Despite former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s overwhelming victory in the Nevada caucuses, Texas Rep. Ron Paul has won a majority of the state’s delegates to the party’s national convention later this year in Tampa, Florida.
Thanks to organized Paul supporters, who have been working to increase their candidate’s support at state conventions around the country, 22 of the 25 Nevada delegates up for grabs will be Paul supporters. (Another three are automatic delegates.)
Romney took 50 percent of Nevada caucusegoers in February; Paul took 19 percent.
“The Paul folks couldn’t get their people turned out for the caucus,” said veteran Nevada political columnist Jon Ralston. “But they outmaneuvered the Nevada Romney people ever since and dominated the county conventions and this is the inevitable result. The question remains: To what end?”
Nevada delegates are bound by the state’s results on the first convention ballot, so Romney will still get their support. Paul’s Nevada supporters are not challenging that rule, for fear of losing their convention seats altogether. Delegates who abstain will be replaced with alternates.
But some Paul supporters are hoping for a brokered convention, at which they could back Paul on subsequent ballots. Given Romney’s massive delegate lead, that’s highly unlikely. At the very least, they can vocally cheer for their preferred nominee and pressure the party to give Paul a bigger voice.
The caucuses were just “a gauge of where everyone was at that moment in time,” one Paul supporter told the Las Vegas Sun. “But this is the process we go through to determine the best candidate, and it doesn’t end until Florida.”
Paul supporters took over the state convention in 2008 and have spent the last four years carefully planning for this moment. In that cycle, Republicans shut down the convention after Paul supporters tried to elect more of their own as delegates. The Paul contingent this year was able to block a similar attempt from Romney supporters.
Paul supporters also won a majority of delegates in Maine, where Romney narrowly won the nonbinding caucus.
Paul took all 15 of the state’s at-large delegates. But Romney’s campaign is expected to contest the results.
Charles Cragin, a Romney supporter in Maine, told the AP that the state convention was “bizarre” and that the Paul-led delegation might not be seated because they broke the rules.
In Iowa, six of the eight members of the nominating committee voting on delegates are Paul supporters. Ten of 13 at-large delegates picked this weekend back Paul, suggesting the unbound delegate slate will favor him over Romney.