| The last Texan standing in the Republican presidential primary scored some big wins at the Nevada and Maine Republican state conventions this past weekend. Ron Paul's enthusiastic supporters continue to make gains for the Southeast Texas congressman via the convention process, such that he's sending supporters to the Republican National Committee convention that vastly outperform his results in the actual primaries and caucuses. Here's a quick list of some of his landslides so far:
Ron Paul Delegate Totals As Of May 7, 2012:
Nevada: 22 of 25 delegates
Maine: 21 of 24 delegates
Minnesota: 20 of 24 delegates (based on congressional district conventions)
Louisiana: 17 of 46 (swept all spots in 4 of 6 congressional districts; final delegation to be determined at June 2 state convention)
Massachusetts: 16 of 19 delegates (based on congressional district selection process)
Washington: Majority win reported, but no numbers available
The Massachusetts win for Paul has to be particularly stinging for Romney, since that's his home state. Perhaps it's because they experienced his record as Governor firsthand? Louisiana, Minnesota, and Massachusetts still have state conventions to conduct, wherein Paul supporters can extend their leads. Procedurally this is a big deal because if Paul can win 50% or more delegates in five states, his name is officially entered into nomination at the Republican National Convention. With other caucus states still waiting to hold their state conventions, Paul still has room to grow his delegate count and continue sending more supporters to the RNC than expected. Furthermore, the anti-Romney voters who backed Santorum or Gingrich can also throw their support behind Paul in the district and state conventions. If Santorum or Gingrich release their delegates, they would in some states be free to vote for Paul as well. In Louisiana, Santorum won the March primary overwhelmingly. If he releases the 10 delegates he won via the primary, they could switch to Paul at the state convention, or Romney. Or anyone else, I suppose.
So, the big question: can Ron Paul supporters block Mitt Romney from winning the RNC convention nomination? Probably not.
The reasons are severalfold. RNC convention rules prevent bound delegates from changing their vote or abstaining on the first ballot, so plenty of those Paul supporters will still have to vote for Romney, to whom they are pledged. According to The New York Times' delegate tracker, Romney leads with 856 delegates to Santorum's 257, Gingrich's 130, and Paul's 94. Romney is less than 100 delegates away from winning the nomination outright. However, the sheer spectacle of Paul supporters on the floor of the RNC convention in Tampa loudly and emphatically demonstrating their support for the iconoclastic libertarian might not be the image Romney wants to project to the country. As Steve Kornacki in Salon points out, "Paul-aligned delegates could make their hostility to the GOP establishment clear during the convention's primetime hours."
And by the way, Paul supporters, don't be surprised if RNC rule changes before 2016 further marginalize your participation in their nominating process. The Republican National Committee is already threatening to unseat the entire Nevada GOP delegation if they try to abstain from the first round of balloting in order to help Paul. Romney supporters apparently make up the bulk of alternate positions. While the GOP could be praising Paul supporters for their grassroots enthusiasm and organizational prowess -- hey, Paul's army managed to get their guy on the ballot in every state, which is more than Perry, Gingrich, or Santorum can say -- instead national Republicans are suggesting that the support for Paul will be damaging to Romney come November.
Look, I am no Ron Paul fan, but I have to hand it to his supporters for their strong grassroots organizing tactics. Paul has seriously enthusiastic supporters, who have thrown themselves into mastering the arcane procedures of presidential nominating contests. If enthusiasm alone was what determined the Republican nominee, I think we can all be pretty certain that Paul would be in the lead, and Mitt Romney would be trailing even Buddy Roemer in the delegate standings.