TAMPA -- The Paulistas were at the Republican National Convention last week, and they were cranky. They held up cranky signs and wore T-shirts with cranky messages. They scowled. They pouted. They sometimes shouted when others were speaking. They were clearly cheesed off that their man, who won several states during the primaries, did not get to write the platform and otherwise dominate the convention.
Oh, wait. Oops. No, Dr. Paul, the gold-medal winner this year in the Olympic Pat Paulsen look-alike competition, didn't win several states. In fact, he did not win a single state. He ran early and late. He ran in the south and the north and the west. He lost early and often. He lost late. He lost everywhere. The entire primary season was an oh-fer for Dr. Paul, who, as he was not named Republican quarterback, holds out the prospect that he may take his football and go home for this fall, taking much of his small but intense following with him.
At the convention, Dr. Paul himself was coy, declining to say that he would endorse Republican nominee Mitt Romney, leaving open the possibility that he thinks his principles could as well be implemented by our rookie president as by Romney. It also makes one wonder what those people wearing T-shirts that say "I'm a Ron Paul Republican" could possibly mean by it.
Every indication is this presidential race will be a close one, including in vital Florida with its 29 electoral votes. Republicans are justified in wondering if Ron Paul could be their Ralph Nader. Nader, every bit as politically evangelical as Dr. Paul, nearly siphoned enough voters away from George W. Bush in Florida in 2000 to throw that state, and the presidency, to Al Gore.
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry told me this morning that during the RNC and in his travels since, he is seeing more "tea-party energy" behind Romney's candidacy, including many Ron Paul supporters who are now on board. "Ron Paul's supporters are divided into two groups," he said. "There's the activist branch, like in any movement. But this is the smaller group." Members of the larger group, Curry says, are telling him they "like some of the messaging" from the Romney campaign and he is confident these folks will turn out for Romney on election day.
It's not easy to accept, especially for people who are as intense about their political principles as Ron Paul's supporters are. But America's democracy doesn't work unless all participants understand a vital part of the competitive political process, the part that says, "You lost -- get over it.
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