Seema Mehta | McClatchy-Tribune News Service
DES MOINES, Iowa — Rick Santorum narrowly won January’s Iowa caucuses, and future Republican nominee Mitt Romney finished a close second. But when the state’s delegates head to the Republican National Convention in August, most of them will be loyal backers of third-place finisher Ron Paul.
His haul of delegates from a weekend Iowa convention is part of the Texas congressman’s quiet strategy to have a strong, vocal presence at the national gathering in Tampa, Fla. There’s no mathematical way for Paul to derail Romney’s nomination. But he and his supporters have taken advantage of the fact that, in states like Iowa, election night results don’t determine actual delegates.
By working arcane rules at district, county and state gatherings around the country, his supporters have amassed an army of delegates who will try to ensure that his libertarian message about the economy, states’ rights and a noninterventionist foreign policy is loudly proclaimed.
Paul’s backers will also try to shape the party platform as they dare Republicans to take them for granted – much as social conservatives did years ago before they ascended in importance.