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Is Ron Paul quietly winning the Missouri caucuses?

Missouri has nearly as many delegates as Illinois – and Ron Paul may be doing enough to take the majority of them.

Image: Seth Perlman/AP

WHILE MITT ROMNEY and Rick Santorum duke it out for delegates in high-profile primaries like Illinois and Pennsylvania, Ron Paul’s quiet pursuit of delegates appears to be paying off.

Early results from Missouri’s caucuses this weekend show that the long-shot presidential candidate is significantly outperforming his rivals in the race for delegates, and may be in line to take win it altogether.

Senior campaign advisors told Business Insider that Paul appears to have picked up the majority of Missouri’s delegates, despite having lost the state’s nonbinding primary to Rick Santorum.

“We did do real well in Missouri,” Benton said. “Some county conventions are still going on, but we’ve got good turnout. Anecdotal evidence shows we won multiple caucuses, and it looks like we’re going to pick up the majority of delegates.”

Although the final delegate tally won’t be determined until the state party convention this spring, Paul’s success in Missouri is a validation of his low-key caucus strategy. The Paul campaign has recently shifted its focus to winning unbound delegates in caucus states, where delegates are elected at state conventions rather than by the popular vote.

In Missouri, Paul’s robust and aggressive organization has filled a void left by Santorum’s lackluster operation. As in Iowa, Maine, and other states, Paul organisers have taken advantage of caucus chaos to stage legitimate takeovers of several county contests.

In St. Charles County, outside St. Louis, the battle between Santorum and Paul supporters grew so contentious, the caucus was eventually shut down and two Ron Paul supporters were arrested.

Santorum’s line

The Santorum campaign has offered a counter-narrative about Missouri. On a conference call with reporters today, senior campaign strategist John Yob told reporters that they anticipate Santorum will win a majority of delegates in the Show Me State.

But reports from the caucuses indicate that the Santorum campaign was completely outmanoeuvred by the Paul campaign. Although the former Pennsylvania Senator has gained momentum in recent weeks, his campaign lags far behind his rivals in terms of organization.

“Rick Santorum will never be able to catch up,” Benton told BI. “He’s been scrambling to try, but he had poor organization to begin with. He does have some party insiders and establishment people who have been lending him their organisations, but he doesn’t have one.”

The Paul campaign’s internal count has Santorum in third place, Benton added.

“His consultants should stop misleading him,” he told Business Insider. “They are destroying his credibility.”

In Greene County, for example, Santorum received just six of the delegates despite having the support of nearly half of the county’s deeply conservative Republican voters. In Boone County, Paul supporters managed to shut out Santorum entirely.

Yob blamed those losses on an alliance between Paul and Romney supporters, echoing Santorum’s past assertions that his two rivals are conspiring to lock him out of the race.

Benton conceded that state organisers did work with the Romney camp to push through a slate of delegate in several Missouri counties. But he said that there were other counties where Paul supporters worked with the Santorum campaign, as well as ones where Romney and Santorum worked together to shut out Paul.

“It was really on a county-by-county basis,” Benton said. “In some counties, there is really a palpable desire to block Romney.”

By Grace Wyler; reproduced with permission. Read more stories like this at Business Insider.

Read: Romney extends Republican lead with strong Illinois win

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