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Should Mitt Romney worry about Ron Paul?

Mitt Romney is way ahead of Ron Paul in the delegate count. But Paul's enthusiastic forces have been effective in controlling state party apparatus, and this could impact the GOP convention.

By Staff writer / May 5, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks at the University of California at Berkeley April 5, 2012. Paul is still in the race and has yet to recognize Mitt Romney as the party’s nominee.

Ben Margot/AP

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Ron Paul has the proverbial snowball’s chance in Hades of becoming the Republican presidential nominee this year. Compared to presumptive front-runner Mitt Romney (switching clichés) the image of gnat vs. elephant comes to mind.

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Texas congressman Paul has yet to win a primary election or caucus. Romney has accumulated 10 times as many delegates as Paul (847-80). And yet long after the withdrawal of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich (both of whom had won more than twice as many delegates as Paul before quitting), the dedicated libertarian keeps on keepin’ on.

Should Romney be worried about Paul, nipping at his heels as the former Massachusetts governor pivots from the primary season to take on incumbent Barack Obama?

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As he’s said many times, Paul is promoting a movement as much as a candidacy. In a nutshell, that means anti-big government and anti-war, eliminating five federal departments (Commerce, Education, Energy, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development), refusing to engage in foreign wars, cutting way back on foreign aid to Israel and other countries.

To keep his message out there he needs to stay a player, and 2012 probably is Paul’s last chance to do that on a national scale.

His chosen venue? Holding the Republican Party to its often-arcane delegate selection rules, especially in state party conventions.

In Maine and Nevada this weekend, Paul’s strategy gets another test. There, state conventions are scheduled to affirm the naming of delegates. In both states, GOP party officials clearly are worried that Paul supporters – always an energetic force to be reckoned with – could use state rules to gain delegates in a way that’s sure to rankle the Republican National Committee (RNC).

“The national Republican organization is increasingly anxious over the ability of the Paul campaign to take over state-level organizations, especially in states like Iowa and Nevada that have outsized importance on the nominating process,” the Hill newspaper reports. “National Republicans worry that if grassroots party loyalists aren't supporting the presumptive nominee, the party could struggle against President Obama's fundraising and organizational efforts.”

Paul and Romney reportedly have a good personal relationship, But that hasn’t hampered Paul’s effort to rail against conventional GOP positions – or his enthusiasm for the fight.

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