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Ron Paul's stealthy delegate strategy: What does he really want?
The GOP's dark horse libertarian hits pay dirt in Maine and Nevada, racking up convention delegates despite Mitt Romney's apparent lock on the party's nomination
 
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has less than one-tenth as many delegates as Mitt Romney, but Paul's surprising delegate hauls in Maine and Nevada prove that the libertarian won't exit the race quietly.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has less than one-tenth as many delegates as Mitt Romney, but Paul's surprising delegate hauls in Maine and Nevada prove that the libertarian won't exit the race quietly.
REUTERS/Mark Makela

Ron Paul scored two surprising wins over the weekend when his supporters won him the majority of presidential delegates at the Nevada and Maine GOP conventions. Though Mitt Romney still has a massive overall delegate lead, the Texas libertarian's surprise victories served as a sign that his strategy of grassroots organizing and exploiting arcane rules to pick up delegates is paying off, even if he has essentially no chance of wrenching the presidential nomination from Romney's hands. So if the presidency is still out of reach for Paul, what exactly is he trying to achieve? Here, three theories:

1. Paul wants concessions at the convention
Nobody, including Paul, thinks he can actually win the nomination, says David A. Graham at The Atlantic. But Paul's noisy delegates will be able to "make a fuss" at the Tampa convention and rain on Romney's parade. "Presumably, then, the Paul campaign is hoping to finagle some concessions in Tampa in exchange for keeping its supporters under wraps — planks in the platform, promises of cabinet positions, or the like."

2. He's paving the path to the presidency for his son
The Texas congressman is ready to leave the battlefield without making it to the promised land, says Ed Kilgore at The New Republic. And that's because his real goal is to pave the way there for his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The younger Paul "bears few of the scars of decades of ideological battle earned by his father," has a better relationship with the GOP establishment than his dad, and is already striking blows for anti-interventionist foreign policy on Iran and Syria. Ron Paul will do anything he can, whether it's securing a convention speech or winning a platform concession, to "make his son an accepted voice" for the libertarian causes and foreign policies he has championed.

3. Paul believes this is a fight for the soul of the GOP
Unlike Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, Ron Paul has no reason to step aside just because the math is against him, says Timothy Stanley at CNN. He's sticking it out to make sure "the GOP can no longer ignore its libertarian 'fringe.'" By piling up delegates and forcing the GOP to listen to what he has to say, he's ensuring that from now on, Republican leaders "will have to reach out to a new generation of activists who don't regard religious piety or continual warfare as sacred tenets of conservatism."

 

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