DES MOINES — Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses in January, with Mitt Romney a close second, but neither was the true winner this weekend when the delegates who actually will vote at the Republican National Convention were selected. That would be Ron Paul.
The congressman from Texas finished a distant third in the Iowa caucuses more than six months ago, but of the 28 delegates selected Friday and Saturday to head to the national convention, 23 are Paul supporters – and they are not bound to support the victor of the state’s first-in-the-nation voting contest.
It’s part of a quiet strategy by Paul and his backers to amass an army of supporters at the GOP gathering in August in Tampa, Fla., to push Paul’s views on liberty, states' rights, the monetary system and foreign policy. By working arcane electoral rules and getting supporters into positions of power in local, county and state party operations, the strategy is paying dividends across the nation.
Paul has stopped actively campaigning and has conceded that Romney will be the GOP nominee. It’s unclear whether Paul’s name will be submitted for nomination; mathematically, he does not have the numbers to derail Romney. But his supporters can have an effect on the party in other ways.
“We want to have a real big voice on the platform; we want to influence the direction of the party more than anything else,” said Joel Kurtinitis, a Paul supporter who was pleased after the Saturday vote.
He was Paul’s state director in Iowa until Paul suspended his presidential bid in May, and he said that although he would love to see Paul awarded a prime speaking spot at the convention, his followers’ efforts are about more than one man.
“We’re going to hold up our values and we’re going to bring conservatism back to the mainline of the Republican Party. That’s where my hopes are at and that’s my hope for this convention more than seeing Ron Paul do X, Y and Z,” Kurtinitis said.
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