Ron Paul: Last in Florida Primary, Having the Time of His Life

“If enthusiasm would win elections, we’d win hands down.”

You couldn’t tell by Ron Paul’s post-Florida primary speech that he came in last place with just 7% of the vote.  An explosive crowd in Henderson, NV ranted and raved as Paul talked about his prospects in caucus states like Iowa and Nevada.  Paul declared, “I called Mitt Romney to congratulate him.”  Then, after he cordially calmed the wave of boos, he continued, “then I told him I’d see him in the caucus states.”

Although the prospects of Ron Paul winning an all out primary fight are slim, politicos should take note of his strategy, and the implications his run may have on the Republican primary process.  While Ron Paul naysayers will point to his Florida results as a testament to his lack of electability, his supporters are quick to point out that Ron Paul had no campaign staff in Florida and spent no money campaigning in the winner-takes-all closed primary state.

As a matter of strategy, Paul knew he could not win Florida in a battle against the well-funded Mitt Romney and well-established Newt Gingrich.  So he sent his campaign to Maine (24 delegates) and Nevada (28 delegates) caucus states, where, as Paul exclaimed, “a tireless minority” can really take a stand.  It is worth noting that Ron Paul finished in second place in libertarian-leaning Nevada in the 2008 election and garnered over 18% of the vote in Maine in that year.

So if Ron Paul doesn’t win, why does this matter?

As a more philosophical matter, Ron Paul is set on changing the entire political debate.  While candidates like Mitt Romney talk about how Obama is going to turn America into Europe, Paul talks about the federal reserve, monetary policy, non-interventionism, Sarbanes–Oxley, and other esoteric political issues that most Americans aren’t going to take the time to really think about.  But, if Paul can continue to draw young passionate voters into his camp, his ideas will spread and influence the public, like he has started to influence the Republican Party (anyone else notice how many times Newt said “I agree with Ron Paul” last debate?).

As a more practical matter, Ron Paul could steal enough delegates to prevent Mitt Romney from winning the nomination on the first go-around of votes.  In other words, if Mitt Romney fails to pick up at least half of the delegates over Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul combined, Paul wins a significant position of power within the party.  Suddenly, his delegates have the power to determine the winner.

And what could happen then?  Ron Paul could demand a lead speaking role at the convention.  Paul could refuse to release his delegates and the first round of votes ends in a stalemate, releasing all the delegates to vote for whomever they want (even someone who didn’t run!). Newt Gingrich could offer Paul a VP spot in exchange for his delegates.

Who knows.

One thing is certain and Chris Matthews (yes Chris Matthews) said it best, “Ron Paul looks like he had the time of his life tonight … I think Ron Paul is the winner in terms of life here.”

What do you think will happen?