Mitt Romney was declared the initial winner of the Iowa caucuses. Then, after a recount, Rick Santorum was announced as the actual victor.
But it’s Ron Paul who may be having the last laugh in the Hawkeye State — and elsewhere.
While media and voter attention has shifted to the general election, Paul and his supporters have remained focused on the primary process, scoring significant delegate victories. In the Iowa caucuses, Paul won 21 percent of the vote. But of the 13 delegates selected so far to go to Tampa (ultimately, Iowa will send 28 delegates), ten of them “have expressed public support for Paul, such as by donating money or volunteering for his campaign,” reported the Des Moines Register. If he sustains that level of support, Paul could well dominate the Iowa delegation at the convention, despite coming in third in the caucuses.
His campaign’s goal is to win the plurality of delegates in five states, which would put Paul on the first ballot at the convention. “He plans to stay in at this point until all the votes are counted,” says national campaign chairman Jesse Benton. “We are trying to win a plurality of delegates from five states so Dr. Paul could be nominated from the floor.”
Does the Paul campaign think there is still a chance of a brokered convention? Benton pauses a moment. “I don’t see that as an extremely likely situation,” he finally says, mentioning possibilities like “major stumbles” or “unfortunate health circumstances.” Still, unlikely though a brokered convention may be, he says “it is something we are keeping our eye on.”
Meanwhile, the campaign is indeed on its way to winning five states. Paul won 21 of Maine’s 24 total unbound delegates. In Minnesota, the Paul campaign won 20 of the 24 delegates chosen at the congressional-district level, all unbound. (Minnesota has 16 more delegates that have not yet been chosen, who may or may not ultimately be bound.) Paul supporters are also winning delegate spots in states where they will be bound to vote for the primary winner, including Nevada, where they took 22 of the 28 delegates, and Massachusetts, where they nabbed 17 of the 27 delegates chosen at the congressional-district level.
Paul’s percentage of delegates in these states is significantly higher than his share of the primary vote. In Maine, for instance, he won 35 percent of the vote, and in Minnesota, he won 27 percent. Paul won 19 percent and 10 percent, respectively, of the vote in Nevada and Massachusetts.
The campaign is still looking forward, including eyeing the Minnesota delegates chosen at the state level. Paul supporters also think they have a good chance in Washington and Missouri of nabbing a significant chunk of the delegates, although the vast majority of delegates from both states are already bound.
But will the presence of Paul supporters’ among the delegates matter? In most states, delegates are “bound,” meaning their votes on the first ballot have to reflect the outcome of that state’s primary. Massachusetts delegates, for instance, will have to vote for Romney, regardless of the fact that many of them personally are Paul supporters. Their Paulite allegiances would come into play if there is more than one convention ballot, after which, for the most part, they are free to vote for whomever they like. But in other states — including Iowa — delegates are unbound, and could theoretically entirely disregard the primary results and vote for Paul on the first ballot.
An RNC aide dismisses the possibility of Paul pulling off an upset at the convention, noting that Paul would need to get past the first ballot in order to win. With only Romney and Paul on the ballot — and many of the Paul supporters required to vote for Romney in the first ballot — there seems to be no way that Romney could fail to gain a majority in the first round. “From our perspective, it’s pretty clear Mitt Romney’s going to have the delegates that he needs,” the aide remarks.
But the Paul campaign insists the nomination isn’t the only prize up for grabs at the convention. They’re not gunning for a prime-time speaking slot at the convention for Paul (although Benton says Paul would be honored to receive such a request). Instead, Paul supporters are looking to influence the party’s platform, especially pushing “transparency at the Federal Reserve, a commitment to substantial spending cuts,” and “respect for civil liberties,” including “opposition to things like indefinite detention under the NDAA,” says Benton. Such ideas, he argues, “will help Republicans grow their brand with independents.”
Right now, the campaign is optimistic about their chances of influencing the platform, especially with a more substantial convention presence.
“We never expect to get everything that we want, but we expect to get a good chunk of what we’re fighting for into the platform,” Benton says. “And that’s going to be a very nice victory for us.”
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO reporter.