Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are unlikely allies – especially because they are opponents in the race for the GOP nomination – but this has not put the lid on commentators of all stripes speculating on the existence of a strategic agreement behind the scenes.
A couple of weeks ago, former Sen. Santorum accused Romney and Paul of conspiring to not attack each other in debates and coordinating similar attack ads. He even sarcastically noted that the two seemed to have already selected each other as running-mates.
This may be the key to understanding the purported collusion between the Romney and Paul campaigns. Several media pundits hypothesized on the validity of the claims. Joe Scarborough called it an “obvious alliance” and openly speculated on what each side was getting out of the “bizarre” agreement.
A newly released Rasmussen poll shows that both Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have the best chances of beating President Obama in November. The recent poll shows former Massachusetts Governor Romney besting Obama in a general election by three percentage points. The same poll has libertarian iconoclast Paul trailing Obama by one percentage point.
An article at thestatecolumn.com has noted that Rep. Paul outperformed former governor Romney in Virginia among independents 64 to 36 percent. It additionally notes that Paul polls strongest among independents out of all the Republican candidates, while Romney polls best among Republican voters with 78 percent.
The Rasmussen poll sheds some light on what the Romney camp might be thinking, shocking as it would be to the Establishment pundits who snigger at the notion of Rep. Paul holding a position of such magnitude and import. That is, the maverick Texas congressman might prove to be the most complementary running mate for Mitt the Moderate.
At the end of the day, rank-and-file Republicans are going to get behind Romney as they dread what another Obama term might entail and evidence of the president’s infatuation with radical, paranoid neo-Marxist academics continues to mount. The crucial test is whether the ticket that Romney heads will be able to garner the substantial independent vote. Shoring up the social conservative base will ultimately take a back seat to this objective, however much the vicissitudes of the current nomination battle distort the long-run priorities.
Santorum does an excellent job of frightening moderate, independent voters with unabashed cultural conservatism; they see him as potentially theocratic. Gingrich is emblematic of the powerbroker turned super lobbyist who is prone to outlandish pronouncements and may turn off female voters with his personal baggage.
If Romney’s camp wants to lend credence to the claim of being a Beltway outsider, they can do it by offering Ron Paul the number two position. Paul can be proof positive to conservatives, Tea Partiers, and libertarians that Romney now sees the light. Paul would strengthen the legitimacy Romney craves as a candidate with serious plans to cut the deficit and get the country’s economic woes in order. After all, Paul wants to eliminate several federal bureaucracies and cut a trillion dollars from the budget in Year One.
A piece in this month’s Reason magazine vividly elucidates Romney as the embodiment of management consultancy. The article aptly summarizes the candidate with this:
“aside from being rhetorically pro-business, Romney appears to have no consistent ideological outlook. The best way to understand his campaign is a top-of-the-line consultant’s report on the contemporary GOP.”
Ron Paul’s renown for intransigent principle can serve as an antidote to this image.
Conservative intellectuals repeatedly make the point that Republicans need to focus on clearly portraying the ills of the modern bureaucratic welfare state, its hastening collapse as an economic and social model, and its fundamental irreconcilability with American liberties and the rule of law.
Congressman Paul Ryan emphatically stresses that the Republican message must be illustrated as a choice between an austere, managed-decline or a return to freedom and prosperity through personal responsibility.
Distinguished historian Paul Rahe has noted the fear that Republicans will eventually return to their post-New Deal pattern of being the “sober administrators” of an ever advancing welfare state.
Ron Paul has been a dogged and sagacious critic of the insidious creep of progressivism. His allegiance to the Austrian school of free market economics and personal liberty could provide the stark counterpoise to Obama that Romney can never authentically manifest in his own person.
The Lone Star state libertarian could allay two other concomitant Romney concerns: geographic appeal and the religion issue. Ron Paul has resided in Texas for forty years and attends a Baptist church. He is a strongly pro-life OB/GYN that refused to take Medicaid, instead performing services pro bono.
Perhaps most importantly in his favor, he has never definitively ruled out a third party run as he did in 2008 by explicitly stating he was after the Republican nomination or none at all. The recent polling against Obama and strong independent support confirm the salience of this threat. Pervasive dissatisfaction with Romney among conservatives and the rebellious urge of Tea Partiers to punish Republicans increase Paul’s chances of becoming a potent protest candidate.
But that move could potentially scuttle son Rand Paul’s political future if it embitters conservatives against the family brand.
Beyond the philosophical jolt, Paul brings his campaign infrastructure and fundraising ability with small donors to boost Romney’s formidable organization. That is something neither Gingrich nor Santorum, nor any of the other non-candidates can offer.
The biggest problem for Paul is his aversion to intervention in foreign affairs. Neoconservatives and Council on Foreign Relations-types would come crawling out of the woodwork with hysterical cries of impending doom if Paul was given the nod as the vice presidential choice.
Two costly, bloody, prolonged and misguided adventures in nation-building have thoroughly soured the American appetite for foreign intervention.
Perhaps the foreign policy establishment could take comfort in John Adams’ appraisal of the vice presidency as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”
Perhaps Ron Paul has so much disdain for the Republican establishment that he would say something more akin to Daniel Webster’s retort after being offered the vice presidential nomination:
“I do not intend to be buried until I am dead.”