EASTON, Md., February 27, 2012 — There’s something fishy going on, or to misquote Hamlet, “There’s something rotten in Denmark…er, the Republican primaries.”
Ron Paul, Mr. Libertarian himself, is now part of a tag team with Mr. Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. Talk about the odd couple. Observers who have been watching these two over the past few months are scratching their heads.
Now they have apparently coordinated with each other to skip the scheduled Georgia debate on March 1. As Jesse Benton, the Paul campaign manager, explained it, “A lot of it just comes down to scheduling. Both of our campaigns, for example, had places, specific places we wanted our candidates to be on March 1st, and they weren’t in Georgia … And so we talked it out and we said, ‘Hey, let’s present a united front and make sure our candidates can get where they need to be rather than being at the 22nd or 23rd debate in Georgia.’ That’s how we cooperate.”
It just so happens, of course, that Georgia is supposedly Gingrich’s state to win, meaning that a debate audience in Georgia would have been a cheering section for Newt on national TV. By both Paul and Romney pulling out of the debate, they basically ended CNN’s candidate debate, especially when Rick Santorum also headed for the exit door. Some pundits blamed it on debate fatigue. Doubtful. Juiced-up audiences are what keep the fire in the belly ignited. What is happening is that the new Best Friends, Romney and Paul, have found still another way to thump their opponents.
On the surface, these two candidates couldn’t be more unalike. Yet, when it comes to verbal whuppings, these two have it down pat. Just look at the tandem ads they’ve run, attacking the flavor of the month. Remember Ron Paul’s campaign ad attacking Newt as a serial hypocrite and later his ad questioning Rick’s conservative credentials, calling him a “Fake?” (see below) Both were of immense help to Mitt doubling down the case that Romney himself was making against his opponents in his own ads. And yet the new BFF rarely lay a glove on each other. Most interesting, don’t you think?
Then there was the debate earlier this month in Arizona, where their alliance was on full display. Last Wednesday, the unlikely pair had Rick Santorum in their jaws of death, seated as he was between them. It was a model of the old 1-2 punch with Paul on Santorum‘s right and Romney and on his left, figuratively as well as literally. By the end of the debate Santorum was reeling and his poll numbers started dropping, allowing Romney to inch back into a lead in Michigan.
So what’s behind this love-in? Yes, they know each other from the 2008 campaign. Yes, their wives know and like each other. But what’s in it for them, the candidates, to forge this partnership? Plenty, actually.
First, Ron Paul does not expect to win the primary, much less become President. Despite what his die-hard fans believe, he is in this race to spread his Libertarian message. And, like many smart politicians, he has learned that to get things to change, you burrow from within. No sense standing outside the Party, banging the ground with a shovel. Or to quote his campaign manager Benton again:
“You can dress in black and stand on the hill and smash the state and influence nobody, or you can realize the dynamics and the environment and get involved in the most pragmatic way to win minds and win votes and influence change. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
This symbiotic relationship is great strategy for both Paul and Romney. Paul has a real shot at having a seat at the table come convention time. That means getting a prime time speaking slot, maybe even getting son Rand Paul, the Kentucky Senator, a speaking spot as well or even better, a vice presidential nomination, and, of course, influencing the GOP platform.
For Romney it means pulling in support in the fall from one of the most energetic, well organized, and robust constituencies since the days of Ross Perot. In a tight race with President Obama, Ron Paul’s dedicated 12 to 15% of the electorate could give him the election. Then we can only imagine the depth of Mitt’s gratitude as he takes the oath of office. Guess whose door will be always be open to Dr. Paul?
And if Romney doesn’t make it to the Oval Office? Ron Paul is still in the catbird seat, having established the Libertarian movement in the GOP as a prime force, one much more important than the fractured Tea Party. He will have constructed an on-the-ground organization in many key states from positions on State Central Committees to organizing thousands of caucuses in dozens of states. It would be hard for the Republican Party to ignore the Ron Paul message any longer.
And then, remember, there is an heir apparent just waiting in the wings for his moment in history. Down the road, the Republicans just might give Senator Rand Paul his chance. Stranger things have happened.
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