- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2012

Rep. Ron Paul won his first victory of the Republican primary season over the weekend, but fell short in several tests of his delegate-hoarding strategy, and the candidate himself hinted to reporters that he is “suspicious” of fraud in some of the vote-counting.

The Texas congressman won the popular vote in the U.S. Virgin Islands, nipping former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and notching his first win. But Mr. Romney bested him in the delegate count, 7-to-1, according to the local GOP.

And in Wyoming, Mr. Paul had won 21 percent of the vote among caucus-goers last month, but on Saturday, when the delegates elected at those caucuses met to divide up the final tally of delegates to the national convention, Mr. Paul’s team walked way with just one of the 12 slots available.

Mr. Paul has largely avoided popular-vote primaries and instead banked on caucuses to try to win delegates. In many of those states, he has come in second or third in actual voting at the precinct level, but has predicted he would end up with the most delegates because his supporters were more committed to showing up at county and state conventions.

“The delegate hunt is on,” he told reporters as he campaigned over the weekend.

Local party officials say his team is making extensive efforts to win over undecided delegates at county and state conventions, and is pushing his own committed supporters to show up as the process plays out.

In Iowa this weekend, where delegates elected at the Jan. 3 precinct caucuses met at county-level conventions, Paul supporters regularly clashed with GOP officials over the right to be seated or to try to change procedures.

Mr. Paul, making his second run for the Republican nomination, has improved his vote total over 2008 in every state so far except for Idaho, which switched from a primary to a caucus, depressing turnout for all the candidates.

But he trails rivals Mr. Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in every delegate count so far, including the Republican National Committee’s official “pledged delegate” count released last week.

Judging by the crowds that are turning out for his rallies, he should be doing even better.

In Idaho, where the Paul campaign claims more than 12,000 people turned out to their rallies in February and March, he won only slightly more than 8,000 votes in the state’s caucuses last week.

That same pattern played out in caucuses ranging from Colorado to Minnesota to Washington state, where his campaign said his six rallies drew more than 7,250 people, accounting for more than half of the nearly 12,600 votes he ended up garnering.

Speaking to reporters in Missouri this weekend, Mr. Paul struggled for an explanation.

“Sometimes we get thousands of people like this, and we’ll take them to the polling booth, and we won’t win the caucuses,” he said. “A lot of our supporters are very suspicious about it.”

He said he doesn’t have proof of actual fraud, but said it’s a possible explanation.

“It’s that kind of stuff that makes you suspicious, because quite frankly, I don’t think the other candidates are getting crowds like this,” he said.

Mr. Paul’s campaign promised another “massive town hall” in Illinois on Wednesday at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Many of his biggest events have been associated with colleges.