Texas Rep. Ron Paul knows he can't win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, but that was only part of his end game.
Sure, winning the nomination would have been a plus, but Ron Paul's strategy for years has been to bring his libertarian, anti-debt, anti-inflation views square into the mainstream of American politics.
In that light, the 2012 election is just a means to an end.
That's why Paul is determined to stay in the presidential primary race until the Republican national convention is held in August.
Rather than create a schism within the Republican Party or mount a third party challenge - a tactic that never works in American politics -- Ron Paul wants to infuse his philosophy into the GOP by working within the existing system.
Toward that end, the Paul campaign has stepped up its delegate-collection efforts in recent weeks, taking advantage of often-arcane rules unique to each state's selection process.
Last weekend, Paul won 21 out of 24 delegates in Maine and 22 out of 25 in Nevada. A week earlier Paul won 20 out of the 24 delegates in Minnesota and 20 out of 40 in Missouri.
The sticking point is that convention delegates are bound by party rules to vote according to primary or caucus results on the first ballot. That means many of Paul's hard-won delegates will have to cast their first vote for former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney.
But it also means a lot more supporters at the convention than Paul would have had otherwise. And those delegates will be free to vote as they wish on other issues, such as the official party platform.
"We want to have a strong, respectful presence that says 'We are here, we are going to participate, and we are ready to talk about the party platform with you if you take our issues seriously," Ron Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton recently told Business Insider
. "We're going to send a message that the liberty wing of the Republican Party is strong, and that it isn't going anywhere."
The Romney campaign has begun to take notice, sending a top lawyer to the Maine GOP convention, though it did little to stop the Ron Paul juggernaut.
Romney, who still should easily surpass the 1,144 delegates he needs to secure the nomination, may be better served letting the national Republican Party try to rein Paul in while he tries to negotiate for the support of Paul's energized legions after the August convention.
In fact, some sort of deal between the two camps almost certainly is already in the works.
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