TACOMA — They jeer at the idea of coalescing behind Mitt Romney. They’re still scraping for every possible delegate. And they hold out hope that Ron Paul could win the presidency this year.
By just watching Paul’s loyal supporters, you’d never know that the Republican presidential contest is over.
Given that the delegate math makes it virtually impossible for the Texas congressman to win the nomination, it seems quixotic for his libertarian-leaning backers to continue their crusade. Here’s a primer on what’s going on among Paul’s disciples and why they haven’t given up:
• DIDN’T ROMNEY CLINCH THE NOMINATION?
Yes, Romney has already secured enough delegates (far surpassing the 1,144 needed) to formally win the GOP nomination at the convention in August. Along with five slots he won in Washington on Friday, Paul has now lined up about 140 delegates — less than Rick Santorum, who already dropped out of the race. Many Paul supporters are unwilling to concede, however, and a few say the media has conspired to make Romney the presumptive winner. They booed on Friday when Romney’s son, Josh, implored them to unite in support of the assumed candidate, and some Paul backers are still holding out hope that he could become the Republican nominee.
• HONESTLY, IS THERE ANY POSSIBLE WAY FOR PAUL TO WIN?
Many Paul loyalists acknowledge that delegates bound to vote for Romney at the national convention would have to break their pledges en masse in order for Paul to win — a development that borders on inconceivable. It would mean that delegates, many of whom are GOP activists who have backed Romney for a long time, would take repercussions from the party for violating the rules of the process and then throw their support behind Paul instead of another alternative. Matt Dubin, a Paul delegate and organizer in Washington state, said it was both unlikely and something he is not advocating. Still, he said, it’s something he would like to see happen. If that turmoil somehow occurred, Paul would also likely have to recruit disgruntled supporters of Santorum and Newt Gingrich to back him.
• ARE THERE ANY OTHER REASONS TO AMASS DELEGATES?
The more people they have inside the convention, the more power Paul’s folks have in influencing both the party and Romney, and they desperately want a voice in the party’s policy platform. In his Washington state convention speech, Dubin told the crowd that the Paul delegation was the future of the Republican party and said they wanted to hold Romney’s feet to the fire so that he doesn’t waver from conservative principles. They’re particularly advocating for strict policies that would balance the federal budget and overhaul the Federal Reserve — ideas that fit nicely with mainstream GOP proposals. Paul supporters helped shape Washington state’s platform development to emphasize those points. The Texas congressman also has some unconventional Republican proposals, such as his opposition to American intervention abroad and government efforts to fight terrorism at home.
• WHAT IS PAUL SAYING?
Paul suspended active campaigning in May, saying he would no longer compete in states that have not voted. But he encouraged his supporters to continue their work in state conventions, in which dedication by his activists can give them influence over state parties and a chance to add to his delegate total for the national convention. He has not indicated whether he will endorse Romney.
• WILL PAUL’S FOLKS EVER BACK ROMNEY?
This is an important question for the general election. Several Paul delegates said the ultimate goal is to oust President Barack Obama and that they would reluctantly campaign for Romney if he was the other option. Others said they would never back Romney. Steve Holmes, 60, of Deer Park, said he didn’t see a difference between Obama and Romney. If Ron Paul wasn’t on the ballot, Holmes said, he planned to write Paul’s name in.