Update 1 (5/11 00:15): Ben Swann has uncovered a memo from GOP legal council declaring all Convention candidates unbound.
Much has been made of the possibility of Ron Paul running as a third-party candidate either before or after the Republican Convention. “Will he or won’t he?” is what everybody asks.
The thing about Ron Paul is that he’s not hard to figure out. That’s what makes him such a reliable candidate. He plays by the rules, adheres to his principles, and stands his ground to protect them. The most difficult problem people have with this is accepting that ‘an honest politician’ isn’t an obligate oxymoron.
So, it’s hard to imagine Ron Paul doing anything else except playing by the rules within the Republican Party. He’s in the race through Tampa, because that’s what the rules provide for. He’s been following a delegates strategy for over a year, because that’s what the rules provide for (as of this writing, nine states look certain to nominate Dr. Paul from the floor). He won’t succumb to pressure to endorse Romney, because that’s not how the rules are written. And if Ron Paul loses the nomination at the convention, by the rules, fair-and-square, Ron Paul goes back to Lake Jackson and enjoys his time with his grandchildren.
Some speculators suggest that he’d never run Third-Party because that would damage Rand’s future chances, but he’s not one to put nepotism above principle. Others say he’d endorse Romney for an appointment at Treasury or Fed. Lobbyists already know that Dr. Paul cannot be bribed, and that’s not going to change at the pinnacle of his career. Everybody seems to assume that he has a breaking point at which he’s going to be bribed, but only because they project themselves onto him.
With Ron Paul gaining delegates steadily, to the point of Romney functionaries regularly insulting Paul delegates, circulating fake ballots, and perhaps engaging in illegal activity to deny voters representation in the State conventions, the Romney Camp is demonstrating through their actions that they have something to fear from the Paul campaign. Ignore their verbal dismissals and look at what’s actually happening on the ground. Romney’s not a stupid man, and he wouldn’t waste valuable campaign resources fighting Paul if he could save them to fight Obama.
The odds of a brokered convention are increasing every weekend. The chances of Romney picking up 1144 delegates before Tampa are falling just as quickly. The specter of Ron Paul delegates
from winner-take-all states invoking Rule 38 on the first ballot is becoming more and more real every day. These are all being done, by-the-book and by-the-rules (much to the dismay of those who wrote them).
So, what can Romney do? Throw out the rules.
At the Democratic National Convention in 2008, Sen. Clinton called for a suspension of the rules and a nomination by acclamation for Barack Obama, bypassing the voting procedure, and she wound up as Secretary of State. Who would bet against Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich making a similar deal?
No matter how loud the ‘Nays’ from the Ron Paul contingent from the floor, the Moderator of the convention can hear things differently, and so-declare it (despite the sound level meters Ron Paul delegates brought with them). There goes two years of campaigning and tens of millions of dollars, in five minutes.
OK, that summarizes the conventional wisdom to date. Now then, we have to ask, “what happens next?”
If the rules are thrown out, Ron Paul is no longer bound by those rules. Simply put, if Romney is nominated by acclamation, Ron Paul runs as a third-party candidate. And Romney can’t win an election against Barack Obama without the votes of those who would prefer to vote for Ron Paul. To win the nomination by skulduggery and deception is to lose the Presidency – and that’s a larger and more certain risk for Romney than to take his chances against Dr. Paul on a fair vote in Tampa.