When he bowed out of active campaigning to capture the Republican presidential nomination, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul said he wasn't interested in disrupting the party's national convention in Tampa, Fla., in August.
The libertarian Texan said he would focus on gathering as many delegates at state GOP conventions as he could going into Tampa -- and he's making good on his promise.
Even after collecting the lion's share of delegates at the state convention in Minnesota -- where a Paul-backed candidate will square off against U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in November -- as well as other states, Paul has a long way to go to catch Mitt Romney.
Going into the Texas primary Tuesday, Romney was about 150 delegates shy of mathematically capturing the 1,144 needed to win the party nomination. Paul had about 120.
But the legion of Paul supporters will tell you those numbers aren't correct, either, since they don't include unbound delegates who are Paul backers and don't account for Romney delegates who could go rogue in Tampa. Which would make things uncomfortable for Romney and the Republican establishment.
Robin Koerner, a member of the grassroots movement backing Paul, says Paul may not get 1,144 delegates, but "there are big, big numbers" backing him, perhaps enough to block a first-round nomination for Romney and force a second round that he says Paul could win.
If there aren't enough delegates to make a floor fight worthwhile, Paul backers must decide whether further action is warranted, risking the possibility of looking like sore losers, said Koerner, founder and editor of WatchingAmerica.com and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.
He also said it was possible "creative chaos" could result if "something dishonest seems to be happening at the national convention ... where supporting Romney contributes to creative chaos."
The groundswell of support demonstrates Romney, the front-runner who's still trying to rally the GOP base, conservatives and evangelicals, "isn't the inevitable candidate," Koerner said.
Koerner attributes Paul's popularity to the fact he's "like a breath of fresh air" in today's politics, has held steadfast to his principles and has been "correctly identifying for many years the true drivers of state of this nation and the state of American politics."
A physician, Paul has taken the "first do no harm" maxim into the political realm and his followers "think maybe we should try that. There's just so much passion for him," Koerner said.
Building frustration with Republicans and Democrats means the 2012 election could be a watershed year for the "non-Republicrat paradigm Ron Paul represents," Koerner said. "The question has always been, what is critical mass his supporters need" and how quickly can it be reached?
"I think we might already be there -- certainly in a sense there are now many issues that have been mainstreamed [since] four years ago," he said. "Republican can talk about benefits of peace; can you imagine that under [President George W.] Bush?"
Koerner, a British permanent resident of the United States, also started the "Blue Republican" movement of Democrats and independents supporting Paul's candidacy. He and other supporters crisscross the country to ensure the depth of support for Paul translates into people going to state GOP meetings, knowing the procedure, and get Paul backers elected. So far, their strategy is working.
"Ron Paul's support is … deeper than support for Romney," Koerner said.
Paul's in it to win, he said.
"There is no other benefit that warrants the sheer amount of effort and pain he's going through," Koerner said. "He has always wanted to change debate."
However, "Ron Paul has already made American politics safe for the next constitutionalist," he said.
During a recent appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Paul said he was in to win the GOP presidential nomination, and has won a lot along the way, "but we also want to help direct the party and the country in a certain way, so that would be a very, very positive strategy to have an influence on the party."
Absent a win, Paul said, a prominent speech or the inclusion of his views in the party platform would be "a good goal."
At the convention, a majority of delegates in six states can suspend the rules at any time, ABC News said. Paul-supporting states will be represented on the convention's platform committee, albeit in a minority. However, delegates can make motions from the floor, and the convention chair must choose whether to recognize them. Paul's supporters could interject in proceedings to try to nominate him.
"Creative chaos is in favor of the liberty movement," Koerner said. "If Ron Paul's people pull an open revolt, where would others' sympathies lie? I think everything is more possible than other people think."
Paul's popularity and following show "the split in the Republican Party and Romney's struggle to win over support of the libertarian and the very conservative component. There's no way to see this as anything else," said Larry Jacobs of the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. "The risk is that the crucial element of the Romney coalition may fail to turn out and support him."
The drawn-out and bitter primary season also showed Romney still struggles among the party's conservative base, he said.
"That's also what Ron Paul's candidacy is revealing," Jacobs said.
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