"We want to make sure that the Republican Party understands that we are a major part of the Republican Party," Tate added. "We're not to be overlooked; we're not to be taken for granted."
It is not unusual for some losing candidates to have a role at the party's national convention. Hillary Rodham Clinton got a prominent speaking spot at the Democratic convention in 2008. But Clinton had waged an epic primary battle with then-candidate Barack Obama, and her speech was designed to help unify the party.
Many of Paul's libertarian views dovetail nicely with mainstream Republican ideas on limited government and low taxes. But Paul breaks with much of his party when he talks about American intervention abroad and government efforts to fight terrorism at home.
"Following the Constitution, don't police the world, don't participate in all this nation-building, cut spending, cut taxes, cut deficits — these are traditional Republican principles," said David Fischer, vice chairman of Paul's campaign in Iowa. "I consider the view of these Republicans who want to simply grow the size and scope of the government, that's outside of Republican mainstream."
There is precedent for Paul winning delegates in caucus states where he lost the initial vote. In 2008, during Paul's first campaign for president, he finished a distant second in the Nevada caucuses, which Romney won with more than half the vote. At the GOP state convention three months later, Paul had so many supporters that he was poised to win some of Nevada's national delegates when party leaders abruptly shut down the convention.
Later, the party's executive committee tried to appoint its own delegation to the national convention and Paul's supporters sued. The lawsuit failed but the two sides eventually reached a compromise that gave Paul some delegates to the national convention in St. Paul, Minn.
Paul, however, didn't attend the 2008 convention. Instead, he held a rival rally in nearby Minneapolis.
This year, it might be better to accommodate Paul and his supporters rather than try to shut them out, said Rich Galen, a GOP strategist and former Gingrich aide who is neutral in the 2012 race.
Galen thinks Paul is guaranteed a speaking spot at the convention, and maybe a few concessions in the party platform, as long as they don't deviate too much from mainstream Republican positions.
And what if Paul gets up at the convention and talks about slashing the military or repealing the Patriot Act?
"That's just Ron Paul being Ron Paul," Galen said. "It would make the next morning's papers, but who cares?"
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