According to the most recent CNN delegate count, Mitt Romney has secured 945 delegates compared to 286 for Rick Santorum, 145 for Newt Gingrich and 99 for Paul. A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to clinch the nomination at the Republican convention. The next two primaries are in Oregon and Nebraska, where the results are likely to go Romney’s way.
But Paul didn’t actually end an increasingly quixotic campaign for the Republican nomination. Rather, he announced he would no longer seek support in the eleven states still scheduled to have their presidential preference primaries – including some real biggies like Texas and California. The simple reason, of course, is money. As Paul himself explained it: “To do so would take many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have.” As of 1 April, his campaign had $1.8-million cash on hand, according to its campaign finance filings at that point.
And just to show he remains a really idiosyncratic electoral spoiler and to keep his hand in despite no longer campaigning, Paul vowed to fight on with his so-called “delegate strategy.” The main task here would be the imploring, cajoling, badgering and browbeating of as-yet-unpledged delegates wherever state nominating conventions remain more important than full or partial delegate selections by primaries that have already taken place. In those states, “beauty contest” primary elections have occurred, but not the official confirmation of their respective convention delegates.
In dealing with such states, Paul’s campaign has actually been successful in carrying out minor coups at Republican party conventions in some of these states, gaining additional delegates – and even removing some supporters of Romney in some key state party leadership posts.
For example, Paul’s supporters in Maine, Nevada and Iowa, among other states, have inundated state conventions and even gained elections as national delegates. In some cases, they remain required to vote for Romney as the nominee at the convention in Tampa since he won that state. But in others, they are actually free to vote for Paul.
Curiously, despite Paul’s pullback from an active fight in the remaining primaries, his supporters in California are pushing on despite the candidate’s espoused intentions. For that state’s 5 June primary, Paul’s campaign leader in southern California, Robert Vaughn, told the media they were still campaigning vigorously and he estimated about 2,000 people were participating daily in phone banks, door-to-door canvassing and other high-impact forms of campaigning in Los Angeles. But that’s southern California.
Still, since Paul’s new delegate capture strategy is doomed to failure in capturing the actual nomination back here on Earth, despite the dreams of his true believers, why bother? There appear to be three theories about why he presses on. One or another of them, or perhaps all three simultaneously, may be the core of why Paul says he is continuing in the face of certain defeat in Tampa at the Republican presidential nominating convention.
First, of course, is the purely financial incentive of soldiering on. As long as one is a declared candidate for the nomination before the convention, a candidate can continue to receive direct contributions from citizens and even remain eligible for federal matching funds under certain conditions. If the campaign has more debts than assets, this is a useful strategy so as to not leave vendors for hotel rooms, travel costs, IT support, staff salaries, per diem and media placements stuck with all those unpaid bills. For some candidates, paying one’s outstanding bills remains the honourable thing to do, and it may well figure highly in Paul’s thinking, given his homilies about self-reliance and paying one’s way.
Second is to have enough leverage to get on the prime time television schedule of the national convention. For Paul, this may be a point of honour in which he bargains for an opportunity to speak directly to the nation about his ideas on government and his nostrums for fixing what he believes to be broken.
This is effectively a way of saying that if the American people only knew the truth they would be making very different choices in their leaders – and that he, Ron Paul, has hold of that truth and he wants to give it to the people straight from the shoulder – or heart – or some other part of his anatomy. This campaign is Paul’s last roundup after all – he’s not running for Congress again and at his age he is extremely unlikely to be contemplating an effort to bear the rigours of a presidential campaign four years hence – even if he had the physical endurance to do so.
The third reason has to do with his son, Rand Paul, the new Republican senator from the state of Kentucky. Paul the younger is already positioning himself for the presidency in the future. The affecting, symbolic nature of a handoff from one generation to another – father to son – of the torch of liberty and all the rest of that patriotic tapestry, might just be enough to put Paul Jr into a preliminary kind of limelight, four or eight years into the future.
If that happens, what some influential political columnists like to call “the great mentioner” begins to note that Paul the Younger might be the right man to pick up the conservative-libertarian cause for 2016 – especially if Barack Obama defeats Romney in November this year. That, in turn, would relegate what’s left of the old Republican establishment as represented by Romney to the metaphorical woodshed for long, cold years of self-examination and punishment duty.
That, then, would set up Paul Jr as a logical competitor against someone like Marco Rubio (or former Florida governor Jeb Bush or even New Jersey governor Chris Christie) as the most plausible conservative standard bearer – thereby getting things off and running for the presidential race four years hence.
This scenario, of course, depends on whether Romney wins or loses, come November. If he wins, Rand Paul better hope he has been picked as the vice-presidential nominee so he can be well placed to become the go-to candidate in 2020. Readers should remember they read all this strategic to-ing and fro-ing here first.
And as for Ron Paul’s own now-dwindling time in the public eye? Well, one thing he hasn’t done is what the defeated usually do after they are pummelled in a tough primary fight. Paul did not say he would give his all to help Romney defeat that hated Obama – perhaps because Paul’s ideological proclivities are virtually as distant from Romney’s pro-business economic policies and jingoist foreign stance as they are from Obama’s multilateralist, Keynesian instincts. Or, as Paul told CNN on 9 May, he doesn’t see himself lending support to Romney any time soon. Rather, he’s still in the fight to have a say on the party’s agenda. He added that reconciling himself to Romney as his leader would be “pretty hard.”
In his 14 May statement he wrote: “I hope all supporters of liberty will remain deeply involved, become delegates, win office and take leadership positions. I will be right there with you. In the coming days, my campaign leadership will lay out to you our delegate strategy and what you can do to help, so please stay tuned.”
He went on to say that this latest presidential nomination run has been “part of a quest I began 40 years ago… [and that]… our campaign will continue to work in the state convention process. We will continue to take leadership positions, win delegates and carry a strong message to the Republican National Convention that liberty is the way of the future.”
These are definitively not the words of a candidate reluctantly falling into line behind his party’s new standard bearer, not even in the growling-dog-in-the-manger, nose-holding-against-the-smell-of-it, arms-length fashion of recent rivals Santorum and Gingrich. Instead, Ron Paul’s statement is setting up the table for Rand Paul to become the newest rallying point for those radical fiscal conservative, isolationist, gold-bug libertarians to have their new champion in the coming political decade. DM
Photo: Republican presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul speaks to supporters as his son Senator Rand Paul (L) applauds at his Iowa Caucus night rally in Ankeny, Iowa, January 3, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young.
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