by Grace Wyler
For the past few weeks, reports have been circulating about a “secret alliance” between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, fueling speculation that, if the price was right, the iconoclastic Congressman might be ready to cut a deal and throw his support behind the eventual nominee.
Paul said Monday that he is “not sure” whether he will endorse the GOP’s candidate in the likely event that he loses the nomination fight. His senior advisors deny that there is any deal in the works, and bristle at the suggestion that their candidate could be bought.
“I think the narrative is amusing to no end — I would say 99.9 percent of it is media speculation,” the campaign’s official blogger Jack Hunter told Business Insider. “Ron Paul’s principles will not be compromised. I’m shocked that anyone would think that.”
“Ron Paul is incorruptible,” senior campaign advisor Doug Wead added. “In 22 years, there have been no women, no money, nothing — so I can’t believe he would make a deal now.”
Senior Paul advisors also suggested that Paul’s perceived lack of attacks on Romney could have more to do with his animosity toward Santorum and Gingrich than with any “friendship” with the frontrunner. Santorum endorsed Rand Paul’s primary opponent Trey Grayson in the 2010 Kentucky Senate race, and Gingrich once campaigned for an opponent of the elder Paul when both men were serving in the House.
“Our most cordial relationship is probably with Romney’s people, but cordiality doesn’t imply anything other than that we are civil,” Paul’s campaign manager Jesse Benton told BI. “Just because we’re polite doesn’t mean we’re cutting deals.”
But sources close to the campaign told Business Insider that, behind the scenes, there have been ongoing discussions between the two campaigns that appear to include, or at least be the precursor to, an eventual deal.
“The courtship has been underway for a long time,” a source who declined to be named, talking about internal campaign affairs told Business Insider. “They are smart enough to know that he [Paul] can’t win the nomination or get a Cabinet position … but Ron Paul has to go somewhere.”
At stake, is Paul’s legacy and the future of his movement. After two decades in the House and three presidential campaigns, the libertarian septuagenarian is nearing the end of his political career. And while his performance in the 2012 primaries far exceeded even the campaign’s expectations, there is a growing acceptance among some campaign advisors they must come to some kind of agreement with Romney and the party’s Establishment or risk forfeiting the gains made since 2008.
“You don’t have to be a math genius to know that it is going to be very hard for us to get to Tampa with 1,144 delegates,” Benton said. But, he added, ““short of Dr. Paul being the nominee, there would be a substantial price for us to throw our support behind someone else.”
The problem with any potential deal, of course, is that Paul’s support is predicated on the candidate’s unwillingness to compromise his principles, many of which are at odds with mainstream Republican positions. Any evidence that Paul had abdicated those ideals for political expediency would destroy both his movement and the Paul brand.
“Our supporters wouldn’t let us sell out, so even if we wanted to sell out it would be fruitless,” Benton said. “If it turns out we can’t make Ron the nominee, we would have to communicate with our people to see what would be acceptable to them.”
Media reports have speculated that a possible deal might include a prime speaking slot at the Republican National Convention or influence over the party’s platform discussions — neither of which is likely to be enough for Paul’s supporters.
“To think that is to think Dr. Paul is cheap,” Benton said. “He wants to save America — a speaking slot at a convention isn’t that important.”
The other option that has been floated is a possible Cabinet position for Paul’s son Rand. But Rand Paul does not engender the same devotion among the Movement, and Paul diehards are more likely to see his acceptance of a role in Romney’s administration as a betrayal than as a victory.
“There’s no way, because he would be working under a neo-con,” Dale Decker, a prominent grassroots organizer for Paul in Wisconsin, told BI. “Ron Paul Nation will not vote for a Mitt Romney-Rand Paul ticket – it’s Ron Paul or None At All.”
Kristan Harris, another Paul devotee from Wisconsin who is applying to be an RNC delegate, was more circumspect:
“It would never happen because you’d kill the movement,” Harris said. “The only scenario where I can imagine Ron Paul accepting Rand as vice president, is if they made him head of the Treasury.”
In the end, any deal between Romney and Paul will likely be implicit and reflect Paul’s broader goal to shape the Republican Party from the inside.
Paul is now poised to take advantage of the fractured Republican party, and leverage his 2012 success into a broader acceptance of his movement by the party. Sources familiar with the Paul campaign have even suggested that a quiet promise to support (and fund) Paul’s Campaign For Liberty PAC would go a long way in discussions about a deal.
The agreement would actually be a natural progression of Paul’s relationship with the Republican Establishment. Since his 2008 presidential campaign, the Paul camp made a conscious decision to diminish the perception that the candidate was about fringe issues, shifting control of the movement out of the hands of local organizers and volunteers and professionalizing the campaign with the addition of veteran GOP operatives whose first loyalty is to the party, rather than to Paul.
But as Paul’s team contemplates its next move in the glare of the national spotlight, it must strike a delicate balance between its new ideological elasticity and loyalty to the grassroots activists who have propelled the Ron Paul Revolution.