RNC Chairman Reince PriebusTAMPA – The coastal Florida site of the Republican convention was left largely unscathed Monday by a tropical storm, but it was the political machinations and lingering primary rifts inside the conventions halls that threatened to drown out the GOP’s economic message.

A proposed chance to rules governing the party’s delegate selection mechanism so rankled conservative activists in Georgia’s 76-member nominating delegation that one Peach State tea party organizer said the party had fundamentally disrespected the grassroots.

The rules body of the Republican National Committee approved last week a measure diminishing the ability of activists to select their slate of delegates to the quadrennial confab.

Under the exiting regime Georgia selects its delegates and alternates through an election that generally favors the conservative grassroots, but if the new rule is greenlighted by the full committee this week future presumptive nominees would have absolutely veto power over delegate selection.

That rewrite was so radical, Georgia tea party organizer and convention delegate Julianne Thompson fumed in a letter Monday afternoon to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, that it was tantamount to “disenfranchis[ing] the heart and soul of [the] Republican Party.”

“As a National Delegate to the 2012 RNC, I am extremely disappointed that a rule would be passed through committee that essentially strips the grassroots of all of it’s representative power by ridding state parties of their ability to choose whom they will send as delegates and alternates to represent their state to the Republican National Convention,” Thompson said.

“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,” she added.

But Republican elders defended the move even as four Georgia delegates had gone rogue.

Georgia GOP chief Sue Everhart had intended to pledge the entirety of the state’s delegation to Mitt Romney. But those intentions were derailed when four members, once betrothed to erstwhile White House hopefuls Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, refused to honor the covenant. (The delegates have since revealed allegiances to Ron Paul, another former candidate whose allies sparred all week with party chiefs.)

To bring the fight to the floor, party rules set a threshold of six state delegations. So far, Georgia is not among them.

– James Richardson