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October 9, 2015

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With GOP’s cold shoulder, where do Ron Paul’s supporters go from here?

Last week, Ron Paul delegate Wayne Terhune described it as a “really, really small window; a little teeny dot of light on the horizon.”

But by Friday, the chance that a majority of delegates from five states could throw Paul’s name up for nomination at the Republican National Convention appeared even smaller than that. The Romney campaign had won enough rule changes and delegate seating disputes to prevent Paul delegates from influencing much, if any, of the convention.

Paul’s devoted band of followers say they are not deterred by these setbacks, because after all, this is about the Constitution, not about Ron Paul.

“Ron Paul just happened to be the bearer of the message,” said Wiselet Rouzard, a 25-year-old Paul delegate from Las Vegas. “His life work embodied the movement. But Ron Paul as he starts to get older, he’ll want to retire. And if he doesn’t win the presidency, it’s about the message. And it’s a message that’s been with us since 1776.”

“This has never been a short-term mission,” said Carl Bunce, Nevada delegate and Paul state campaign organizer for 2012. “This is a long-term redefining and reshaping of the party from the ground up...It’s taken us 100 years to get this far, it’s going to take us another few decades to get this done.”

But with the possibility of a Paul presidency virtually out the window and the candidate rumored to be near retirement, his supporters must decide what to do next — and who will carry them forward.

On that point, their signature zeal for liberty is complicating their task.

“It’s been wonderful to meet all these people, but it’s kind of an individualist movement,” Paul delegate Pat Kerby said. “We’re not real big on leadership...a guy like Ron Paul comes along once in a lifetime.”

Some want to continue to push Paul’s nomination at the convention. Others want to influence the party platform — an area in which they’ve already won some concessions from the Romney campaign.

“We’ve got a little internal conflict, if you will,” said Nevada Paul delegate Daniel Stakleff. “The campaign has seemed to have given up on the nomination...They don’t seem like chance takers.”

Paul’s supporters came into this election season hoping to rock the Republican Party all the way to the White House. But with Paul no longer a force to coalesce his crowd, it’s becoming painfully obvious that few in his fold are the type of seasoned politician who might come in handy when trying to crash Mitt Romney’s victory party, or sort out a future for the grassroots movement.

Paul folks don’t, as a matter of course, have much respect for politicians.

“I’m looking to be entertained,” Bunce said of the speakers at the convention. “But they’re all going down the wrong path. Most of them don’t even have beliefs. They say what it takes to get elected.”

Neither can they agree about whether heir-apparent U.S. Sen. Rand Paul should be classified as a typical politician.

As a concession to Paul’s supporters, the Romney campaign gave Rand Paul a prime time speaking slot. Some of Nevada’s Paul delegates are happy to hear from him, and describe him as a strong liberty-minded individual.

“This movement has spawned a few people to follow in [Ron Paul’s] footsteps,” Kerby said. “There’s his son Rand, there’s Sen. Mike Lee. There’s a few coming through the ranks that are going to be very positive influences.”

“I have my eye on (Wisconsin Rep.) Justin Amash in the House and Rand Paul is doing a good job in the Senate,” said Rouzard, who qualified his choices with “not even Ron Paul was perfect.”

But others haven’t been happy with Rand Paul’s performance so far.

“The RNC seems to think that again, we just blindly follow anybody with the last name of Paul,” Paul delegate Cynthia Kennedy complained. “We don’t. And Rand Paul really damaged his credibility with us when he endorsed Romney. Rand Paul would have to prove a lot.”

The soul-searching for a sherpa has led some of Paul’s constitutional revolutionaries to look to other factions of the Republican Party, especially the Tea Party, which has been arguably more successful at kicking up dust and influencing the discussion.

“I think we have more in common with the Tea Party Republicans than the so-to-speak establishment Republicans,” said Douglas Davila-Pestana.

But others call that anathema, and as proof, point to the Romney podium.

Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, comes Tea Party-approved. But Paul’s devotees find few politicians as reprehensible as Ryan, whom they’ve nicknamed “Wrong Paul.”

“He’s rhetoric. He’s getting a lot of talk about his plan – people don’t understand, it’s a joke,” Rouzard said. “He definitely lost my respect.”

“I judge people more by their voting record than by their rhetoric. Now they call Paul Ryan, who voted for TARP, voted for all the bailouts, they call him a tea party guy. Well I think that he’s been the same all along and what happened is the tea party got transformed,” Kerby said. “We haven’t transformed.”

But Paul’s delegates have yet to transform the Republican Party by sticking to their principles.

“I know where the majority of where this party stands. It’s not my place or do I have the ability to change their minds on these things,” said Kennedy, who served on the RNC platform committee, where she was able to get a nod for the Paul-backed “Audit the Fed” initiative, but came up short on other items, like the defense authorization and raw milk.

She considered voicing her objections to the party’s abortion platform, but then figured “this was not the audience.”

For now, the plan seems to be to just keep talking.

“I’m going to sit in my seat, and I’m going to listen to the speakers, and I’m going to talk to as many people as I possibly can,” Kerby said. “Then, I’m going to go home and I’m going to get to work.”

But with no leader on the horizon, it’s not clear how the movement Ron Paul spawned continues its momentum — unless they can pull off one memorable splash.

“We Ron Paul people have tried to play by the rules and we have been stymied and treated so unfairly and every effort has been made to try to kick the air out of our movement, and these are the final blows,” Kennedy lamented. “But miracles do happen. And this might be the one time when we get a miracle.”

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