As we and others noted previously, anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul’s (R-TX) presidential candidacy poses a unique dilemma for leading GOP presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The conventional wisdom holds that Romney needs Paul’s support—and his highly energized supporters—in order to be a strong nominee. In an apparent effort to court Paul, Romney told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he would vote for Paul if he ended up the GOP’s nominee—while expressing hope that Paul would somehow change his views after decades of railing against the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Today, The Washington Post reported on its front page that Romney and Paul appear to have struck a “strategic partnership” in the GOP primary process. According to The Washington Post:
The Romney-Paul alliance is more than a curious connection. It is a strategic partnership: for Paul, an opportunity to gain a seat at the table if his long-shot bid for the presidency fails; for Romney, a chance to gain support from one of the most vibrant subgroups within the Republican Party.
‘It would be very foolish for anybody in the Republican Party to dismiss a very real constituency,’ said one senior GOP aide in Washington who is familiar with both camps. ‘Ron Paul plays a very valuable part in the process and brings a lot of voters toward the Republican Party and ultimately into the voting booth, and that’s something that can’t be ignored.’
To ensure that they are heard - not just now but after Election Day, too - Paul and his followers are working to gain a permanent foothold in the Republican Party nationwide. One state at a time, Paul’s supporters are seating themselves at county committee meetings, and standing for election as state officers and convention delegates, to make sure their candidate’s libertarian vision is taken into account. The goal is a lasting voice for an army of outsiders that has long felt ignored and sees the nation headed toward ruin if things don’t change.
That is just fine with the Romney campaign, which would be happy to bring Paul’s constituency - perhaps the most intense and loyal in the country - into the fold.
Romney’s aides are ‘quietly in touch with Ron Paul,’ according to a Republican adviser who is in contact with the Romney campaign and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss its internal thinking. The two campaigns have coordinated on minor things, the adviser said - even small details, such as staggering the timing of each candidate’s appearance on television the night of the New Hampshire primary for maximum effect.
One advantage for Romney is that Paul’s presence in the race helps keep the GOP electorate fractured. But there is also a growing recognition that the congressman plans to stay in the contest over the long term - and that accommodating him and his supporters could help unify Republican voters in the general election against President Obama.
‘Ron Paul wants a presence at the convention,’ the adviser said - and Romney, if he is the nominee, would grant it.
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