Forget Florida, Ron Paul is Hunting For Delegates

Ron Paul bypasses Florida to collect delegates.

By + More

Ron Paul's never been one to follow the crowd, which might explain why the Texas congressman is bypassing the winner-take-all Florida primary and hedging his bets on Nevada and other early caucus states.

Paul plans to appear in the two Florida debates this week, but he's saving money by spending little time in the vast and diverse Sunshine State, which is won and lost with expensive television advertising.

His choice is further proof that Paul isn't campaigning as much for the GOP nomination as he is focusing on gathering enough delegates to influence the GOP convention in August. [See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]

In his concession speech Saturday in South Carolina, where he finished fourth, Paul acted far from defeated.

And GOP strategist Ron Bonjean says that's because Paul's goal was never to win the nomination.

"All along, [Ron Paul] has been in this to accrue as many delegates as he can and stay in the race as long as he can," Bonjean says. [Read: Ron Paul Raises $13 Million in Final Quarter.]

Once Florida has been decided, 87 delegates will have been allocated. But Paul may be able to leverage his strong following to at least gather a fraction of the 128 delegates up for grabs in Nevada, Maine, Colorado and Minnesota in upcoming weeks. And, he will likely earn a proportionate number of delegates in Arizona and Michigan at the end of February, which each has 29 and 30 delegates respectively.

"We will be going to the caucus states and we will be promoting the whole idea of getting more delegates, because that's the name of the game and we will pursue it," Paul said Saturday.

With enough delegates, Bonjean says Paul's message of "more government restraint" and large government cuts could become a central theme at the convention in August.

Political Science professor Anthony Corrado of Maine's Colby College describes Paul's place in the race as an "advocacy role", less vulnerable to the hard and fast rules of presidential campaigning and more focused toward unconventional strategies. As an "advocacy candidate," Paul can hope to use his grassroots support to build a strong delegation to wedge his message of limited government and cutting government spending into the official party platform. If he's successful, Paul could possibly earn a coveted speaking slot at the convention, which would give him the power to make his ideas part of the established message. [Read: Five Reasons Rick Perry Failed.]

When it comes to deciding on a party platform, Paul's delegates will be allowed to bring up amendments to the party platform to get their issues blended into the official party stance. However, party leaders have in the past preferred adjusting language in the platform to avoid the drawn-out debates stirred by formal amendments/

At the 1980 Democratic Convention, where Jimmy Carter was the presumtive nominee, delegates for Ted

Kennedy's were numerous enough to introduce an aggressive jobs program into the offical party platform even though Carter opposed it.

While this weeek's focus in Florida will be on the nasty battle between Romney and Gingrich, Paul still could play a bigger role in the GOP race than once expected.

"If you win elections, you win delegates and that is how you promote a cause," Paul said Saturday.