As we have written before, Paul has a group of supporters whose ardor for his message is far greater than any other candidate can boast. Not only that, but Paul’s backers are loyal first and foremost to Paul — not to the Republican party. And that’s what makes Paul potentially influential as the race moves forward.
A Paul third-party candidacy would, barring some sort of unforeseen dynamic, likely hand President Obama a second term. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and his campaign team understand the power that Paul could wield and have gone out of their way to befriend him — and avoid alienating his supporters.
At some point between now an August, Paul and his people will want something — a speaking slot at the national convention? Consideration of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as a running mate? — from Romney World.
They may not get it. But Paul is in a much stronger bargaining position than Gingrich to extract promises from Romney because he can do far more damage if he isn’t placated. That’s why — though both men have zero chance of being their party’s standard-bearer — Paul matters more than Gingrich.