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Is Ron Paul's 'delegates-only' strategy working?

Ben Anderson

2012 Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul ended active campaigning on Monday with his announcement that he would no longer spend money to win votes in states that have yet to hold primaries.

The campaign will continue to lobby to win leadership positions at state conventions and gaining delegates to represent Paul in Florida at the Republican National Convention in August.

Paul's announcement leaves the rest of the primary field wide open for frontrunner Mitt Romney, who already leads in overall votes and delegate counts. Paul's new strategy, though, has already played itself out in Alaska, in unexpected and occasionally controversial ways.

Paul had high hopes for winning in Alaska, and as a testament to that became the only candidate to pay a visit to the Last Frontier during the campaign season, delivering stump speeches in Alaska's two largest cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks in early March.

There, Paul filled rooms with supporters eager to hear about his platform built on fiscal reform and Constitutional liberties. Though Paul's support base was smaller than some of the other candidates', they've been a vocal bunch, and Alaska's Paul backers were no exception.

That became apparent after Alaska's presidential preference poll on Super Tuesday, when Paul came in third behind Romney and Rick Santorum -- the latter who withdrew earlier this month -- and allegations of Paul supporters being turned away or marginalized by more mainstream party candidates began to emerge.

Evan Cutler, an organizer for the group Alaskans for Ron Paul 2012, sent an email to then-Alaska GOP chairman Randy Ruedrich expressing dissatisfaction with the way the preference polling occurred. Ruedrich denied allegations of impropriety.

The Paul campaign later condemned the Alaska Republican Party's allegedly intentional exclusion of Paul delegates from the state's convention over unpaid fees, even after the national campaign offered to pay them.

Then, in late April, Ron Paul's backers showed their conviction when Ruedrich -- who had weathered numerous presidential campaigns and other Alaska political quagmires -- decided not to run for chair again at the state GOP Convention.

Instead of installing a more "establishment" Republican to fill the seat, it was Paul supporter Russ Millette who was picked to lead by Republicans at the convention. Millette, 66, was a virtual unknown, having lived off and on in Alaska over the years. Debra Holle Brown, another Paul backer, was elected to co-chair of the state GOP.

Failed U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller -- a tea party supporter perhaps best known for having his security detail handcuff Alaska Dispatch's editor during his 2010 run -- and Paul supporters alike celebrated the toppling of Alaska's old-guard Republicans.

But that wasn't the only hubbub caused by Paul supporters at the convention.

Some of them booed Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and guest speaker Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) when they addressed the crowd. Barrasso drew fire from some members of the audience when he announced his support for Mitt Romney, prompting chants for Ron Paul.

Though Paul won only six delegates in Alaska, the changing of the guard within the party could also change the way that Republican activities are carried out within the state. And based on the Paul campaign's recent announcement, that might be good enough to change the "politics-as-usual" that Paul campaigns against.

"Our campaign will continue to work in the state convention process," the statement reads. "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."

Now, the Paul campaign will attempt to replicate its Alaska success elsewhere in the country.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com