Usually, when people run for president with little chance of winning, they say their goal is to influence the conversation. While several Republican presidential candidates took Paul-like positions to try to steal some of his supporters, Mitt Romney was not one of them. After struggling to raise money in April, Paul shut down his presidential campaign Monday. Paul said something similar in his campaign suspension statement, writing, "this campaign is also about more than just the 2012 election. It has been part of a quest I began 40 years ago and that so many have joined. It is about the campaign for Liberty, which has taken a tremendous leap forward in this election and will continue to grow stronger in the future until we finally win." But did Paul really change the conversation? In the end, not really.
A series of challengers to Romney attempted to steal some of Paul's supporters, and they mostly failed. Texas Gov. Rick Perry did so most cartoonishly, when he tried to one-up Paul's call for an audit of the Federal Reserve by saying Fed chair Ben Bernanke had maybe committed treason and would face some kind of vigilante violence were he to set foot in Texas. Newt Gingrich frequently praised Paul in the Republican debates and speeches, saying Paul "has been right for 25 years"; Paul did not return the favor. But the person it was the most important for Paul to influence was the guy who actually became the presidential nominee. Did Paul influence Romney at all?
Foreign policy. Paul was the most anti-war candidate in the whole election, including President Obama. In debate after debate, Paul risked boos from the audience to say that American foreign policy had provoked the September 11 attacks. He said the wars weren't just being managed poorly, but that they were fundamentally wrong. "The problem is the character of our wars," he said February 22. "Now, the wars we fight aren't defensive wars, they're offensive wars... They're undeclared, they're not declared by the Congress, and so we're in wars that shouldn't be involved. So I don't want even the men to be over there. I don't want women being killed, but I don't want the men being killed in these wars." Mitt Romney does not share any of those views. In fact, Romney sounds even more hawkish than his neoconservative advisers, The New York Times' David E. Sanger reports. In January, Romeny said the U.S. should not negotiate with the Taliban, even though his own advisers have said that after 10 years of war, we'll have to talk to them. "It was just one example of what Mr. Romney’s advisers call a perplexing pattern: Dozens of subtle position papers flow through the candidate’s policy shop and yet seem to have little influence on Mr. Romney’s hawkish-sounding pronouncements, on everything from war to nuclear proliferation to the trade-offs in dealing with China," Sanger writes.
Ending the Fed. Ron Paul has called for an end of the Federal Reserve, and an end to paper money, so America can be back on the gold standard. Mitt Romney supports none of this. He has merely said he would not reappoint Ben Bernanke.
Abortion. Mitt Romney became pro-life before he ran against Ron Paul.
Bureaucracy. Ron Paul wanted to end five federal agencies. He wanted to sharply cut funding to things like the CDC. Romney merely floated the idea of ending the Department of Housing and Urban Development at a fundraiser in April. "I'm going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them," Romney said. "Some eliminate, but I'm probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go... Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I'm not going to actually go through these one by one… The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I'm not going to get rid of it entirely."
There is little overlap between Romney and Paul on their core issues, even after the long primary. The pair reportedly had a "non-aggression pact," during the primary, but it doesn't appear to have based on any ideological principle, contrary to Paul's reputation as a man of conviction even when he's in the minority. Paul wanted his son, Sen. Rand Paul, to be at least considered as Romney's vice presidential nominee, Time's Alex Altman reported in March. "Says one Paul adviser: 'If you’re talking about putting Rand on the ticket, of course that would be worth delivering our people to Romney,'" Altman wrote. It makes Paul seem a lot more like a regular politician than he's given credit for.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.