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Ron Paul scales back hopeless effort, refuses to back McCain

February 11, 2008 |  9:03 pm

He's not really quitting. He's not really suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. He's not promising victory, just to keep on keeping on. But, in effect, Rep. Ron Paul, at 72 the oldest candidate for president and the only GOP candidate to oppose the Iraq war, is facing reality.

In a statement to supporters on his website, first mentioned here early Saturday, Paul admits, "With Romney gone, the chances of a brokered convention are nearly zero. But that does not affect my determination to fight on, in every caucus and primary remaining and at the convention for our ideas, with just as many delegates as I can get." In a new 14-minute campaign video, Paul says he wants to clarify some confusion

His campaign currently claims a total of 42, 1,149 shy of the total to win and some 650 behind the GOP leader, though other estimates give him only 16. He took third in Washington over the weekend and fourth in Kansas behind even Mitt Romney, who'd dropped out. Even if he won every delegate still available, Paul could not capture the party's nomination in September in St. Paul, which is no relation.

Despite ridicule by other GOP candidates, despite getting significantly less time to speak during debates and, in one instance, even being barred from a GOP debate by Fox News although....

he'd collected more votes than those included, Paul repeated his vow not to attempt a third-party bid, which would drain priceless conservative votes from the party's nominee. "I am a Republican," he said, "and I remain a Republican." He did say he'd be reducing staff and offices.

Now, whether the 10-term congressman with the libertarian ideals, actually endorses Sen. John McCain is something else. Paul has said we should bring overseas troops home and invest the saved money in fixing America; McCain has vowed to stay overseas, especially Iraq, as long as it takes for success.

This morning Paul told one of our sister newspapers, "I cannot support anybody with the foreign policy he advocates, you know, perpetual war," said Paul. "That is just so disturbing to me."

In his website statement, Paul then alludes to probably the largest factor for his refocused campaign: He's trying to run simultaneously for president and his House seat in Texas' 14th Congressional District and faces a challenger in the March 4 primary, Chris Peden, a city councilmen from Friendswood. So Paul will be on two ballots that day.

"If I were to lose the primary for my congressional seat," he said, "all our opponents would react with glee, and pretend it was a rejection of our ideas. I cannot and will not let that happen." In a new 14-minute campaign video, Paul says he needs to clarify confusion over his dropping out, that he is just altering his schedule to allow primary campaigning in his home district and he intends to compete fully in all remaining primaries and on to the convention.

Although largely ignored as irrelevant by many media outlets, though not The Ticket, the story of Ron Paul and his thousands of determined, sometimes aggressive, usually good-natured followers is one of the more interesting of the current election season.

Virtually spontaneously, disaffected Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and newcomers to the political process began gathering around the plain-spoken Paul last summer and with their nearly $20 million in smaller donations turned him into the most successful GOP fundraiser in the last quarter. On one day he raised $6 million online and was the only Republican to increase his contributions in every quarter of 2007.

With some 1,400 meet-up groups across the country, letter-writing and sign-waving campaigns and creative publicity stunts, they helped Paul to some second, fourth and fifth place finishes in states such as Nevada, Montana and Maine. He beat Rudy Giuliani in Iowa and Fred Thompson in New Hampshire and financed an eight-state advertising campaign.

His boosters, who worked the Internet assiduously to right wrongs and make Paul's case, maintain that a corporate-media conspiracy to ignore him prevented the former ob-gyn from getting his less-government message out to most Americans. He certainly was ignored and, only recently, included when providing poll results on TV. But additionally, his strict constitutionalist ideas for reducing the federal government and abolishing the IRS and Federal Reserve Bank and returning to the gold standard may be just too radical for a country today facing international terrorist threats and the current economic uncertainty.

Even the tone of hundreds of comments left here by Paul supporters changed in recent days from aggressive advocacy to reluctant acceptance of the disappointing reality of continued single-digit poll results.

It would be interesting if those supporters took the time here now to leave comments explaining why they think Paul never caught on to a wider audience (we already know about the media conspiracy) and what they think about his refocused campaign and their spent donations.

--Andrew Malcolm

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