Ron Paul still aims for delegates at state conventions to push GOP

McClatchy NewspapersMay 15, 2012 

— Rep. Ron Paul may have dropped off the presidential campaign trail, but he insisted Tuesday that he’s not entirely out of the race.

A day after Paul announced that he would no longer formally campaign or spend money in primary states, his camp released a memo laying out the Texas Republican’s strategy for the remainder of the primary season.

The memo, penned by Paul campaign strategist Jesse Benton, said the libertarian-leaning Paul still would be going after delegates and alternates at the state GOP convention level, where Paul’s fiercely loyal followers could take over, in hopes of gathering enough delegates to wield influence in August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and beyond.

“So while our campaign is no longer investing in the remaining primary states, we will continue to run strong programs at district and state conventions to win more delegates and alternate delegates to the national convention,” Benton wrote. “We will head to Tampa with a solid group of delegates. Several hundred will be bound to Dr. Paul, and several hundred more, although bound to Governor Romney or other candidates, will be Ron Paul supporters.”

However, even while rolling out its game plan, Paul’s campaign conceded that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential nominee. Still, Benton wrote, “All delegates will be able to vote on party rules and allow us to shape the process for future liberty candidates.”

“We are in an excellent position to make sure the Republican Party adds solid liberty issues to the GOP platform, which our delegates will be directly positioned to approve,” Benton wrote. “Our campaign is presently working to get several items up for consideration, including monetary policy reform, prohibitions on indefinite detention, and Internet freedom.”

Some Republican political strategists doubt that Paul could garner enough delegates or have them placed in important enough positions to significantly impact the convention.

“When you’re going to a convention, everyone is committed to the front-runner, and everyone else has little influence,” said John McLaughlin, a veteran Republican strategist who worked on publisher Steve Forbes’ 1996 Republican presidential campaign. “You need a lot of delegate support to force votes, and he doesn’t have that. His delegates aren’t in a position to control or affect the agenda.”

That said, McLaughlin surmised that Romney’s campaign may be amenable to having a Paul cause or two taken up at the convention. During the bruising contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, Paul didn’t attack Romney as hard as did former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“There may be some accommodation here,” McLaughlin said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they work something out.”

Some strategists believe Paul’s move was an attempt to begin a graceful exit from political life – he’s not seeking re-election to the House of Representatives – and hand over his campaign-tested, movement-type national political machine to his son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky,.

“Rand Paul as a national brand will pick up some if not all (of his father’s) supporters,” said Bill Dal Col, who managed Forbes’ 1996 campaign. “It’s not an organization that can just be handed over, but it’s an opportunity for Rand Paul to nurture (Ron Paul supporters) and not start an organization from ground zero.”

Brian Doherty, senior editor of the libertarian publication Reason and author of “Ron Paul’s Revolution: The Man and The Movement He Inspired,” said the Ron Paul legacy, with its cries for a limited federal government, a massively reduced U.S. military role overseas, fiscal restraint and a return to the gold standard, isn’t easily transferable, kin or not.

“It’s not a cult of personality,” Doherty said. “It’s not a dynasty.”

Doherty said Ron Paul’s announcement “felt like a quit” that “frustrated and angered” some die-hard supporters.

“I can’t possibly think of why the campaign thought it was a good idea to do what they did,” Doherty said. “He already hadn’t been doing much in primary states. He’s largely been doing movement building, doing a lot of college campus speeches.”

Email: wdouglas(at)mcclatchydc; Twitter: @williamdouglas

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