The third-party upstart group Americans Elect held its first online nominating election recently, but it failed to produce a candidate because not enough people voted.

The nonprofit group's rules stipulate that a candidate must receive at least 10,000 online delegates, and at least 1,000 from 10 different states, in order to be nominated. As it would happen, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) came the closest of anybody else, even leading former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer (R), who's actually running for the party's nomination.

If the board and community decide to neglect the minimum threshold requirements and go with the votes they received, that would make Rep. Paul their top "draft" candidate. Americans Elect rules explain that only verified delegates may draft candidates, and at the time of this writing, Paul is out ahead with 9,378 delegates. Roemer has just 6,075.

"Through the efforts of thousands of staffers, volunteers, and leadership, Americans Elect has achieved every stated operational goal. Despite these efforts, as of today, no candidate has reached the national support threshold required to enter the 'Americans Elect Online Convention' this June," Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd explains in a statement published to their website.

"Every step of the way, AE has conferred with its community before making major decisions," the statement concludes. "We will do the same this week before determining next steps for the immediate future. AE will announce the results of these conversations on Thursday, May 17."

With Paul announcing this week that he will no longer be campaigning in states with upcoming primaries due to a lack of money, and the leak of an internal strategy memo that acknowledges he cannot win, his dubious placement atop Americans Elect could spark serious talks about whether Paul is willing to chase his presidential ambitions even to the detriment of the Republican Party, which he did just once, in 1988, when he sought the presidency as a Libertarian. Perhaps needless to say, he's a much better known candidate today, having played an integral role in the formation of the tea parties before the Republican establishment adopted them as their own.

So far, Americans Elect has qualified for presidential ballot access in 27 states, according to Politico. With Paul only months away from being completely shut out of the presidential race by presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, that's considerably more states than he would have access to if he simply gives a speech to the Republican convention and goes home in August.

However temping a third-party run may be, there's no indication that Paul is interested, and neither Paul's campaign nor Americans Elect responded to Raw Story's requests for comment. Paul has instead urged his supporters to seize the very reins of the Republican Party at the state and local levels, in hopes of changing the party's lean from a neoconservative, hawkish stance to one that better projects paleoconservative, libertarian values.

Paul also recently commented that he plans to continue pursuing the Republican nomination because Romney could still "stumble," giving him an unexpected opening.

"[The] one thing that is not practical and is not realistic for the supporters who have encouraged me to do this, would be to say, ‘Well, we’re in the third lap of a mile race, we’re behind. Oh, OK, let’s walk off the field,’" he told CNBC recently. "That’s the way they would see that. You don’t quit because you happen to be behind."


Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore, creative commons licensed.