Reports of Ron Paul’s death are greatly exaggerated
Reports of Ron Paul’s political demise have been greatly exaggerated and his tactical genius is becoming apparent as he gives Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential candidate, a serious fright.
The curious Dr Paul, the only remaining challenger to Romney after Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich pulled out of the race, has been widely written off as a nuisance candidate after failing to win a single state in the caucus and primary race.
That has changed. The elderly Texas congressman has won the majority of delegates in Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, as well Maine and Nevada, even though Mitt Romney had supposedly “won” these states months earlier.
Paul’s furiously loyal supporters love him as a man who is fearless of the Washington establishment and willing to take on the hated lobbyists and conciliators.
They have been swamping state conventions, which are held months after the actual caucus or primary votes.
Using their numbers, and sometimes acting in the guise of Romney supporters, they have been electing each other as delegates to the August national convention in Tampa, where the party’s presidential nominee will be formally chosen.
Two weeks ago in Maine, for instance, Paul won the state’s delegates in a landslide, even though in February, Romney won a clear majority of the caucus vote.
Paul may not win enough delegates to secure the nomination but his numbers will force the Republican establishment, who cringe at his politics, to negotiate with him and, at the very least, let him share a world stage with Romney in Tampa.
Paul is a notorious non-compromiser who is trying to redefine what it means to be a Republican. He wants to close foreign American bases and to audit the Federal Reserve, which he accuses of manufacturing cash out of “thin air”.
His supporters, who bristle as the depiction of them as “Occupy”-type protestors within the Republican Party, despise Romney as too liberal, being a man who, as Massachusetts governor, supported government-funded abortion and free health care.
The Australian onlooker might consider Paul’s demand to bring all US soldiers home as being a “left” argument. But that’s not how it works. Paul’s view is that America is wasting its resources overseas at a time when America needs to rebuild and save itself.
Paul’s a constitutionalist. He believes America’s current wars are illegal, rather than immoral, because the President did not seek the approval of Congress to go to battle.
Paul said this week he would stop wasting money on the remaining primaries and urged his supporters to focus on winning delegates at state conventions.
Most “official” tallies have Romney leading Paul in the overall delegate count by 973 delegate votes to about 104. But such figures are only projections that do not account for the state conventions, which produce real delegate numbers.
It’s delegates that matter, not states, because delegates get to choose the nominee.
Most states have not held their state conventions and the real delegate numbers will not be known until late June.
Ben Swann, from Cincinnati’s Fox19, is one of the few reporters studying the Paul surge. “Many people think delegates are selected via the popular vote in a state’s primary or caucus,” he told News Ltd.
“That’s not how it works. There are multiple steps to go through in a state process before delegates are selected to go to the national convention.”
Paul has been mainly exploiting the caucus system, which is different to the primaries. In the primaries, delegates (in most states) are allocated on a proportional basis and are supposedly “bound” to vote for their candidate in Tampa.
But even here, Paul’s people take hope.
The Republican National Convention rules state that delegates may vote according to conscience. That means there is no legal requirement for Romney’s bound delegates to vote for him.
The Romney campaign is concerned that Paul’s supporters have posed as Romney delegates at state primary conventions, with the plan to switch their vote at the national convention.
The question is how many Trojan Horse delegates Paul’s people will send to Tampa.
In recent weeks there has been violence and sabotage at state conventions - people being punched in the head, or meetings disbanded - as Romney and Paul supporters clash.
On paper, Romney is edging closer to gathering the minimum 1,144 delegates to ensure his nomination. Ben Swann, who’s probably right, says the reality is that Romney has just over 300 “real” delegates, and Ron Paul has around 125.
Austin Petersen, a Paul supporter from the national organisation FreedomWorks, which fights for lower taxes and smaller government, says Paul’s strategy may not win him the nomination at Tampa.
“Nobody knows,” he says. “But Mitt Romney’s people are freaking out, for good reason, because Ron Paul has been winning these caucuses and state conventions and coming out with the most amount of delegates.
“It’s enough to cause a stink in Tampa.”
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