For months now – since Rick Santorum’s departure from the race- the focus has switched to the General Election between Romney and Obama. The Republican establishment would prefer the Romney campaign spend their energy now on this race, one which Obama and the Democrats have had plenty of time to prepare for.
What the Republican Party wants is to send a signal of unity to the country by rallying behind their candidate- a candidate often described as the least-worst man for the job. Maverick congressman Ron Paul has so far prevented his party from doing this by pledging to keep campaigning until the National Convention.
Despite not winning a single state in the primaries and caucuses, Paul’s supporters have won election to delegate spots on the actual convention floor. Depending on state rules, some of these delegates are bound to vote based on the primary and caucus results, while others are not. Republican Party rules state that for a candidate to be eligible for election at the Convention, he or she needs to be in control of at least five state delegations. The US media focused heavily on a do-or-die effort at the final state convention in Nebraska to ensure Paul’s inclusion, highlighting the confusion on the status of non-binding delegates.
The complexity of the Republican rulebook has prompted challenges from both Paul supporters and the party establishment which looks to run right up to the week of the Convention. There is speculation that Paul will have 500 delegates at Tampa. Many are bound to vote for Romney, but none of the delegates have been bound to vote for other key positions in the party leadership, such as the Vice-Presidential candidate. It is plausible that Paul could use his support among the delegates to lobby for the second spot on the ticket, thus giving the GOP leadership what they want – a unified party.
If any such attempt at the Vice-Presidency is mounted by Paul’s campaign, it would have serious ramifications for the Republicans in the long-term, as his supporters wish to force an ideological shift within the party. With so many of Paul’s supporters on the Convention floor, his candidacy- and his vision for the party- will be difficult to ignore.
Alex Adranghi is a Young Fabians member and Chair of the Future of Finance network