COLLEGE STATION — Even as the presidential field narrowed Tuesday with Rick Santorum’s exit from the race, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s chances of winning the Republican nomination don't appear to be any stronger.
But the longtime Texas congressman isn't slowing down, and on Tuesday night he started a three-stop Texas town hall tour with a visit to the Texas A&M University campus.
Paul spoke little about the health of his campaign or his election prospects but expounded for nearly an hour about his well-known positions on Iraq, the gold standard, growing hemp and the U.S. Constitution.
“People ask me why I talk to campuses and all those young people,” Paul said to an auditorium of more than 3,000 people, mostly college students. “Because they like to hear the message of liberty,” he said during a speech in which he was frequently interrupted by applause and cheers.
Beyond the enthusiasm Paul attracts in this state, political scientists said Texas money and the opportunity to raise awareness of his agenda may also motivate Paul for his tour here. Much like Paul’s presidential run, they said, the tour is probably not about personal ambition or winning, but about advancing his ideas.
“It’s a campaign that has clearly not been 100 percent successful in attracting large numbers of voters or a large number of delegates,” said George C. Edwards III, a political science professor at A&M.
Although Paul seems to sincerely believe his message of substantially reducing government, decreasing foreign policy interactions in the the world and minimizing U.S. defense efforts, Edwards said, "the problem that he faces is that hardly anyone else does."
And at events like the one at A&M, Edwards said, Paul is preaching to the converted.
"I don’t think he can gain much instrumentally in terms of the short-term effort to win the nomination," he said. "He’s not going to gain essentially anything out of it."
Edward King, director of Youth for Ron Paul 2012, the group responsible for organizing the College Station event and the ones planned in Fort Worth today and in San Antonio on Thursday, said the focus remains on victory at the Republican convention.
“It is about winning,” King said. “Now, if along the way, you’re changing hearts and minds, that’s an added benefit.”
Sarah Fulton, another political science professor at A&M, said Paul is trying to keep his loyal following in place even though he is likely to lose the nomination.
“I just recently worked out all of the math, and it looked like he needed to get about 99 percent of the delegates going forward in order to win the nomination," she said. "I don’t see his campaign as a political candidacy as much as a movement among young people and libertarians.”
Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said Paul probably hopes to find “financial nourishment” in Texas to keep his campaign going, adding, “It is also an opportunity in an upcoming Republican primary state to remind the Republican Party that Ron Paul and his agenda need to be dealt with if they want to keep him on the reservation."