Now is the time for Paul to pick up delegates

Strategy is to convert nonbinding straw-poll, caucus results his way

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Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign always has banked on playing the caucus game to try to maximize his support where it counts — the delegates who will attend the national convention this summer in Tampa, Fla.

This week that strategy gets its first test in Iowa and Wyoming, where earlier nonbinding straw polls begin to turn into those convention delegates. Mr. Paul is counting on his small cadre of dedicated supporters to be the ones fighting to win those delegate seats.

“The real winnowing will happen Saturday,” said Drew Ivers, Mr. Paul’s Iowa campaign chairman, adding that the campaign is playing out the process by contacting all of the delegates and asking them to support Mr. Paul going forward.

Iowa held its precinct caucuses on Jan. 3, and Rick Santorum won the presidential preference straw poll there, while Mr. Paul came in third. But those results aren’t binding.

The state’s actual delegates to the GOP’s national convention are chosen through a convoluted process that began with delegates being elected at the precincts. They then attend district and state conventions, where the national delegates are actually chosen — and those delegates aren’t bound to follow the results of the Jan. 3 straw poll.

That same process already is playing out in Wyoming, where Mitt Romney won last month’s caucuses but the real voting is happening at county conventions this week.

With some of those counties already reporting, Mr. Romney is projected to have won five delegates, Mr. Paul to have won one and Mr. Santorum and Newt Gingrich to have none.

Mr. Paul has vowed all along that his supporters, being committed to his cause, would be more likely to turn out for the subsequent conventions and therefore are likely to be better represented in the eventual slate of delegates that caucus states send to Tampa.

He’ll need all the help he can get because he has failed to win any of the 23 primaries and caucuses that have been held so far and trails badly in delegate projections.

It’s a surprise given the level of enthusiasm he earns on the campaign trail.

In Washington over the past month, Mr. Paul held six rallies that his campaign said were attended by more than 7,000 people combined. But when time came for the GOP’s caucuses, he won just 12,594 votes.

That indicates a core group of very dedicated supporters but also underscores the trouble he has had reaching out to voters beyond that core.

In Idaho, the situation was even worse: He held seven rallies that his campaign said attracted more than 12,000 people, but he won only slightly more than 8,000 votes in the caucuses on Super Tuesday. That suggests that more people heard him speak than were willing to show up and caucus for him.

Sensing worry among his followers, Mr. Paul sent an email to them Thursday saying his delegate strategy is intact after Super Tuesday.

“In fact, while I didn’t win any state’s straw polls, my team expects me to win a plurality of delegates in at least three states, as well as outright majorities in two more of the states that have already started their process,” he said.

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