Can Paul delegates cause mischief at the RNC national convention?

Last week, I wrote about the Ron Paul movement’s success in Minnesota, organizing effectively to take delegates in the Congressional-district conventions that elect delegate to the big show in Tampa.  Minnesota isn’t the only caucus state where this has taken place, the Washington Times reports, and the Paul campaign may end up with a more significant presence on the campaign floor than the official caucus/primary counts suggest.  Will they be able to create “mischief” on the floor and disrupt Mitt Romney’s smooth ascent to the top of the ticket?

Mitt Romney may be the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, but Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is quietly racking up some organizational victories that could complicate Mr. Romney’s anticipated coronation at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer.

Exploiting party rules, loyalists for the libertarian congressman from Texas in recent days have engineered post-primary organizing coups in states such as Louisiana and Alaska, confirming what party regulars say would be an effort to grab an outsized role in the convention and the party’s platform deliberations.

In Massachusetts, the state where Mr. Romney served as governor, Paul loyalists over the weekend helped block more than half of Mr. Romney’s preferred nominees from being named delegates at state party caucuses — even though Mr. Romney won his home state’s primary with 72 percent of the vote. Many state GOP establishment figures, including longtime state Republican National Committee member Ron Kaufman, won’t be going to Tampa in August as official delegates.

Mr. Paul, who is Mr. Romney’s only active challenger with the expected withdrawal Wednesday of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, “is doing more with less than any modern presidential campaign in recent memory,” said Doug Wead, a Paul campaign adviser who served as an aide to President George H.W. Bush.

“More surprises coming,” Mr. Wead, an evangelical Christian, blogged this week. “It means that Ron Paul will be a factor in Tampa.”

Ralph Hallow writes that a few more surprises might make Paul strong enough to deny Romney a first-ballot nomination, but that’s unlikely.  Massachusetts aside, the Paul campaign has mainly flexed its muscles in states where Romney didn’t do well — and where Rick Santorum succeeded, such as Minnesota, Iowa, Louisiana, and probably Missouri when they hold their fourth or fifth event that will actually select delegates.  The net effect of the Paul conversion will be to weaken Santorum’s influence, not Romney’s.  Romney will win enough bound delegates from primary states to secure the nomination on the first ballot.

At this point, what would Paul gain from disrupting the convention?  He won’t get the nomination, and he’s not going to get the VP slot, either, especially if he disrupts the convention.  Neither will his son Rand, who only just started his first-ever political office.  The Pauls want to play a long game, transferring the movement leadership from father to son, while maintaining their influence with the GOP.  Rand has much more potential than his father ever did within the party, and everyone knows it.

That potential will be destroyed if Ron Paul and his movement derails the convention and it leads to a second Obama term; they will take all of the blame, and they will deserve it if they pursue that strategy.  The Pauls are more rational than that, and they have used a frankly brilliant strategy to lay the groundwork for Rand in the next few cycles.  They played by the rules and won these obscure battles.  The big question — at least here in Minnesota — is whether they will stick around and do the work that these jobs require.  Paul movement members have a reputation for a lack of follow-up in this state, and we’ll see whether that applies after these victories.

This does point out the need to end the caucus system, however.  People who cast presidential-preference ballots in caucus states are almost entirely unaware that backroom machinations could produce a much different result than they intended.  Minnesota and other states that have clung to the antiquated, 19th-century caucus systems — especially states like Iowa, Maine, and Nevada, where the state parties couldn’t properly count their ballots — need to join the 21st century and give Republican voters a direct method to choose their representation in presidential nomination processes.