In Nevada, for example, 22 of the 25 delegates chosen Sunday to go to the national convention openly support Paul. Under party rules, Romney was supposed to get 20 delegates, based on party caucus results in February. The delegates have agreed to vote for Romney on the first ballot at the convention, but no one can stop them from cheering for Paul.
"I've urged people to take the 'over' in terms of how many delegates they think Paul will have at the convention," Putnam said.
Paul's supporters are likely to make similar inroads in Minnesota, which holds its state GOP convention May 18-19. Paul has already dominated the state's congressional district conventions, winning at least 18 of the 24 national delegates selected, even though he finished a distant second to Rick Santorum in local caucuses in February.
"Republican Party activists with Paul leanings are affirming the campaign's delegate-win strategy and making lasting inroads into the party infrastructure, broadening the Republican footprint and strengthening the GOP base that suffers from a dearth of enthusiasm," Paul's national campaign manager, John Tate, said in a statement.
Many of Paul's libertarian views dovetail nicely with mainstream Republican ideas on limited government and low taxes. But Paul breaks with much of his party when he rails against American intervention abroad and government efforts to fight terrorism at home.
Paul will probably get a speaking slot at the convention but his influence over the party platform and power will be limited, said Rich Galen, a GOP strategist and former Newt Gingrich aide who is neutral in the 2012 race.
"If Ron Paul gets more delegates than Newt Gingrich, then he gets at least as good of a prime-time slot to speak at the convention," Galen said. But, he added, "Ron Paul's not going to be vice president, and he's not going to get a plank in the platform that Romney doesn't want."
Bakst reported from St. Paul, Minn.
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