Will Ron Paul’s Supporters Ever Give Up?

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Aug. 27 2012 7:00 AM

Ron Paul or Bust

The libertarian candidates’ fans spend a few final days trying to make him president.

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And then there are Paul fans who want to move on. There are legitimate reasons. Paul won only 10 percent of the GOP primary vote, after all, and around 10 percent of the delegates if you round up. The Libertarian Party’s investment in PAUL fest comes with speeches from their presidential ticket, former Gov. Gary Johnson and former Judge Jim Gray. On Saturday afternoon, I see his most famous Republican backer, the legendary Nixon fixer Roger Stone, dressed in a purple polo shirt, explaining how the GOP might alienate Paul fans by taking the delegates away. “I can’t imagine why any voter would vote for Mitt Romney!” Eventually, surely, that’s got to help out his guy Johnson. Right? Doesn’t it?

A supporter of Ron Paul waves his portrait during the Sunday rally in Tampa.
A supporter of Ron Paul waves his portrait during the Sunday rally in Tampa

Photo by MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/GettyImages.

I join Gray and walk past the booths to the vast concrete hangar where Johnson’s going to speak. “Some of these supporters are avid,” he says, half-admiringly, half-frustrated, “and they’re holding out hope that Paul will be the Republican nominee.” He settles in backstage; I stand behind two men wearing “Ron Paul or Bust” T-shirts. Johnson’s strategy for winning over the crowd: solidarity with the angry delegates.

“This is an exclusionary process, and each and every one of you know it,” he says. “You’ve had sand kicked in your face again and again!” That gets huge cheers. They are less huge when Johnson says he’s the “only other candidate” on the ballot with Romney and Obama, and that he’s been given a rare chance to carry the torch of liberty. A blond woman in a sundress right next to me is overcome. She wants to scream. And then she does. “Give it to Paul!”

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On Sunday, at the official Paul party, I’m reminded of all the reasons it’s hard to imagine Paul’s people backing someone else. They’ve come to adore the guy. They cheer at video clips of Paul quoting Friedrich von Hayek to Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan. They tote copies of the Ron Paul family cookbook, an old promo brochure from the trail. The speakers—chosen by Paul—pay tribute to their friend as if he’s being buried with the Oscar and six gold medals he just won.

“He’s the one congressman who can actually be described as ‘the honorable,’ ” says the old Paul aide Lew Rockwell, chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, proprietor of LewRockwell.com

They had to cancel it. If they held it, only the Ron Paul people would show up.

“He is our Gandhi,” says Wead. “He is untouched.”

“When he calls it’s like Mises calling me,” says Walter Block, an economist at that think tank. “It’s like God calling me.”

God arrives onstage shortly before 5 p.m. He’s a little modest, giving the movement the credit, denying it to himself. “One paper in Washington had a headline, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Happening,’ ” he says. “Don’t they wish!” But actually, what the Washington Post had claimed was that “The Ron Paul Revolution Will Not Be Happening.” He politely redacted his own name. He seems to be moving on, past the whole idea of getting the Republican nomination.

Almost.

“Ultimately, numbers do count,” says Paul. “And numbers do count even when they don't count all the votes as well. Because we do have the numbers!"