Whatever you think of Ron Paul's libertarian platform, it's clear that his campaign has executed a rather brilliant strategy. Thus far, the idea has been to win as many state delegates as possible, which determines the number delegates who will support Paul at the national convention in August. Admittedly, focusing on delegates at the expense of the popular vote seems a bit crazy, but the strategy is actually working.
Though Paul probably can't win the Republican nomination, his campaign has denied that he is out of the race and affirmed that their goal now is to influence the party's platform. Tuesday's contest in Idaho illustrates how that can be done.
Since Romney is entitled to all of Idaho's 32 national delegates after a strong showing in the state's March Caucuses (62% compared to Paul's 18%), the Texas congressman's campaign is now attempting to overturn Romney's victory by manipulating Idaho's complex election rules.
Though Romney was technically awarded the national delegates, they have to be ratified at the Republican state convention on June 22. Paul's supporters can prevent such an outcome by getting enough precinct committee members elected Tuesday who can vote for state delegates in Idaho's county and district conventions. If two-thirds of the state delegates turn out for Paul, he will be awarded all of Idaho's national delegates.
Just as in other states where Paul has picked up surprising numbers of delegates, a successful effort in Idaho will be driven by dedicated volunteers. And they have been prepping for this contest for months, spreading the word and determining how to elect as many precinct committee members as possible.
But if not outright victory, what would a successful end to the Paul campaign look like? According to Reason's Brian Doherty, laying the groundwork for future "liberty candidates," much like Barry Goldwater did for Ronald Reagan, would be an ideal outcome at this point. If Paul's campaign can insert his concerns about monetary policy, war, and internet privacy (to name a few examples) into the GOP platform, it will be much easier to get like minded candidates elected in future races.
To be sure, this scenario is a stretch. A lot of things have to fall into place to make it happen. But, really, that's the story of Paul's campaign. We won't know until the Republican national convention takes place this summer, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Paul and his loyal supporters leave such massive mark on the 2012 presidential race.