It's sad to say, but Ron Paul isn't going to be the next president of the United States, or even the Republican Party's nominee. Paul is currently too far behind Romney and unlikely to amass the support he needs to pull off such an upset. But following the news that former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is out of the race, Paul has an even greater opportunity to influence the outcome of the 2012 race.
Political analysts have speculated that Paul could still shake up the race in several ways, but perhaps the loudest way to do so would be to land a spot as a speaker at the Republican National Convention this summer, which is likely according to U.S. News. And after bringing libertarianism back into mainstream political discourse and slapping his opponents around in the debates, a speech at the convention would be a fantastic end to a well run campaign. I think few would doubt the significance of an anti-war, pro-drug legalization Republican taking the stage just before Mitt Romney attempts to rally the party to the cause of defeating President Obama in the general election.
Another possibility, though Paul has publicly denied it, according to the Christian Science Monitor is that Paul could launch a third party run that, with the help of his dedicated supporters, would explode Romney's chances of winning the general election. As the Washington Post points out, "Paul has a group of supporters whose ardor for his message is far greater than any other candidate can boast. Not only that, but Paul’s backers are loyal first and foremost to Paul — not to the Republican Party. And that’s what makes Paul potentially influential as the race moves forward." Such an outcome hasn't been lost on the Romney campaign, which is why they have been careful to avoid alienating Paul's supporters.
Finally, the threat of a third party run may even allow Paul to play a role in picking Romney's running mate, perhaps putting Kentucky Senator Rand Paul in the slot. The significance of this is enormous. Ron Paul has so thoroughly infiltrated the Republican Party that they may have to integrate at least some of his ideas by giving his son the opportunity to hold a major office like the vice presidency.
Of course, all these outcomes are highly speculative. Nobody knows for certain how the race will turn out, but a few things should be clear. First, Paul has run an impressive campaign thus far. In previous presidential races, he wasn't treated like a contender at any point. This time around, however, a President Paul was a serious possibility for most of the Republican Primary. Second, Paul has a few cards left to play and may yet leave a lasting mark on 2012 presidential race.