One way to measure Rep. Ron Paul’s ascendance as a political player is to compare the cold shoulder he got from rival Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 with the cozier embrace he has received from 2012 presumptive nominee Mitt Romney.
When Mr. Romney announced Monday that he supports auditing the Federal Reserve, it underscored the odd but powerful influence of the maverick congressman from Texas, whose years-long push for a Fed audit will now appear in the party platform.
From overseas adventurism to deficit spending to a distrust of government institutions, the gospel of Paul has revived long-simmering debates that were muffled during the eight-year tenure of President George W. Bush — and, at least on some of those issues, Mr. Paul’s side appears to have gained the upper hand.
Indeed, with Mr. Paul and his ardent supporters set to play a visible role in the Republican National Convention next week in Tampa, Fla., it’s arguable that Mr. Paul, in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, has done more to shape the party’s ideology than either Mr. McCain or Mr. Romney.
“More than anything else, what Ron Paul with these past two presidential runs has done is used the Republican Party presidential process as a platform to proselytize to an audience that otherwise wouldn’t hear it,” said Mark P. Jones, chairman of the political science department at Rice University in Houston, just north of Mr. Paul’s southeast Texas congressional district.
This weekend, Mr. Paul will walk onto — then off of — the political stage, literally and figuratively.
His campaign has scheduled what it is billing as the “We Are the Future Rally,” to be held Sunday at the University of South Florida’s 10,000-seat Sun Dome. Mr. Paul, in an email to supporters this month, promised his address would be the “speech the Republican National Convention doesn’t want the rest of America to hear.”
So what happens next?
Most analysts are looking to Mr. Paul’s son, freshman Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who campaigned heavily for his father during the presidential primary season. But the younger Mr. Paul endorsed Mr. Romney once it became clear that his father couldn’t win — a move that angered some of his father’s supporters.
The son has been given a prime-time speaking slot at the convention Monday that observers said was a way of giving a nod to Ron Paul without having him officially speak.
“Just like the Republican establishment who tried to silence Congressman Ron Paul, the powers-that-be are determined to keep the American people from hearing, seeing or even having a chance to vote for Gov. Gary Johnson,” Ron Nielson, Mr. Johnson’s senior campaign adviser, said in an email this week to rally support. “They’re afraid. They know millions of Americans, if given a chance, will reject the big-government candidates and join the liberty movement.”
For Republicans, the question of what Mr. Paul’s followers do is more pressing. Without their backing, Mr. Romney could have a tougher time carrying key swing states such as New Hampshire and Colorado.