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Ron Paul scores big in Minnesota: What's next?

Brad KnickerbockerThe Christian Science Monitor

Ron Paul’s forces pulled off “a bloodless coup” in Minnesota, as one observer put it, winning 12 of 13 Republican National Convention delegate slots in St. Cloud Saturday.

But what’s the point, given that the Texas congressman has effectively ended his campaign for lack of funds to carry on in the states yet to hold GOP primaries?

The campaign is more than the 2012 presidential election, Rep. Paul told supporters this past week.

“It is about the campaign for Liberty, which has taken a tremendous leap forward in this election and will continue to grow stronger in the future until we finally win,” he said in a website posting.

And how does he intend to do that?

“Our campaign will continue to work in the state convention process,” Paul said. “We will continue to take leadership positions, win delegates, and carry a strong message to the Republican National Convention that Liberty is the way of the future.”

That’s exactly what happened in Minnesota Saturday.

“The Paul crowd pulled off a bloodless coup,” the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. “Unlike other states where brawls broke out between Paul fans and Romney supporters, the Minnesota convention was a relatively civil affair. There were no fistfights or shouting matches on the convention floor.”

In a nutshell, that sums up what Rep. Paul needs to do as the Republican Party works its way toward the nominating convention in August: Keep supporters of his “revolution” revved up, laying the groundwork for what he hopes will be a prominent role in Tampa, Fla., while not coming across as a political curmudgeon trying to undermine the candidacy of presumed front-runner Mitt Romney (with whom, it’s been reported, he has a good personal relationship).

Sometimes he’s had a hard time reining in his boisterous supporters.

A week ago, Paul supporters booed Josh Romney (Mitt Romney’s son) off the stage at the Arizona Republican Party convention. At the recent Oklahoma GOP convention, Paul enthusiasts booed Gov. Mary Fallin and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as they spoke on behalf of Romney.

As reported by Jon Ward on Huffington Post, Paul wants several things to be included in the GOP platform at Tampa: A proposal for stricter oversight of the Federal Reserve, a ban on indefinite detention of American citizens, and a provision advocating greater freedom on the Internet.

"The ball is in the court of the Republican Party and the court of Mitt Romney," Jesse Benton, national chairman of Paul's campaign, told reporters this past week. "We're bringing forward an attitude of respect, and we're also bringing forward some very specific things that we believe in. If our people are treated with respect, if our ideas, their ideas are embraced and treated seriously and treated with respect, I think the Republican Party will have a very good chance to pick up a substantial number of our votes."

"On the flip side," Benton warned, "if they're treated like they were in 2008, a lot of people are going to stay home and a lot of people are going to sit on their hands."

Benton also said that it’s unlikely that Paul will endorse Romney – something Romney’s last-standing major rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have done.

At this point, according to the Real Clear Politics tally, Romney has 989 delegates to Paul’s 104. (To win the nomination takes 1,144 delegates.) So it would take something beyond the understanding of virtually all political strategists and pundits for anybody but Romney to be the GOP’s presidential candidate.

But for Paul, that’s beside the point.

“Ron Paul started what his supporters call a revolution,” Maggie Haberman and Emily Shultheis observe on Politico.com. “Now, that revolution is threatening to march on without him.”

Which seems to be exactly what Paul wants.