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Vice President Paul?

Late last month, Mitt Romney reportedly sat down [1] with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for a “productive” half-hour meeting. Naturally, this caused speculation that Romney might choose Ron Paul’s son as his running mate for the fall campaign.

The agenda was probably less ambitious. It’s more likely that Paul wanted to gauge his comfort level for a possible Romney endorsement by discussing policy details. In turn, Romney was reaching out to a prominent Tea Party figure who serves as a bridge between his father’s libertarian-leaning movement and the mainstream of the Republican Party.

But let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine that there’s something to the speculation. What could Romney and the younger Paul intend to accomplish by teaming up? On paper, the match could quiet most remaining conservative discontent with the presumptive nominee. Rand Paul is a rare politician who can still rally the Tea Party after winning office. He also might be the only vice-presidential prospect who could maximize Romney’s share of Ron Paul voters—1.8 million at last count, not including potential Paul sympathizers who were ineligible to participate in GOP primaries—many of whom might otherwise stay home, write in the Good Doctor, or vote third party.

In return, Senator Paul would see his national profile elevated considerably. If the ticket prevailed, he would be vice president of the United States. That would confer upon him automatic frontrunner status for the presidential nomination in 2020. And it would give the libertarian wing of the party a place at the table in a Romney administration. Even if Romney loses, the exposure could help Paul mount a much stronger presidential campaign in 2016.

There are problems with this scenario, however. First, Paul would certainly feature prominently in the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney for being too right-wing. Indeed, the senator would become Exhibit A. The same can’t be said for less risky choices like Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. If Romney is defeated for any reason, expect the conventional wisdom to blame the Tea Party radical under him on the ticket.

In some respects, Paul would be a riskier partner for Romney than Sarah Palin was for John McCain. Barack Obama was in a much stronger position in 2008 and McCain had little chance of winning from the start. Palin was a Hail Mary pass, a last-ditch effort to find a candidate who could rally the conservative base, add both diversity and executive experience to the ticket, and potentially peel off disgruntled Hillary Clinton Democrats. By contrast, Romney is beginning the general election campaign in a dead heat with Obama and has less to gain by making a big splash in the veepstakes.

If Romney-Paul were to win, libertarians and traditional conservatives have to ask: how much influence would a Vice President Paul really have? Dick Cheney presents a distorted picture of the power of the vice presidency. Most vice presidents perform only ceremonial functions, like attending state funerals for foreign dignitaries and casting the occasional tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Despite developing a fairly close personal relationship with Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush quipped of his vice-presidential role, “You die, I fly.”

Joe Biden appears to be involved in the White House’s high-level decision-making process (though the extent of his role won’t be clear until after the administration is over). But from what little we know, he seems to be overruled — as he was on both the Afghanistan surge and the bin Laden raid — at least as often as he’s heeded. And foreign-policy expertise is what Biden was supposed to bring to the Democratic ticket.


At best, Paul could end up a vice president on the model of Al Gore: a trusted adviser of the president who is given wide latitude to pursue projects of mutual interest to the vice president and the administration. Alternatively, he could be dispatched to rally the Republican troops like Dan Quayle. Paul would be leaving a Senate seat from which he could check Romney’s interventionist inclinations in foreign policy and centrist tendencies domestically to take a job inside the Romney camp where he could be powerless to shape policy.

If President Romney were to tack to the center at home or wage preventive wars, the only way Vice President Paul could keep his father’s base intact is by resigning. This would be unprecedented. Perhaps a principled resignation over a hypothetical Romney tax increase would even boost Paul’s political fortunes. But if a resignation were motivated by, say, war with Iran, Paul’s departure would doom him in Republican politics and probably not stop the war.

A Romney-Paul unity ticket sounds very compelling in theory. In practice, it would be unlikely to benefit either party.

W. James Antle III is associate editor of The American Spectator and a contributing editor of The American Conservative.

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "Vice President Paul?"

#1 Comment By shotgun wedding On June 7, 2012 @ 8:23 am

I agree. No go. Rand Paul needs more seasoning in the Senate, and would only be tainted by association with the balls-up of a Romney loss or – likely worse – a neocon-freighted Romney administration. He and we are better off if he’s outside that particular tent, aiming in.

#2 Comment By Sean Scallon On June 7, 2012 @ 10:16 am

The risk for Rand is being on the losing ticket. The last vice-presidential nominee of a failed ticket to go on to win their party’s nomination four years later was Walter Mondale and he barely did so. I think Franklin Roosevelt was the only losing vice-presidential nominee ever to win his party’s nomination years down the road.

The brutal reality is a Romney Presidency would be a disaster for the Paul movement because the first thing the Romneyites will do is regain control of of those state parties which have slipped away from them. Paul’s forces would have zero influence in a Romney Presidency and Rand would be compelled to support the President as a member of his party. He would be no more of an independent voice than Jim DeMint was under George Bush II.

#3 Comment By paul gottfried On June 7, 2012 @ 10:18 am

I fully agree with all of Jim’s arguments but would add another point that may be equally compelling. The neocon sponsors and donors of Romney would throw a fit if Rand Paul were inflicted on them as a vice presidential nominee. An isolationist, small-government figure is the last thing they would want in a GOP presidential ticket. They would not trust Paul as a reliable ally in Middle Eastern affairs; and they would see his doubts about certain aspects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as an indication of his racial insensitivity and hardline rightwing views.

#4 Comment By Clint On June 7, 2012 @ 10:45 am

There is a rebellion going on inside and outside The “Lesser Evil” Democrat Lite Ruling Elites’ McCain Redux GOP and Dr.Ron Paul,Dr.Rand Paul and their supporters are no more going to appease the faux conservative opportunist,Romney than our Pennsylvania Paul supporters appeased Arlen Specter’s faux conservative ambitions.

#5 Comment By David Peterson On June 7, 2012 @ 10:46 am

Mr Antle III is an expert at writing articles that take several pages to state the obvious, like Katy Perry is really stacked or that Elvis is probably dead. Romney won’t pick Mr Paul for the same reason he won’t pick someone like Sarah Palin.

#6 Comment By Clint On June 7, 2012 @ 11:04 am

Dr.Ron Paul & Dr.Rand Paul are Non-interventionists, not Isolationists.

” Nonintervention is distinct from, and often confused with isolationism, the latter featuring economic nationalism (protectionism) and restrictive immigration. Proponents of non-interventionism distinguish their policies from isolationism through their advocacy of more open national relations, to include diplomacy and free trade.”

#7 Comment By Ken Z. On June 7, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

Rand Paul would be a great Secretary of Commerce. And it woulod give him valuable executive experience, which he could boast of in his future presidential campaign.

Just speculating.

#8 Comment By Scott Lazarowitz On June 8, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

Rand Paul as a VP nominee with Willard Romney is an endorsement for warmongering, “reforming the Fed” (but not ending it), the NDAA law which Romney supports, and other police state policies, as well as an endorsement for raising taxes. Romney raised taxes on businesses in Massachusetts for no good reason. Romney has already said that raising taxes on the rich is possible: “Everything is on the table.”

Unfortunately, Rand Paul is not particularly principled as Ron Paul is. Endorsing Romney, or worse, being his VP is a total sell out to the Tea Party movement (which is practically dead now anyway, thanks to the threats by union thugs, etc.), and to the libertarian movement as well.

#9 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 9, 2012 @ 9:43 am

I would love to see Ron Paul replace Joe Biden on the ticket with President Obama. That would be the kind of fusion America could benefit from.

Rand Paul and Mitt Romney have one thing in common: neither it one tenth the man their fathers were/are.

#10 Comment By anon On June 9, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

Both Rand and Ron are anti-choice, and Ron sponsored a bill that would give states free rein to violate the rights of atheists and homosexuals, and has blatantly lied about the state of First Amendment jurisprudence. Is this is what passes for “libertarian-leaning” within the Republican party?

#11 Comment By Andy On June 10, 2012 @ 4:17 am

Ron and Rand Paul teaming up with Romney would be the biggest political merger of our life times. I’m a republican who has never thought of voting for Ron Paul for anything, but you have to be blind (maybe even a “sheep” to quote Paul supporters)not to see how big his following can get. On the national circuit, if the Intellectual Godfather was campaigning for Romney, it would be the biggest imaginable blow to the Obama/Biden ticket. Also, Rand would mop the floor with Biden in that oh so important opening debate.

Again, this is coming from a very conservative voter.

#12 Comment By ronb28135 On June 10, 2012 @ 11:18 am

Now it is official Rand Paul is a neocon who just endorsed a candidate who has committed himself to continuing the Middle Eastern wars, a free pass for the Federal Reserve,
100,000 NEW troops, 15 new ships per year for the Navy, no reduction in spending, and Romneycare over Obamacare. Whatever political capital Rand Paul had he squandered when he endorsed Mitt Romney. Paul’s supporters will probably vote for Gary Johnson. I am.

#13 Comment By VikingLS On June 11, 2012 @ 10:42 am

Andy as long as Mitt Romney remains a supporter of a vast American empire abroad and a police state at home Ron Paul supporters aren’t going to vote for him. You need to look at all the comments on this from Paul supporters.