This past Thursday, Rep. Ron Paul made an appearance on Fox Business and while most of the interview involved the Texas congressman’s coming retirement and his work on the Fed, he was asked whether or not he would vote for Mitt Romney. Congressman Paul said he had not yet made a decision on who he would vote for. No matter what Paul decides to do with his endorsement, it is unlikely to affect the outcome of the 2012 elections.
It is commonly known that Dr. Paul’s endorsement is very highly sought after. One of the reasons behind this is that he does not endorse other politicians very often. Very few politicians have the same record of stalwart consistency that Congressman Paul possesses, nor are there many politicians with such a devoted group of followers. For all of these reasons, political candidates around the country covet the doctor’s endorsement. What many of them don’t seem to realize is that even if Paul were to endorse someone like Mitt Romney, the endorsement would lose all of its intended effect.
Many of those who are calling on Paul to endorse Romney have a distorted understanding of Paul’s relationship to his followers. They believe that if Ron Paul says jump, his supporters will ask, “How high?” If they knew better, they might keep as far away from Ron Paul as lobbyists do. Dr. Paul has built his reputation on honesty, integrity, consistency, and principle. If he were to endorse Mitt Romney, a candidate whose own spokesman said he could change his views like an Etch a Sketch, Ron Paul would lose all of his credibility and his endorsement would no longer be worth anything to many of his supporters.
Just look at what happened when Ron Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul, endorsed Romney last month. While the reasons behind his endorsement might be justifiable from a strategic point of view if he’s eying a presidential bid, a significant portion of the “liberty movement” turned its back on Rand, calling him a traitor to his principles. This is a strong indication that Paul supporters, while very appreciative of his honesty and his political views, are far from blind hero worshipers. If Dr. Paul were to shock the world and endorse Governor Romney, his followers would most likely leave him.
Even if a Paul endorsement could help the Romney campaign, the issue is moot because it’s just so implausible. Congressman Paul is set to retire at the end of his term in 2013. Throughout his entire public career going back to 1976, Paul has doggedly stuck to his principles, even if it it hurt his prospects of political advancement. This is one of the many reasons that his endorsements are so few and far between. The Romney campaign would also be hard pressed to find anything to offer Dr. Paul in return for his endorsement. Paul has absolutely no reason to sacrifice principle now when he’s so close to retirement and has nothing else to gain.
When all is said and done, if a Paul endorsement occurs at all, expect Congressman Paul to endorse a third party or independent candidate. There is already a precedent for this, and it is likely the only way Dr. Paul would be able to sleep at night.