Why Ron Paul May Cut a Deal With Mitt Romney

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By ALEX ALTMAN, Time Swampland

For Ron Paul, victory is finally in sight. No, not a swearing-in ceremony next January 20, or even a single statewide win. Halfway through the primary season, Paul has won only a preference poll in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and he is running dead last in delegates among the four GOP candidates for President. He has spent a lot, if not always wisely: the $ 31.55 he has dropped per vote (more than even Mitt Romney) is a sum that might shock even a Democrat.

But winning the presidency was never Paul’s foremost goal, and as he nears the end of his last presidential crusade, he has one more chance to promote his ideas. The Republican race is a muddled mess. Even after his southern losses, only Romney has a real shot at amassing the 1,144 delegates required to wrap up the nomination, and he would then face the task of unifying the GOP’s warring factions. Which is why Paul’s campaign has sent discreet signals to Camp Romney that the keys to Paul’s shop can be had for the right price.

History suggests the two men are already in cahoots. Throughout the primary, Paul has been Romney’s secret weapon. During the 20 GOP debates, Paul attacked Romney’s rivals a total of 39 times while sparing Romney entirely, according to an analysis by the liberal group ThinkProgress. Paul leapt to Romney’s defense when his tenure at Bain Capital and his taste for firing insurance companies came under attack, and skewered a series of Romney antagonists in TV ads. “He is our deputy campaign manager,” jokes one Romney ally.

Paul’s advisers bristle at suggestions that the libertarian icon is in league the GOP frontrunner. They say Paul still has a shot at the nomination if he can hold Romney beneath the delegate threshold until Tampa and then force a floor fight that sends delegates fleeing to Paul on a secondary ballot. This may be the company line, but the scenario is improbable enough that even Paul has conceded his “chances are slim.”

Even as they tamp down rumors of a pact, Paul’s advisers concede that the friendship between Paul and Romney is the initial step toward a deal. And behind the scenes, discussions between the two campaigns — as well as initial discussions with the Santorum and Gingrich camps, according to one Paul adviser — are slowly taking shape.

An alliance could benefit both camps. Paul’s support would go a long way toward helping Romney with a bloc of young Republicans who have been turning out in huge numbers for Paul and who otherwise might stay home in November. It might also help Romney grab all of Paul’s delegates. Such an arrangement would help Paul get what a Romney ally called “an important speaking role at the convention.”

To read more, visit:  http://swampland.time.com/2012/03/14/why-ron-paul-may-cut-a-deal-with-mitt-romney/

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