For someone who has just conceded that he can't win the Republican presidential nomination, Ron Paul is having a remarkable influence on the GOP.
Two new controversies are keeping Paul and his dedicated followers front and center. Oddly enough, one is the endorsement by Rand Paul, Ron Paul's son and political heir, of presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Rand Paul, a U.S. senator from Kentucky, told Fox News that, while he prefers his father as the nominee, he and his dad realize that Romney will be the party's standard-bearer.
Arguing that Romney does have conservative principles, Rand Paul announced that he will back the former Massachusetts governor. This caused an outpouring of criticism of him Friday from some of his father's followers who say he sold out and betrayed his dad's political movement.
But the endorsement added to speculation that both Pauls will end up with major speaking roles at the GOP convention even though Ron has not endorsed Romney. Some conservatives speculate that perhaps Rand is angling to be Romney's vice-presidential running mate.
The second fuss that is roiling Republican waters focuses on what happens to the delegates of former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who dropped out of the race a few weeks. Santorum still has 267 delegates, insuring that he will play a role at the convention.
And Santorum told reporters Friday that he wants his supporters to be "ready to engage the fight" with Paul's forces. Santorum expects a battle with Paul delegates over the party platform, particularly over Paul's stance that some drugs should be legalized and his view that the United States intervenes too much in foreign countries and should pull back dramatically from military commitments, including the war in Afghanistan and the conflict in Iraq. Paul said this week that he expects to have 200 delegates pledged to him even though he admitted that he can't overtake Romney.
Paul's supporters are also immersed in a wrangle with the Republican National Committee over their plans to arrange a three-day "Ron Paul Festival" in Tampa not far from where the national convention will take place. The event would conclude the day before the convention opens in August. The "PaulFest" could draws tens of thousands of Paul people to the area.
GOP veterans worry that afterward, attendees might stage demonstrations during convention week and try to embarrass Romney.
RNC officials control most of the potential venues in Tampa. Paul organizers are concerned that the RNC will deny them use of adequate space or will approve the space too late for the Paul people to properly organize the festival.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook and Twitter.
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