(Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman )
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
WASHINGTON -- Intent on taking his presidential campaign all the way to the GOP convention this summer, Texas Rep. Ron Paul has mounted an offensive in key caucus states, swiping would-be delegates from presumed nominee Mitt Romney in an effort to gain relevance in a race that is generally considered over.
While there does not appear to be a path for Paul to win the nomination -- or to halt Romney from gaining the delegates he would need to clinch it -- that isn’t stopping the Texas congressman’s fervent supporters, who see the state delegate selection processes as a do-over opportunity to load state delegations with Paul supporters who could give voice to his message at the convention.
The strategy appears to be working in some states. Paul’s supporters were able to override the popular vote by working the arcane rules at state conventions in Nevada and Maine last weekend.
In Nevada, Paul supporters claimed 22 of the 25 delegate seats that the state will occupy at the national convention in Tampa. The other three delegates were automatically designated. Since Romney won 50% of the vote at the state’s Feb. 4 caucuses – Paul came in third with 19% -- 20 of the elected delegates will be bound to vote for Romney on the first round of balloting in Tampa. But they will be able to cheer for Paul and join others in disrupting what will otherwise be a highly scripted convention.
Also during the Nevada convention, Paul backers beat out two Romney supporters in a vote to choose two people who will represent the state on the Republican National Committee, which runs the national party. Though the newly elected committee members won’t start serving their terms until after the August convention, their four-year presence on the committee could help promote Paul’s libertarian-minded agenda.
Similarly in Maine, Paul won 21 of the state’s 24 delegates during voting on Saturday night and Sunday. Romney had won 39% to Paul’s 35% of the vote at the Maine caucuses in February. The Romney campaign has sent its top lawyer, Benjamin Ginsberg, to Maine to challenge the outcome there, according to the Kennebec Journal.
In Idaho, one Paul supporter has promised a “scorched earth” approach to win delegates for his candidate, according to the Idaho Statesman. Paul tied with Rick Santorum for second place in the state’s March 6 caucus. Romney, who won 62% of the vote, would be awarded all of the state’s 32 delegates, but Paul backers are hoping to use state convention rules to award those delegates to Paul.
The strategy would hinge on winning at least two-thirds of precinct level races in the state’s May 15 primary, which would give them the majority necessary to suspend the rules at the state party convention and overturn Romney’s caucus victories.
Meanwhile, Iowa Republicans met over the weekend to select 13 of the 28 delegates who will represent the state at the national convention.
Of those tentatively selected, just one, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, is an open Romney backer. Ten others have expressed support for Paul by volunteering for him or donating to his campaign, reports the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs. An additional 12 delegates will be selected in June. Three state party officials will take the remaining slots.
Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses, which kicked off the GOP nominating contest, but Romney was initially believed the victor.
For the record, 5:20 p.m., May 7: An earlier version of this post said Rep. Ron Paul won 18 of Maine's 24 delegates. He won 21.