I don’t always want to be the “defend Ron Paul” guy, but I doubt that he endorses Romney if he loses the nomination, and I’m doubting more and more day to day that he’s going to lose.
Let’s put all that optimism aside and be cynical for a moment though. Ron Paul and his upstarts lose the nomination, but make enough of a wave at the convention that Romney makes major promises, concessions etc. and gets the official endorsement.
The young libertarians find Romney more repugnant than anyone other than Santorum so they either vote Obama or not at all. The true fiscal conservatives will be so disgusted they’ll either sit out or vote 3rd party. Most evangelical Christians will vote for Romney, but Obama may have an opportunity to get more than the quarter or so of these voters than he got in 2008.
The point is: if Romney wins the nomination, Obama wins the election. Even, and I’d say especially if Paul endorsed Romney.
I also think the larger Paul infrastructure would fall apart in this instance, which is why I doubt he’ll endorse Romney. Paul’s supporters have taken the state party apparatus in several states, made headway in many more and have raised the profile for his platform exponentially. He’s also got a much younger son that seems to be a true-believer as well. That’s what Paul’s backup plan is, Rand. And the rest of the leaders of his organization. The ideas really are more important to him than his own success.
Traditionally, the Democrats have sought to preserve civil liberties and reduce military adventurism. Running the country means that princpled stances sometimes run into other principled stances and compromises are made. Compromise means controvery. Civil libertarians have reason to be frustrated.1 So do those who categorically oppose military intervention.2 No politician is entitled to your support—and nobody should blame you for looking around.
Many of those looking for somebody with a more hardline stance on civil liberties and against military action found Ron Paul.3 Ron Paul, a Republican, has emphasized that he cares about “liberty,” by which he means a combination of protecting civil liberties and an extreme hands-off approach toward economics, even when that comes at the expense of a lot of people without a lot of money or influence. And if you joined Ron Paul for his civil liberties stances, maybe you’ll adopt—or at least tolerate—some of his economic stances as well.
So what happens when Paul loses the race and Romney gets the nomination? Romney’s stances on civil liberties and military action is far worse than Obama’s. He wants to “double Guantanamo” and stick with the Afghanistan war indefinitely. Apparently he’s against allowing same-sex couples to adopt now too. But, like Paul, he’s a Republican. And he’s going to make a hard sell that he’s going to protect the same kind of “economic liberties” that Paul did.[^4] And a lot of Paul supporters are going to come around—even though Romney is dramatically worse than Obama on the issues the primarily claim to care about.