Given the delegate math, it's improbable that Paul could attain the nomination. What, then, does he want to achieve by staying in the race? And what is to become of the Ron Paul Revolution – his supporters and his libertarian message – when Paul himself bows out?
He appears to have considered such questions. "Politicians don't amount to much," Paul once said, "but ideas do."
In other words, for Paul, it's about the message, not the office, says Ford O'Connell, chairman of the conservative Civic Forum PAC in Washington, D.C. "His intent is not to seek further office. He's trying to start a conversation about the direction of the country and the GOP."
Paul is running "to be a public proponent for his libertarian ideas about money, taxation, the purpose of government," says Brian Doherty, a senior writer at libertarian Reason Magazine and author of the forthcoming book "Ron Paul's Revolution." "He's always wanted to be a powerful spokesman for the ideas he believes in…. Running for president is a ... successful way to get that message out."
In many ways, Paul has already accomplished what he's after. He's used each debate and TV interview – and there have been many – to convince Americans about the merits of his libertarian philosophy. Where he was once an outlier – on eliminating certain federal departments and bashing the Federal Reserve, for example – some other candidates now echo his views.
Paul has also made advances on the ground, quietly waging a campaign to amass enough delegates to gain leverage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August. "Paul could have enough to win some concessions on the party platform or a prominent role at the convention," says Peter Hanson, a political scientist at the University of Denver, in an e-mail.