In recent weeks, Ron Paul has emerged as the greatest threat to the Republican Party’s future. If the Texas Congressman and one-time Libertarian Party presidential nominee actually wants to see President Obama defeated in November, he should bow out of the Republican nomination process quickly, accept whatever offer the Romney camp offers him for a speaking slot during the convention, and endorse the inevitable nominee. His continued efforts to pursue delegates (even after saying that he wouldn’t contest future primaries) make the possibility that the GOP convention could become a party-damaging circus rather than the coronation-style infomercial that’s needed to unify the party.

The facts are pretty simple: Paul supporters, with the aid and comfort of his campaign organization, are doing everything they can to get more delegates even as their candidate has stopped trying to win actual votes. One Texan friend — a Romney supporter — said that local Paul supporters (none of them previously known to local party regulars) stretched a routine pre-election meeting out to hours beyond its normal length in an effort to force the acceptance of a handful of Paul delegates who couldn’t impact the eventual nominee whatever happens.  Paul supporters, likewise, have launched plans to “convert” delegates from other candidates to their man.  And widespread Facebook posts call on delegates to exploit a Republican Party rule that allows votes open votes on nominee during the first ballot.

This could really be a mess: although, baring a live boy/dead girl situation Romney will be the nominee by the time the last delegates check out of their hotels in Tampa on August 30, 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.  It’s all for naught. Romney will be the nominee even after all of this and only the most petty Paul-follower concerns will make it into the platform. And they shouldn’t. Romney is, in any case, the only Republican who has the resources, support, network and name recognition to mount a national campaign that could beat Obama.

And, since Obama currently has a small overall polling lead and a commanding electoral one, Romney is going to have to run a good campaign. While distaste with Obama is, indeed, high, that can’t carry an election: instead, the GOP will need an energized base to turn on its friends and friends of friends and put Romney over the top. This, in turn, will require strong local party organizations with leaders hooked into local political networks. Mostly, the mainstream (that is, Romney) party stalwarts fit this label while Paul supporters do not. Particularly for marginally engaged Republican-leaning voters, furthermore, 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.

The Democrats will, no doubt, put on just that sort of show and, unless something extraordinary happens, turn out for the President in November. The GOP needs to match this effort if it wants to have any chance of winning. Ron Paul, right now, is the one person would and could disrupt it. If he knows what’s good for his party and, indeed, the nation, Ron Paul should shut down his campaign organization and endorse Mitt Romney now.

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