Why is Ron Paul still in the GOP race - and what does he want?
He hasn't won a single state primary or caucus, yet Ron Paul soldiers on in the GOP presidential race. He is quietly amassing delegates to the GOP national convention, but his real aim is to infuse the party with his brand of Republicanism.
To gauge how far Ron Paul and his libertarian revolution have come, consider the GOP candidate's role in the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.: Mr. Paul wasn't invited to speak and, along with 10,000 of his supporters, held a counter-convention in protest. This year he's angling for a spot on the coveted speakers list.Skip to next paragraph
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This much is clear: This time, the Grand Old Party can't dismiss Paul outright. Thanks to a confluence of crises central to his platform (a record level of federal debt, mounting concern about deficit spending, multiple foreign conflicts), Paul and his anti-Federal Reserve, anti-interventionist, small-government message are keenly relevant in this year's election conversation. Support from tea partyers and a loyal – and expanding – base of followers have propelled the congressman from Texas into the final four.
So it is that the 76-year-old candidate, whom the GOP establishment might like to keep at arm's length, holds some aces in the poker game being played by the remaining presidential contenders – even though he has yet to win a single state primary or caucus. (His supporters, though, argue that Paul won the popular vote in the US Virgin Islands caucuses on March 10, though Mitt Romney snagged more delegates to the party's national nominating convention.)
Given the delegate math, it's improbable that Paul could attain the nomination. What, then, does he want to achieve by staying in the race? And what is to become of the Ron Paul Revolution – his supporters and his libertarian message – when Paul himself bows out?
He appears to have considered such questions. "Politicians don't amount to much," Paul once said, "but ideas do."
In other words, for Paul, it's about the message, not the office, says Ford O'Connell, chairman of the conservative Civic Forum PAC in Washington, D.C. "His intent is not to seek further office. He's trying to start a conversation about the direction of the country and the GOP."
Paul is running "to be a public proponent for his libertarian ideas about money, taxation, the purpose of government," says Brian Doherty, a senior writer at libertarian Reason Magazine and author of the forthcoming book "Ron Paul's Revolution." "He's always wanted to be a powerful spokesman for the ideas he believes in…. Running for president is a ... successful way to get that message out."
In many ways, Paul has already accomplished what he's after. He's used each debate and TV interview – and there have been many – to convince Americans about the merits of his libertarian philosophy. Where he was once an outlier – on eliminating certain federal departments and bashing the Federal Reserve, for example – some other candidates now echo his views.
Paul has also made advances on the ground, quietly waging a campaign to amass enough delegates to gain leverage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August. "Paul could have enough to win some concessions on the party platform or a prominent role at the convention," says Peter Hanson, a political scientist at the University of Denver, in an e-mail.