NATCHITOCHES, La., May 14, 2012 — Ron Paul announced in a press release today that he will suspend active campaigning in states that have not yet held primaries. His campaign will continue to fight for delegates in states that have already held caucuses and primaries.
In remarks to his supporters Paul wrote, “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. Moving forward, however, we will no longer spend resources campaigning in primaries in states that have not yet voted. Doing so with any hope of success would take many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have.”
Paul’s decision to stop campaigning in the remaining primaries, which include delegate-rich New Jersey, Texas and California and will deliver over 640 delegates, all but cedes them to Mitt Romney and greatly increases the odds of his nomination. Paul’s supporters unsurprisingly don’t see it that way, reminding each other on the message boards that it’s always been all about the delegates and that the strategy hasn’t changed. Others view Paul’s announcement today as a clever stratagem designed to gain attention in the face of a press blackout or to lure Romney’s camp into complacency.
It’s clear from his message today that Paul has no intention of taking part in a Romney coronation, nor will his supporters allow that. It’s his stated intention to take as many delegates as he can to Tampa, and that will certainly be more than the 104 he officially has in his column now. He has not dropped out of the race, and he has absolutely no intention of dropping out of the race.
What he wants from the race, however, is more than just a nomination that remains a wild improbability, and more than just some planks written into the Party platform. Party platforms aren’t binding, and Romney could easily agree to anything the Paul forces come up with in order to maintain peace in Tampa. GOP members of Congress could ignore inconvenient planks even if they had a President Romney’s enthusiastic support. Those planks are influential, but they aren’t enough.
More important are the continued relevance of the movement, the promotion of its leaders to leadership positions in local and state GOP organizations, and the political future of Rand Paul.
The possibility of a Pyrrhic victory isn’t lost on Paul. If his supporters are seen to hijack state conventions (legally and according to the rules) and scoop up delegates, there will be no place for them in the GOP in 2016. They won’t be party leaders, and Rand Paul will be marginalized. Paul’s presence in the GOP race is recognition of the fact that his movement has a much better chance from within a major Party than on its own. Third parties can have a strong short-term impact, but the odds against their long-term success is extremely small.
The Paul campaign has admitted both the stakes and the danger. As Paul said in his statement, “This campaign fought hard and won electoral success that the talking heads and pundits never thought possible. But, this campaign is also about more than just the 2012 election. It has been part of a quest I began 40 years ago and that so many have joined. It is about the campaign for Liberty, which has taken a tremendous leap forward in this election and will continue to grow stronger in the future until we finally win.”
Paul’s campaign manager pointed out, “[Paul] wants to convey to everybody and our staff want to convey that we’ll lose more than we gain if we go and we’re disrespectful. Respect and decorum are very important to Dr. Paul… You need to give respect to get respect. We are confident that there will be mutual respect at the convention. We want to make sure that we take every step we can to make sure that happens.”
Paul clearly intends to go to Tampa with all the support that he can, but he knows that his chances of winning the nomination are small. His announcement today is not a concession, but it is a move in the direction of making peace with the GOP, maximizing the impact that he can have at the convention, and guaranteeing that his followers and his son have a future in the GOP.
James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics and teaches economics at the Louisiana Scholars’ College in Natchitoches, La., where he went to take a break from working in Moscow and Washington. But he fell in love with the town and with the professor of Romance languages, so there he stayed. Now he teaches, annoys his children, and makes jalapeno lemonade. He’d enjoy a really good floor fight at the convention, but doubts that Paul is more eager than Romney to put on that show. He tweets, hangs out on Facebook, and has a blog he totally neglects at pichtblog.blogspot.com.
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