Ron Paul on Monday announced he will scale back his already diminished presidential campaign, effectively ending his longshot bid for the Republican nomination.
In an e-mail that took the tone of a valedictory, the libertarian icon said he would no longer compete in upcoming primaries, though his campaign would continue its work amassing delegates at the local and state levels.
“Our campaign will continue to work in the state convention process. 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,” Paul wrote. “Moving forward, however, we will no longer spend resources campaigning in primaries in states that have not yet voted. Doing so with any hope of success would take many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have.”
The writing was on the wall. Since his goose egg performance on Super Tuesday, Paul’s campaign had effectively parked. He cut back his public schedule, holding rallies on college campuses to showcase his support while working behind the scene to pick off unbound delegates at local and state conventions. The plan was for Paul and since-departed rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to prevent Mitt Romney from reaching the 1,144-delegate threshold required to secure GOP nomination, which would trigger a chaotic scenario in which delegates flocked to the Texan on a subsequent ballot. Barring that unlikely scenario, Paul intended to use his bloc of delegates as bargaining chips to influence the party’s platform. These effort will continue, Paul said on Monday.
But he may have waited too long to cut a deal. The departure of Gingrich and Santorum from the field all but handed Romney the nomination, decreasing Paul’s leverage. And while his supporters elected an outsize share of delegates to Tampa in states like Maine, Minnesota, Missouri and Nevada, they were increasingly an afterthought for a party eager to repair the breaches from a divisive primary and focus on Barack Obama. Some embraced a role as conscientious objectors to Romney’s candidacy, showing up at events in recent days to boo Josh Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain, among others.
It was not the ending the Paulites hoped for. After the haphazard campaign of 2008, Paul’s last act in politics (he isn’t running for re-election to his House seat) was supposed to marry the zeal of his supporters to a savvy, state-of-the-art ground game. But after some narrow early losses, he ultimately failed to win the popular vote in a single state, an indignity that suggests that libertarianism remains a minor thread of the GOP’s political tapestry.
Why Paul suspended his campaign now, with contests in his home state of Texas and that of his son’s in Kentucky looming, is something of a mystery. Dave Weigel suggests it may be to avoid losses that would dim “Rand Paul’s rising star” (though when Tony Perkins is chiding you for anti-gay rhetoric, that ship has probably sailed). Paul’s advisers did not immediately return inquiries from TIME.
While this is surely a disappointing day for Paul’s dogged supporters, they and their prophet have plenty to be proud of. In recent years, Paul’s libertarian vision has gone mainstream, conscripting a new crop of local leaders for the GOP’s farm system and shifting its ideological trajectory. As I wrote last summer, Paul has become one of the most influential voices in the Republican Party. His was a campaign of ideas; running for President was a way to occupy the pulpit. Those ideas are poised to outlive his candidacy, which, if it weren’t over already, effectively died today.
Paul’s full statement is below:
As I reflect on our 2012 Presidential campaign, I am humbled by the supporters who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much. And I am so proud of what we have accomplished. We will not stop until we have restored what once made America the greatest country in human history.
This campaign fought hard and won electoral success that the talking heads and pundits never thought possible. But, this campaign is also about more than just the 2012 election. It has been part of a quest I began 40 years ago and that so many have joined. 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.
Our campaign will continue to work in the state convention process. 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.
Moving forward, however, we will no longer spend resources campaigning in primaries in states that have not yet voted. Doing so with any hope of success would take many tens of millions of dollars we simply do not have. I encourage all supporters of Liberty to make sure you get to the polls and make your voices heard, particularly in the local, state, and Congressional elections, where so many defenders of Freedom are fighting and need your support.
I hope all supporters of Liberty will remain deeply involved – become delegates, win office, and take leadership positions. I will be right there with you. In the coming days, my campaign leadership will lay out to you our delegate strategy and what you can do to help, so please stay tuned.