The Nebraska Republican Convention was Ron Paul's last hope for a move into the GOP mainstream.
If Paul had managed to secure a plurality of Nebraska's delegates, the candidate would have been guaranteed acceptance at next month's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Unfortunately for Paul, Mitt Romney received the most delegates. Paul won only 2 of the 35 available delegates.
Ron Paul has always been a curious candidate, embraced in large part by supporters who feel alienated from the political process as a whole. And while this outsider spirit has emboldened his supporters, it also means that Paul has received almost zero mainstream support.
The Ron Paul campaign's primary tactics had been a series of insurgencies, attempting to out-organize other Republicans and wrest control of state conventions at the voting booths. While supporters were hoping that grassroots energy could carry Paul to the Republican National Convention, it appears populism can only go so far.
According to GOP regulations, candidates are only guaranteed a spot at the national convention if they carry five or more states. While Paul holds a plurality in Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, and Minnesota, he has lost his last chance to secure the requisite number of delegates in Nebraska.
Had Paul won a plurality there, he would have been eligible for nomination as the official Republican Party candidate, and the convention would have been required to offer Paul at least 15 minutes of speaking time to present his case. Those dreams have been dashed, but Paul has always been a rather unconventional fighter.
So what is Paul's next move after being denied a spot at the Tampa convention?
In 2008, Paul and his supporters were locked out of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. In protest, they held their own convention at a different location in the city.
ABC News correspondent Chris Good wrote that Paul may be planning the same thing this year.
Paul's campaign has said it expects to bring as many as 500 supportive delegates to Tampa, so Paul's presence there could be noticeable nonetheless, Good wrote. Paul is planning a rally in Tampa around the convention, and his supporters have organized Ron Paul Festival, an independent event that will include live music.
Good also pointed out there is no guarantee that Paul will be locked out again. If the convention organizers and Romney allow him, Paul may still have a chance to state his case for nomination. The counter-convention seems to be planned as a backup.
Supporters online wrote that even if Paul does not win the nomination, their campaign is not over. They referred to their goals as a liberty movement that outshines one particular candidate. Some feel that switching their support to other candidates -- anyone but Romney or Obama -- will be an effective way of realizing their goals.
Real conservatives will switch to supporting Gary Johnson, or maybe go over to the Constitution party, wrote Reddit commenter LibertyOne. But to support the GOP that's laughing at Ron Paul and our supporters right now would be like hitting our own heads with a hammer. It'll be Gary Johnson for me. He's not perfect, but has principles.
As for Ron Paul himself, his plan remains to be seen.