Paul and his army of grassroots supporters have done a solid job promoting his libertarian platform, but upcoming primaries in Arizona and Michigan will likely only fuel skepticism of the possibility that Paul can win the Republican nomination. Based on estimates of the delegate count and speculation of an alliance with Mitt Romney, many political analysts have argued that Paul is effectively out of the race. But they're wrong. Here are a few important reasons the Texas Congressman will probably be in the race until the end.
First, Paul hasn't given up yet. The speculation that his campaign is in league with Mitt Romney's to put Rand Paul in a position to run in 2016 is probably baseless. Such a strategy is supposed to be evidence that Ron Paul has quietly admitted that he isn't in the race any longer, but Paul directly denied that there is any relationship between the two campaigns on Friday. And as PolicyMic's Jason Hensley argued this week, the two candidates are at odds over a number of fundamental issues. Given Paul's history of sticking to his principles whatever it means for his political prospects, I doubt compromising to support Romney is on the table at this point.
Reason's Brian Doherty adds that pundits see so much evidence for a Romney-Paul alliance because they are misreading the latter's campaign strategy. While some of Paul's moves happened to benefit Romney, they were made first and foremost because they helped Ron Paul.
Perhaps the most important point to remember is that Paul currently holds second place in the delegate count. The estimates provided by the Associated Press, New York Times and other news outlets are just that, estimates. And they're not very good ones at that.
As Patrick Mcewen has pointed out, these models award unpledged delegates based on the results of straw polls, which aren't necessarily accurate. "[T]here is strong anecdotal evidence that Ron Paul supporters are much more likely to stay after the straw poll votes at caucuses in places like Iowa and Minnesota and attempt to become delegates to county, regional and state conventions that will end up actually picking the delegates. Therefore, any model that assigns unpledged caucus delegates based on the results of the meaningless straw polls will tend to show a strong bias against Ron Paul."
The Guardian reported on Thursday that Paul's campaign strategy is taking these complex caucus rules into account as Super Tuesday approaches. It's hard to determine if this delegate hunting will help the Texas Congressman take the nomination. The Guardian says it probably won't.
But even if events don't unfold as Paul's campaign hopes they will, his amassing of delegates could give him some clout come the time of the national convention. "[Paul] could become a kingmaker, agreeing to throw his hefty delegate total behind one candidate who could then claim victory. As a candidate with a very clearly defined agenda ... Paul could demand a high policy price for that support ... Modern conventions are supposed to be highly organised, tightly controlled displays of party unity. At the very least a successful Paul delegate strategy could shatter that prospect."
While the nomination is still within reach, Paul is the underdog at this point. His supporters should be prepared to accept defeat, but that doesn't mean Paul's campaign will be a lost cause. After being ignored by his own party for so long, a chance to voice his principled libertarianism at the convention would be a great end to a campaign that has shaken up Republican politics. Either way, Paul will be in the race until the end.