The second stage of Ron Paul's long goodbye came at 11 a.m. today, when Paul spokesman and grandson-in-law Jesse Benton talked to the press to explain what was happening. Paul biographer Brian Doherty asked whether the campaign realizes its announcement of a scale-down would be covered as a flat-out concession.
"I wish I could say I was completely surprised," said Benton. "I was a little frustrated." His outlook for the next moneybomb: Not great. But it was "too early" to talk about endorsing Mitt Romney. Paul was "still a candidate," and would arrive in Tampa with "hundreds" of delegates. So... what would Paul do, and what did he want?
- A convention speaking slot? Unclear. "We've had no discussions about whether would Ron would speak or not speak."
- Platform planks? Yes, Paul wants several of them, dealing with the Fed, indefinite detention of American citizens, and "internet freedom." The second of those looks, at first, like the one most likely to irritate the various Kristols and Kagans of the party.
- A third party candidate? No reporter asked whether Paul, himself, would run in the fall -- a step forward, since he used to get that question constantly. But Alex Pappas and I asked whether Paul would endorse other non-Republican candidates for president, as he did in 2008. Gary Johnson? "No chance." Paul's old friend Virgil Goode? Benton got a bit more general: "It's premature. I don't believe that it's likely." What would it take for him to break from Romney? "He doesn't care very much about how he's treated," but about "his supporters" are treated. Disrespect them, pay a price.
- What does his movement want? "We want to do things that open up the party," said Benton -- one of many comments that suggested Paul wants his flock to take over the GOP, not bolt. "If their ideas are embraced seriously, Republicans can win their votes. If they're treated largely like they were in 2008, a lot of people are gonna stay home, sit on their hands." Consider it a warning. Paul supporters were getting "much more than they deserve when it comes to blame" for disruptive conventions.