Ron Paul's Delegate Strategy: What's in It for Romney?

Paul is staying in the race to pursue a set of concessions from the Republican Party and its nominee -- but he's not offering anything in return.

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In the wake of Ron Paul's announcement Monday that he will no longer campaign in upcoming primaries, his campaign attempted to explain Tuesday what exactly he is still doing in the race.

He may not be pursuing the nomination anymore, but he is still in the race as a means to other ends, as his campaign chairman, Jesse Benton, took pains to clarify. "Dr. Paul is not suspending his campaign. He is not dropping out of the race," Benton told reporters on a conference call.

But Benton acknowledged, in the call and an accompanying memo, that the nomination is almost certainly out of Paul's reach. "We recognize that Governor Romney has what is very likely an insurmountable delegate lead," he said on the call. "Unfortunately, barring something very unforeseen, our delegate total will not be strong enough to win the nomination," he wrote in the memo.

Why continue to be a presidential candidate when you've admitted your only chance to become president is for the nominee-in-waiting to succumb to a flesh-eating virus? The answer, according to Benton, is that Paul has a "delegate strategy" to maximize his representation at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August. Of the 2,286 voting delegates at the convention, "several hundred" will be bound to vote for Paul's nomination, while hundreds more will be supporters of Paul's philosophy who are rule-bound to vote for Mitt Romney.

The point of this, as Paul himself has said and Benton repeatedly emphasized, is not to disrupt the convention in any way. "Rolling into the convention with a strong delegation, having hundreds of supporters there, sends a very strong message," Benton said. "We're here, our supporters are here, we're positive and respectful -- we're emphasizing decorum and we're going to do everything in our power to work with our supporters to make sure that decorum and respect are the name of the game. But we're going to respectfully show that our supporters are here, and we're the wave of the future."

On a practical level, Paul hopes to get some of his ideas incorporated in the official Republican Party platform. Specifically, he wants the party to embrace transparency and accountability for the Federal Reserve; monetary policy reform; prohibitions on indefinite detention; and "Internet freedom," i.e., the opposite of "net neutrality." Paul also hopes to have an influence on the party's rules in order to "prevent the establishment from locking the party down," Benton said.

Paul's people are in regular contact with Romney's people about achieving these goals in a peaceful manner. But why should Romney, who controls the convention as the presumptive nominee, grant Paul any of these concessions?

Paul is not, it turns out, offering anything in return. He's not offering his endorsement; he's not offering to encourage his followers to support Romney. "I would never say never, but I do not believe that is likely," Benton said when asked on the call if Paul would endorse Romney. (Nor is Paul threatening to endorse the Libertarian Party nominee, Gary Johnson: "There's no chance of that.")

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Molly Ball is a staff writer covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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