Anti-tax advocate (fanatic? champion? crusader?) Grover Norquist says that a Ron Paul endorsement of Romney could make or, if he withheld it, break Romney’s presidential chances. ”Ron Paul is the only candidate for the Republican nomination whose endorsement will matter to Mitt Romney,” he writes. “It is the only endorsement that will bring votes and the only endorsement, if withheld, that could cost Romney the general election. If Ron Paul speaks at the GOP convention (as he was not invited to do in 2008), the party will be united and Romney will win in November 2012. If Ron Paul speaks only at his own rally in Tampa, Florida (as happened at the 2008 GOP convention in Minnesota) the party will not be at full strength.”
Conor Friedersdorf runs through three possible scenarios in which Paul endorses Romney: 1) he gets some big concession from Romney; 2) he does it for his son, Rand whose own presidential ambitions may depend on Ron Paul’s allegiance to the party; or 3) beating Obama is just that important.
On point one, Conor points out that nobody can trust Romney so this is a very unlikely reason Paul would have to endorse him. However, this is the only of the scenarios that is at all likely. “If we don’t pull it off, and we’re not in first place, yes, that would be a good goal,” Paul said, before the New Hampshire vote. “I run to win, and I have won a lot, but we also want to help direct the party and the country in a certain way, so that would be a very positive strategy to have an influence in the party.” What will this mean? In what way does Paul plan on brokering out his influence?
On point two, I find it unlikely that Rand Paul’s success in a future election would depend on Ron Paul’s allegiance whatsoever. He’s already supported candidates from other parties, endorsing the Constitution Party candidate, Chuck Baldwin. Paul is so far outside the mainstream of his party, up until now they’ve likely preferred he endorses someone else. And finally, on point three I agree entirely with Conor. On the issues that matter to Paul it’s not at all clear whether Romney would be any better and he could possibly be much worse than the current president.
So no, Ron Paul isn’t going to endorse Romney unless he has some trick up his sleeve that we aren’t privy to. Not only that, but Paul would risk seriously upsetting his own base and support with the endorsement of someone like Romney. Since he’ll have a bunch of delegates by the time the convention roles around, this will make for some really intense politics in the coming months. Only Paul has the national organization and war chest to go toe-to-toe with Romney for the long haul. That he’s the sort of Republican who can at once run a close second, maybe even better, and not be likely to endorse the guy that wins is a pretty big deal. We certainly don’t see elections like this every year (or four, as the case may be.)
Of course, it’s possible he’ll endorse Gary Johnson if Johnson takes the Libertarian party nomination. But the question of how much influence Paul wants over his own party makes me wonder. If Paul really does want to steer the Republican ship, it’s possible Johnson is just very much out of luck.