HUDSONVILLE, MICHIGAN — There’s no way Ron Paul is helping Mitt Romney in Michigan, his supporters at a campaign stop outside Grand Rapids told me Sunday. And if it turns out that he is, he’ll risk the rock-solid base he’s built his campaign on for two cycles.
With the polls basically neck-and-neck between Romney and Rick Santorum, chatter in the final days before the Feb. 28 Michigan primary has taken a turn for the conspiratorial. Some Republicans expect the grassroots progressive effort to throw votes to Santorum will have an impact on the final results, while Santorum supporters — and the candidate himself — grumble that Paul and Romney have cut a deal to keep Santorum from winning.
Paul says the whole thing is ridiculous. He denied any collusion in a conversation Saturday with National Journal. But it’s certainly true that Paul’s current negative ad blitz in Michigan is aimed squarely at Santorum and uses the same attack language as Romney ads.
Just the other day, Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said “it would be an honor to be considered” for Romney’s VP slot, should it come to it, leading some to speculate there’s a quid pro quo in the works. (Some also have suggested it’s more likely there’s a cabinet position in a Romney administration for Ron Paul in return for the assist.)
But Paul supporters gathered in Hudsonville I talked to said some of the shine would come off if it turned out, in their eyes, he was doing something as petty and common as making a deal with Mitt Romney.
To be fair, no one I talked to in Hudson believed anything was going on in the first place. One Paul supporter, Dan from Shelby Township (neither he nor his wife, Nicole — both decked-out head to toe in Paul gear — would let me print their last name) wouldn’t even entertain a question about a Paul deal with Romney.
“There’s nothing going on” Dan said, matter-of-factly. How can you be sure? I asked. “Because he’s a principled man,” Dan replied.
Others agreed that the Paul they know couldn’t be cutting a backroom political deal with Romney of all people. And if he is, they said, the world has turned upside-down.
“If Ron Paul would compromise on that then wouldn’t he compromise on everything else?” Garret Stampfler of Battle Creek told me. He said a deal between Romney and Paul “would be a disappointment.”
Others were willing to cut Paul some more slack.
“I’d be a little irritated,” said Matt Burdick of Union City. “But I’d say a Rand Paul VP would make Romney a little more palatable.”