand Old Party’s traditional roots.”

The division was clear in dissension over the nominating committee’s slate of national convention delegates, which was split about 50-50 between Paul supporters and others.

Ivers called that appropriate given that Paul and Romney — the only two candidates still in the race — were separated by only 3 percentage points on caucus night.

Johnson County delegate Bill Keettel conceded the battle for national convention delegates was lost at the precinct caucuses “when the Paul supporters stayed behind and elected the delegates to the county conventions,” he said.

“Don’t expect something if you don’t do the work,” Cedar Rapids Tea Party leader and delegate Tim Pugh said. “Don’t expect. Organize.”

In the end, the slate was accepted as proposed despite complaints that some of the delegates have voted in Democratic primaries — if they’ve voted at all, or were unknown to longtime party activists.

In addition to Grassley and Branstad, those delegates are: Margaret Stoldorf, Montgomery; Michelle Bullock, Polk; James Mills, Floyd; Steve Anders, Pottawattamie; Roger Leahy, Jefferson; Mark Hansen, Pottawattamie; Will Johnson, Dubuque; Lexy Nuzum, Madison; Andrea Bie, Allamakee; David Fischer, Polk; and Drew Ivers, Hamilton.

Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler faced three challengers who called into question his integrity. If he were national committeeman, David Chung, a State Central Committee member from Cedar Rapids said contributors wouldn’t have to ask if they were being solicited for the party or a special interest group.

“Only special interest I will report to is you,” he said.

Scheffler defended himself, reminding the convention that he “ushered in the social conservative movement 25 years ago” and took on the “liberal Republican establishment” to fight for planks supporting smaller government, and opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

He defeated Chung on the second ballot.

Rep. Kim Pearson, R-Pleasant Hill, Judy Davidson of Scott County, Tamara Scott of Warren County and Margaret Stoldorf of Montgomery County ran for national committeewoman. On the second ballot, Scott defeated Pearson.

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