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  1. 19 Mar '12 09:29 / 1 edit
    Let the backroom deals begin.

    Paul nomination unlikely; now what?

    By Richard S. Dunham and Samantha Wagner

    WASHINGTON — Halfway through the 2012 presidential nominating process, Texas Congressman Ron Paul still hasn’t won a single state and his campaign has been marginalized by political professionals and pundits alike.

    “The chances of Paul winning the nomination are clearly all but zero,” said University of Texas pollster Jim Henson, “and his accumulation of delegates is also much less impressive than the expectations.”

    Such gloomy talk has done little to slow the Houston-area congressman and his devoted followers, who continue to fight for their cause and, perhaps, a modicum of influence in an unsettled GOP presidential race.

    But as Paul’s mathematical chances of victory have dwindled, speculation has grown about his political endgame. Among the possibilities: building a nationwide libertarian political movement that could vie for clout within the Republican Party, influencing the party’s 2012 platform or cementing a strategic alliance to tip the balance of power at the Republican National Convention in August.

    Courting delegates

    One scenario leaked to the Washington Post and Time magazine by unnamed “insiders” is that the 76-year-old lawmaker from Lake Jackson could team up with front-runner Mitt Romney and help the Massachusetts governor eke out a first-ballot victory at the Republican convention in Tampa.

    “Ron Paul’s delegates might be important to Romney in the unlikely, but not remote, chance that Romney fails to obtain 1,144 delegates necessary for the nomination before this summer,” said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein. “Paul might be strategic in this regard, sensing a chance to influence the platform by offering to endorse Romney in May, June or even July in exchange for concessions on the platform.”

    The only evidence to back up this theory is circumstantial: Paul has hammered GOP rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich for being political hypocrites but has limited his criticism of Romney to policy disagreements. . . .

    But even if the candidates would reach a deal, Paul loyalists say they’re not inclined to go along. . . .

    While back-room deals might be the stuff of fantasy, the other GOP candidates already have started to woo Paul voters, who could sink a Republican nominee by staying home in November or voting for President Barack Obama. Fergus Cullen, a GOP communications consultant, said he considers Paul backers swing voters in a general election.

    “The other campaigns seem to view them this way, too,” said the former New Hampshire GOP chairman. “Notice how respectful they are in talking about Paul, and how no one attacks him, even when he says kooky things.”