Texas Rep. Ron Paul's team won't back down. Without a single contest victory, Paul's joking about his secret service name on Jay Leno's Tonight Show and betting on a brokered convention in August.
Even Paul has admitted he's more interested in scooping up delegates than winning the presidency, but official counts show Paul's fallen short even on that goal. [See pictures of the 2012 GOP candidates.]
The most up-to-date estimates show Paul with just 50 delegates, a fraction of the 1,144 needed to win the nomination and light years behind Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who is nearly halfway there.
And Federal Election Commission reports show Paul's Super PAC, Endorse Liberty, raised less than $282,500 in February, a dramatic slide from the $2.4 million it earned in January.
But, Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics, says its not surprising that Paul hasn't pulled the plug.
"Paul has never entertained any illusions about being nominated," Sabato says. "But a leisurely presidential campaign without pressure, while making his case and selling his issues, is not a bad swan song for Ron Paul or any politician."
At Paul's campaign headquarters, Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton says it is business as usual.
"We are focusing on caucus states, just like we always have. It puts us in the driver's seat to easily win many," Benton says. "There is still work to be done, and we understand that we are going to have to stay on our game to maintain our position."
Benton admits his team is dismissing official delegate counts.
Although primaries and caucuses have consumed the news cycle, many of them are no more than a "straw poll," writes Thomas Mullen of the Washington Times Communities website. After the straw poll is closed, the real process for selecting delegates begins, and a series of meetings commence in which delegates are elected from a precinct, district or county. Mullen adds those delegates then go on to elect delegates to a state convention who then elect the delegates to represent that state at the RNC.
Benton estimates that even though Paul didn't win the majority of the vote in Alaska, North Dakota, Nevada, Maine or Minnesota, Paul supporters will show up for the states' conventions where official delegates are elected.
"We're training people to go, show up and go through the delegate process," Benton says.
The Iowa Republican Party confirms that delegate assignments have little to do with the straw poll, and that Paul may secure the most delegates from the state, Mullen Writes.
This process typically takes months after the straw poll is over and the resulting delegates for each candidate may bear little resemblance to the vote percentage that candidate won in the straw poll, Mullen adds.
As a long-term strategy, Benton says the campaign is gearing up for two of the biggest contests in Texas and California where he thinks Paul's grassroots appeal could take hold.
And even if things don't go as planned Sabato argues, at this point Paul might as well ride it out to the end.
"It's his last campaign; age tells us that much. It doesn't hurt his son if he stays in. Romney and Paul get along well so he's unlikely to cause trouble for the nominee," Sabato says. "Paul keeps a platform for his ideas on TV. The more delegates he gets, and the more clout he'll have for negotiating a prime-time speech and platform running."
- Read Santorum's Last Hope: A Brokered Convention.
- See a collection of political cartoons on Rick Santorum.
- Read Romney Rivals Say Positions Will Follow Him Into General Election.
Corrected 3/23/2012: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed an explanation of the process of selecting and awarding delegates for the Republican presidential candidates to Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato. The information was originally reported by Washington Times Communities writer Thomas Mullen.