Ron Paul Flies Freak Flag, Hurting GOP

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What is that man thinking?

The individual to whom I refer is Ron Paul, the serial and -- for this year and no doubt all eternity -- unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I repeat: unsuccessful. As in "not enough delegates." As in "Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican presidential candidate, not Ron Paul."

The reason I raise this question is that the Paul campaign is continuing to press on despite the mathematical certainty that any future delegate-accumulation will be futile. It's a matter of simple arithmetic. Nevertheless, Paul is behaving as if he's just a handful of delegates away from victory. Over the weekend, while normal Americans were enjoying the balmy weather and getting used to the idea of a Romney-Obama faceoff, Paul's operatives were winning 27 of Louisiana's 46 delegates. "Paul dominated the Louisiana Republican caucuses," the Houston Chronicle drily noted.

Contrary to media reports, Paul has not "suspended" his campaign, even though Paul ceased actively campaigning in mid-May. Paul made it clear at the time that he would continue to accumulate delegates. As one Paul loyalist correctly pointed out in the "Daily Paul" acolyte online newsletter, "There is a strategy shift: The campaign will not spend resources campaigning in primary states but WILL BE focusing on winning delegates in caucus states ... Rest assured, he is not dropping out ... We must now redouble our efforts."

That's not some renegade talking, for that is clearly Paul's personal wish, and the Louisiana convention indicated that he definitely isn't going through the motions.

I suggested in a recent column that Paul may be angling for a job in a Romney administration. After all, that is the only logical reason for him to remain in the race. That only makes sense as leverage. For politicians, leverage ordinarily translates into a bid for higher office. Leverage just for the sake of having leverage is ... well, a bit nuts.

And that brings me to where I made my mistake -- my attempt to use reason and logic to analyze Ron Paul. There is absolutely no rational reason for Paul to continue to accumulate delegates, even though, as a libertarian, "reason" would ostensibly be one of his favorite concepts. Doing so can only serve to bring disunity to a party that needs to close ranks if it is going to defeat a sitting president, even one who is sitting in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

In other words, Romney has a real chance of winning, and Paul has a great chance of mucking up his chances. Eli Lehrer, vice-president of the Heartland Institute, argued that point eloquently in the Huffington Post the other day, in an essay pleading with Paul to drop out of the race. Lehrer contended that Paul "has emerged as the greatest threat to the Republican Party's future."

At the Tampa convention, Lehrer argued, "a critical mass of Paul delegates could make things messy simply by challenging Romney, trying unsuccessfully to get their pet issues added to the platform and, maybe, even finagling a way to drag out the first ballot beyond the allotted time." In other words, it would be a replay of the Democratic convention in Chicago, 1968, when infighting turned the convention into a zoo.

"Particularly for marginally engaged Republican-leaning voters," Lehrer argued, "an organized convention that looks good on TV and shows a unified party will play a key role in turning them out at the polls." Hubert Humphrey, if he was alive, could attest to that.

There's only one problem with this analysis. As you can see, Lehrer made the same mistake that I made in my last column. He tried to use reason and logic to analyze a political movement that is unreasonable and illogical.

If you read the coverage of the Paul loyalists at Republican state conclaves recently, you'll notice words like "scuffles" and "confrontation" have been popping up regularly. The Houston Chronicle reported that the Louisiana state convention "was marred by scuffles." One Paul supporter, Henry Herford, was injured "when he was removed from the convention hall by security officers after he became embroiled in a dispute with other Republican activists."

In Oklahoma, according to the AP, the state convention "turned raucous, with supporters of Texas congressman Ron Paul taking the convention outside the Norman hotel where it was held after the convention adjourned and following a physical confrontation between a Paul supporter and a supporter of presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney."

The media has actually been excessively gentle in its reporting on the Paulian histrionics. A more full-blooded account of the Louisiana convention violence can be found here. You'll note that somebody had to call the cops. Even in 1968, at the height of the Chicago convention violence, the rowdiness was outside the convention hall, not inside. And the Democrats still were able to anoint Richard Nixon president.

The violent incidents of recent weeks point to a factor that hasn't been given sufficient attention: the craziness factor. Paul himself has long since lost touch with reality, and his followers can easily turn the Tampa convention into a circus. One hundred thirty-seven (and counting) delegates may not seem like much, but that's plenty to wreak havoc in Tampa, especially since some of them adore their leader so much that they don't mind kicking butt for him -- literally.

So far, the GOP establishment has wisely avoided an open confrontation with the Paulians, but one may be brewing. Note this news item from a few hours ago. It seems that convention organizers won't let Paul's people have "a three-day 'PaulFest' at the Florida State Fairgrounds that would include music, comedians and speakers." The GOP bosses haven't said no, exactly, but are dragging their feet in such a way as to make it harder to organize a successful event.

I can see Paul loyalists throwing a PaulFest with or without official permission. If that happens, we would definitely have a replay of Chicago in 1968. Maybe not as violent, but just as disruptive to the convention. Back then, Mayor Daley's goons descended on demonstrators having a peaceful gathering in Grant Park, and turned the Democratic convention into a horror show that ushered in the age of Nixon.

The Republicans might as well let the Paul people blow off steam at the fairgrounds. If they don't -- and, possibly, even if they do -- the Tampa convention is going to be one hell of a party. I suspect that most of the celebrating will be at the White House.

Gary Weiss's most recent book is AYN RAND NATION: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul, published by St. Martin's Press.