Ron Paul plans to skip Florida. Will his strategy backfire?

For front-runners seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Florida is a crucial state. But Ron Paul has his eyes on another prize, and states like Colorado are far more tempting. 

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas signs autographs during his South Carolina presidential primary election night rally in Columbia, S.C., Saturday.

If you live in Florida, expect to see a lot of advertisements in the coming week for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich – but not Ron Paul.

The Texas congressman is still in the race, and will be debating his opponents (including Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich, and Rick Santorum) Monday night. But Mr. Paul isn't planning to campaign in such a big state. 


For starters, because it is so big. And expensive.

In his speech after the South Carolina primary Saturday night (in which Paul finished fourth, with 13 percent of the vote), Paul told supporters, "We will certainly be promoting this in the most frugal way.”

He also emphasized what his goal is right now: "In the beginning, I thought it would just be promotion of a cause. Then it dawned on me, when you win elections and you win delegates, that’s the way you promote a cause.”

All of which means, while the other candidates zero in on Florida and the Jan. 31 primary, Paul will be looking to the West and the North and, in particular, to states that award their delegates to this August's Republican National Convention in ways that could help him.

What's wrong with Florida? Not only is it expensive to advertise there, but it's a winner-take-all primary – meaning that only the winner would leave with delegates to show for his time and money. (Florida is also likely to be penalized for moving its primary forward on the election calendar; the Republican Party could strip the state of some of its delegates.)

Moreover, Florida is the first of the early-nominating states to hold a closed primary, meaning that only registered Republicans can participate. For Paul, who draws much of his support from independents, that's not good news. And it has an older electorate, whereas Paul draws much of his support from younger voters.

Paul, who had a solid third-place finish in Iowa (with 21 percent) and a second-place showing in New Hampshire (23 percent), has already concluded that the South is a tougher sell for his noninterventionist message on foreign policy.

Instead, Paul has some good opportunities to amass delegates in the next several weeks, particularly in upcoming caucus states like Nevada, Colorado, Maine, and Minnesota.

Caucus states are those in which the Republican Party holds many local meetings to decide how to award its delegates instead of holding a statewide election. Caucuses tend to have lower turnouts and favor candidates – like Paul – who inspire passionate loyalty among their followers.

Focusing on those states helped Barack Obama to the nomination in 2008. And while no one expects Paul to surge past Romney or Gingrich for the nomination, it's certainly possible that he could win enough delegates to have more of a voice at the Republican convention.

Paul has already purchased airtime in Nevada and Minnesota, and expect to see him more actively campaigning in those states as well. (While he didn't exactly sit out South Carolina – and he spent about $1.5 million on advertising – Paul campaigned far less there than in Iowa or New Hampshire.)

The one message Paul has been clear about: He's in this to the end.

"It's the momentum that we want," Paul told CNN Sunday. "And our goal is to get delegates. And we're going to be doing the states were they allocate by percentages as well as caucus states. So that's been our plan all along."

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.