David Keene, former ACU chairman, said the party’s slow embrace of Paul supporters reminded him of how Republicans were reluctant to welcome the evangelicals who followed Pat Robertson into the political fray during his 1988 presidential bid. In one instance, Mr. Keene recalled, a national committeeman likened attending a Robertson campaign meeting to “the bar scene in ‘Star Wars.’ “

“Party leaders, like the leader of any club, love to have your dues, or your vote in this case, but they really don’t want you hanging around voting for the offices or the leadership,” Mr. Keene said. “[Evangelicals] came in, they were attracted by Pat Robertson, who couldn’t get nominated, but attracted hundreds of thousands of millions of people. Some of those people went home because they were just attracted to him, as will some of the Paul people, and some of them stuck around, and today a lot of them are leaders in the party.”…

“What the Republican Party needs to understand about the Ron Paul people: They are new to the party, they’re independents, they have youth and energy — all those things the Republican nominee is going to need,” the younger Mr. Paul told The Times. “If it is someone else, they really need the Ron Paul people to have the energy to win in fall.”

Paul T. Conway, president of Generation Opportunity, a nonpartisan group dedicated to youth outreach, credited the Ron Paul camp with educating “several generations” of political activists who now understand the complexities of the nomination contests — including the rules that govern how states dole out their delegates to the Republican National Convention, where Mr. Paul could, at least on paper, win the nomination on the floor.