In the mid-1800s before jet airplanes and the 24-hour news cycle, politicians traveled by horse or carriage to the far reaches of their contested districts, often to debate their opponents face to face. In those days it was not uncommon for men to share a room for the night, sometimes even the same bed in places where lodging was scarce. This often put those who opposed each other for office in very close proximity, thus the birth of Charles Dudley Warner’s phrase “politics makes for strange bedfellows.”
Today there is a new truth to this quote which was recently highlighted in a Washington Post article about the close relationship between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. As the WaPo tells it, the two men and their wives began a close and lasting relationship in 2008 when they were both running for president. But, as the paper contends, the friendship is now more of a “strategic partnership: for Paul, an opportunity to gain a seat at the table if his long-shot bid for the presidency fails; for Romney, a chance to gain support from one of the most vibrant subgroups within the Republican Party.”
Strange bedfellows indeed.
The Paul camp is populated by die hard devotees who rail against anyone and anything that comes close to looking like the “establishment.” Ron Paul piggybacking some of his hopes on Mitt Romney’s success would be like a splash of acid in the faces of Paul fans everywhere. To them this would be a sellout to the world of “politics as usual.”
Paul supporters are quick to attack anyone who dares forge any sort of relationship with mainstream politicians, particularly for political gain. They rail against anyone who so much as suggests that principled or not, the Paul message is carefully crafted toward what they see as the corrupting motivation of gaining votes. Much of Paul’s support is built upon an idealistic view of his “movement” as divorced entirely from the dirty game of politics. For a big part of the Paul camp, news that Paul and Romney might be using each other for political gain is like catching your mother in bed with your uncle.
But the Paul insiders are smart. They have mapped out the long hunt. They understand what many of their most zealous supporters don’t quite grasp and that is how staying in the game, gaining ground a little at a time and positioning yourself for the future is likely a much more successful plan than the “revolution now” crowd that wears their t-shirts and shouts down on the Internet anybody who urges a more methodical approach to influencing policy.
In fact, some Paul folks have openly spoken about how their group should not support the nominated republican if it is not “their guy,” preferring to elect the liberal democrat thus giving them the rest of his term to continue their rhetoric and their call for change. This comes with the added advantage of giving them a better shot in the near future of running one of their own against the liberal incumbent, rather than trying to unseat an incumbent republican.
So how could the Paul loyalists be persuaded to get behind Romney, if the WaPo article is right, thereby giving Mitt the advantage of the Paul voters in November? One possible answer might surprise everybody. Mitt could choose Rand Paul for his vice president.
In traditional political thinking the party’s nominee picks a VP running mate for a couple of possible reasons. The first, which is more macabre humor than political reality, is that you want to choose somebody who is so unpalatable to the public that it protects you from violent removal from office.
The second most often cited reason for the VP pick is the delivery of a reliable voting block to your ticket. That voting block used to be calculated by geographic regions, such as adding a southerner to the ticket with a New Englander at the top.
But in today’s mobile world, and considering what Sarah Palin and her TEA party loyalists brought to the McCain campaign, looking at Rand Paul for VEEP actually makes some sense.
Most republicans want the party to be re-united. Most republicans see Rand Paul as born out of the TEA party movement which is representative of hard core conservative principles. Most republicans also see the establishment wing of the party as much more moderate.
Romney is establishment, and as Newt Gingrich has pegged him, he is a “Massachusetts Moderate.” Rand Paul on the other hand is very visible, very much the heir to his father’s kingdom and could very well deliver up a significant block of voters from within the GOP and from the growing number of Independents which everyone agrees that the GOP needs to get on board if the republicans hope to win in November.
Might it be that what Ron seeks, should he not get the nomination, is more than a voice in making policy, but rather, a spot on the ticket for Rand Paul?
It might not be to his follower’s liking, but maybe.
And if so, what lays ahead, could very well be a 21st century example of strange political bedfellows.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a daily commentary for KyForward.