Ron Paul, or anyone else for that matter, can be made the Republican nominee without winning even one popular vote. That's because the popular vote does not matter as much as the delegate race.
I don't even need to wait for the final West Virginia results to write this piece — Mitt Romney, popular in the media, will do well in the popular vote. Ron Paul's supporters diligent in fighting for greater freedom in America will be involved in the delegate process and will take over the West Virginia Republican Party.
Ron Paul will be perceived by those who get their news from TV as unpopular, while Mitt Romney may not have the support of his delegates and the support of his party. No one can win the presidency without the support of his party. It's a risky situation for either candidate.
The Sunday morning TV pundits point out that two competitions take place during a presidential election: 1) The narrative of electability and 2) The delegate count. "Do people believe you can win?" and "Do you have the delegate strength to win?" Until then, it's all conjecture from pundits and journalists who evidently have some stake in making you believe in a story that doesn't exist.
With an extensive amount of political experience behind me, I'm often dismayed to see what a poor job the media does at estimating the number of delegates. Not only do most media sources not even use the term "estimate," they imply greater accuracy by usually referring to this estimate as a delegate "count." I'm further dismayed by how many people willingly accept the delegate estimate based on little more than the unquestioned conjecture of the overworked, underpaid journalists who assembled the delegate estimates of the Associated Press and New York Times, among others.
The most important news to come out of West Virginia today is "Neo-conservatives boost Romney's reputation in run-up to the election, but prepare to lose the Republican Party to Ron Paul Supporters." It's just not news. The party leaders have become Paul's in many places, the delegates as well. It's been a trend since at least 2008.
I can praise the fact that Paul's campaign almost always increases its popular vote totals two and three-fold over 2008 results, but I won't. I will only point out that the popular vote may not be relevant. It is after all a delegate voting his or her conscience that chooses a nominee, especially during a brokered convention, which is something it looks like the Republicans are increasingly headed towards.
The news from West Virginia is that things are going better than planned for Ron Paul with his delegate count and that Romney is vying for the nomination in a party that will stay home in the general election before backing another lukewarm candidate.