As Paul's White House Campaign Fades, Supporters Face Choices

Ron Paul's loyal band of supporters are just accepting now what many have known for a long time: the Texas congressman's White House bid is fading badly.

Paul's poll numbers are down and he has no chance of earning the Republican nomination. He is 29 percentage points behind front-runner Mitt Romney in a poll for Tuesday's Wisconsin primary.

Now, the main questions remaining are whether his followers will switch their allegiance to another candidate, and if Paul can still carry his libertarian banner into the Republican convention in August and beyond.

He is unlikely to drop out of the race soon, but some of his backers may gravitate toward Romney in the vote for the nomination, Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said, noting that Paul and Romney have maintained cordial relations in the often bitter campaign.

"Paul supporters are not fans of Romney, but one thing for sure is that Ron Paul would rather have Romney than (Newt) Gingrich or Santorum," O'Connell said.

In the end, Romney may turn to Paul for support and his delegates if it looks like the nomination battle will go all the way to the convention in August.

"The fact that Paul has those delegates really allows him to expand his message potentially to the convention where he could have a say in the platform," O'Connell said.

If the party offers Paul a speaking role at the convention, they will have to figure out how to contain him, analysts said.

"They're going to have to try to find a way to strike that balance between what he wants to say about foreign policy and what he wants to say about domestic policy," O'Connell said.

"It's a real tightrope they're going to have to walk but I'm sure that not having him have a say in it could leave some people very angry in a very tight election," O'Connell added.

Read more from Deborah Charles at Reuters

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published this page in In The News 2012-03-31 12:19:00 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy