Why Ron Paul's 2012 effort may not really be over

The Ron Paul campaign won't run ads in upcoming primaries, but Paul is still out to make his mark at the GOP's August convention. That means getting supporters elected as delegates and even picking up some 'stealth' delegates.

Mark Makela/Reuters/File
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul departs after holding a rally outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia on April 22. Congressman Paul announced on May 14 that he will no longer actively campaign in upcoming primary states.

Is Ron Paul ending his official campaign for the Republican presidential nomination? That seems to be case, as he announced Monday that he won’t be spending any more money in states that have not yet voted.

That would mean no Ron Paul ads in Texas, no Ron Paul travel to California, no Ron Paul pamphlets in Kentucky, and in general no Paul presence on the stump.

Continuing on “with any hope of success would take many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have,” said Congressman Paul in a statement posted Monday on his campaign website.

However, does the end of the Ron Paul campaign mean the end of the Ron Paul 2012 effort? We would argue that it does not. Paul will continue to look for ways to make headlines and press forward to some sort of appearance at the GOP’s August convention in Tampa, Fla.

Why do we think this? First, Paul said so. In his statement today, he noted that “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."

Obviously, the Paul campaign will continue with its strategy of urging supporters to swamp state conventions and get themselves elected delegates to the national confab. As we’ve written before, this is a clever, cheap way of using complicated delegate-allocation rules to Paul’s advantage.

What the Texas libertarian may be doing is amassing “stealth delegates” – delegates bound by primary or caucus vote to Mitt Romney, or one of the withdrawn GOP candidates, who are personally in favor of Paul. It’s hard to count how many such delegates there are – or whether they’ll abstain in the first round, or otherwise cause some sort of disturbance, in Tampa.

OK, Paul is not exactly winning the nomination this way. The 192 delegates at stake in California – a state Paul is no longer contesting – are more then he’ll pick up with his state convention-packing approach.

But – and this is our second point – we think Paul will still continue with a quasi-campaign. Sure, he may take time off, but for the most part he was already appearing at college campuses and other places where he might have gone in any case to push his libertarian agenda. There was something sly in his announcement Monday – he said he didn’t have the “tens of millions” of bucks needed to keep going. He has millions in the bank, however, as near as we can determine, and that’s enough to keep him from fading away this election cycle. If he doesn’t want to, that is.

Just look at his most recent money figures, as crunched by the Center for Responsive Politics. At the end of March, Paul had $1.8 million in cash on hand, with no debt. He’d raised more than $2 million in the preceding 30 days.

Yes, that was a month and a half ago. It’s still plenty of cash for him to jet around and appear where and when he wants to, particularly since we suspect he’s still raising a steady stream of cash from small donations to his online “money bombs.”

So what’s ending? Ron Paul TV ads. Look at Paul’s expenditures this campaign cycle, and you’ll see that he has spent $15 million on communications and media services. That figure is equal to about 40 percent of the total $37 million he’s raised.

Mr. Romney is going to be the GOP nominee, so there’s really no point in Paul wasting money on expensive air time in upcoming primary states. Instead, he can now husband his resources to continue to build his base of committed supporters. He’s spent less than $2 million on air charters in the whole campaign, so continued travel to selected appearances shouldn’t be a financial strain.

So the official Ron Paul presidential campaign may be over. But we don’t think that’s the same thing as an end to the Ron Paul effort to push his agenda in the months ahead.

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