Ron Paul Refuses To Quit As Romney Lead Widens

fromWOI

Although it's all but certain Mitt Romney will be the GOP presidential nominee, Ron Paul is showing no signs of dropping out. Instead of focusing on primaries, his supporters are working to pick off delegates in an apparent bid for more clout and attention at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

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Ron Paul does not expect to be the Republican nominee. And he announced yesterday that he won't be campaign any more primary votes. But that doesn't mean he's out of the race.

As Iowa Public Radio's Sarah McCammon explains, the Texas congressman is focusing on winning delegates in states where the primaries are already over.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Remember earlier this year when Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses, and then the Iowa GOP said: Oops. We miscounted. It was actually Rick Santorum? Well, despite all that hype, nothing's official until the state convention when the party picks delegates for the national convention in Tampa this summer.

Speaking with reporters today, Paul's chief strategist, Jesse Benton, acknowledged that the former Massachusetts governor is all but certain to be the nominee.

JESSE BENTON: However, we believe that we still have very, very strong things that we can accomplish by continuing this campaign. And Dr. Paul is continuing our campaign.

MCCAMMON: Benton says the campaign wants to arrive in Florida in August with several hundred delegates. It takes 1,144 to win. He points to states like Maine and Nevada, where the congressman's supporters won a majority of delegate slots at state conventions earlier this month. He hopes to repeat that this weekend in Minnesota and several other states, including Iowa, whose state convention meets next month.

Joel Kurtinitis is the former state director for Paul's Iowa campaign. He's now working on an effort to elect like-minded candidates to state and local offices and all levels of the GOP.

JOEL KURTINITIS: It's secondary to me who they support for president because we want our priorities reflected in the platform, we want our priorities reflected in at the Republican National Convention.

MCCAMMON: They're pushing for things like new planks in the party platform in support of Internet freedom, reform of the Federal Reserve and prohibitions on indefinite detention of terrorism suspects. Jesse Benton says the goal is to reshape the Republican Party.

BENTON: We're going to respectfully show that our people are here and that we're the way of the future. And, you know, we're here to work with people. We're here to play ball, but we believe in very, very specific things.

MCCAMMON: In an apparent reference to fights that broke out between Romney and Paul supporters - at the GOP state convention in Oklahoma last weekend and booing of Romney's son Josh at the Arizona State convention - Benton emphasizes that the campaign's backers will maintain decorum and respect.

But reforming the party platform may not enough for the Ron Paul diehards who arguably kept his campaign going as long as it has. Dave Peterson is a political scientist at Iowa State University.

DAVE PETERSON: They really don't like Obama. But they don't like Romney either. And particularly to the extent that they feel like the party has actively worked to exclude them, they're pretty angry with the party. And they're happy to stay home as a result.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

JASON SEIBERT: I'll write in Ron Paul's name.

MCCAMMON: You wouldn't vote for Mitt Romney. Why not?

SEIBERT: Fundamentally, there's no difference. I don't see any difference.

MCCAMMON: That's Jason Seibert, a 36-year-old manufacturing worker from eastern Iowa. He wore a Ron Paul T-shirt to a conservative fundraiser near Des Moines this weekend headlined by Paul's son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. He plans to attend the state convention but he says he'd never vote for Romney.

Neither would 19-year-old Katie Ussery of Des Moines. She grew up with Ron Paul posters on her bedroom wall and volunteered for his campaign.

KATIE USSERY: You have to stay true to what you believe is right, and you can't just compromise and join the majority. But we are here to work with everyone else.

MCCAMMON: And that doesn't go as far as voting for Mitt Romney.

USSERY: No, it does not.

MCCAMMON: So the task for Republicans this summer may be to persuade Ron Paul diehards that voting for the nominee is more important than working for a candidate who won't even be on the November ballot. For NPR News, I'm Sarah McCammon in Des Moines.

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