Is Ron Paul (maybe) getting ready to endorse Mitt Romney?

Ron Paul's campaign website recently has featured pieces arguing that the 'mere act of endorsing' another politician (Mitt Romney or anyone) is not an abdication of libertarian principles. 

LM Otero/AP
US Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks during a break out session of the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, Thursday. Paul suspended campaigning for the White House but gave a speech to the Texas GOP convention.

Is it possible that Ron Paul is getting ready to endorse Mitt Romney? More specifically, is he beginning the delicate task of preparing his supporters for the day when such an endorsement might come?

We ask that question because Congressman Paul’s campaign website in recent days has posted several pieces that discuss political endorsements in a somewhat defensive manner. In one, campaign blogger Jack Hunter talks about libertarian founding father Murray Rothbard’s 1992 endorsement of President George H. W. Bush.

Rothbard’s libertarian principles did not evaporate because of the “mere act of endorsing,” writes Hunter.

As to the current Paul campaign, “any endorsements made or not made are done with our movement’s goals and efforts within the GOP in mind, whether some understand this or not,” according to Hunter.

In another post, Hunter reiterated that in the past Ron Paul voted for GOP Reps. John Boehner (Ohio), Dennis Hastert (Illinois), and Newt Gingrich (Georgia) for speaker of the House.

That did not mean Paul shared these lawmakers’ political beliefs. Their elections as speaker were inevitable, writes Hunter, and Paul wanted to work within the Republican Party to push his own issues.

“Ron Paul is a member in good standing of the Republican Party. Ron Paul’s message is that he is against his party when it’s wrong,” writes Hunter.

Of course, both these pieces might really be about son Sen. Rand Paul, not Paul pere himself. The second in particular mentions Rand at length.

Senator Paul endorsed Romney in an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show last week – a move that infuriated many Paul true believers. They burned up Twitter and Paul discussion boards with anger over what they saw as a betrayal.

Given that Rand’s dad technically is still running for president, the timing of the announcement indeed was a little ... odd. So was the manner in which Senator Paul implied that the announcement was some sort of joining of the Paul and Romney clans. He talked about “a kinship between our families.”

The Ron Paul campaign appeared taken aback by the degree of supporter animosity to this move. So Hunter’s works might be an attempt to calm those roiling digital waters.

Plus, a Ron Paul endorsement of Romney would be out of step with much of Paul’s past behavior. He famously refused to endorse Sen. John McCain in 2008, and bolted the party entirely in 1987, running as a third party candidate on the Libertarian ticket. We still think it’s likely that Paul senior will just strike a sort of non-aggression pact with the Romney forces that does not include explicit backing. Rand’s endorsement might have been as far as the Paul team is willing to go.

But look – Mitt Romney is going to control the GOP convention in Tampa. In the modern era nominees meld their campaigns with the party apparatus prior to the meeting, then treat it like an opportunity for a multi-day advertisement. It’s not primarily a forum for political debate.

Will Romney demand a Paul endorsement in return for, say, allowing Paul a prime speaking slot? That’s certainly possible. In return, Paul could just state the obvious – Romney is the GOP pick, and he (Paul) would prefer Romney triumph over President Obama. That could be an endorsement that doesn’t contain the word “endorse.”

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