WASHINGTON -- A top adviser to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said Tuesday that the insurgent presidential candidate will probably not endorse Mitt Romney for president.
"I would never say never," said Jesse Benton, national chairman of Paul's campaign. "I do not believe that that is likely."
Benton told reporters that Paul and his campaign staff have appreciated the respect with which the Romney campaign has treated them in discussions about the party platform, which will be voted on at the Republican convention in Tampa in August.
But Benton said the support of Paul's devoted supporters is not guaranteed to go to Mitt Romney and issued a warning. Paul, a 76-year-old congressman who is leaving the House after his current term, wants placed on the platform the following: a proposal for stricter oversight of the Federal Reserve, a ban on indefinite detention of American citizens as well as a provision advocating greater freedom on the Internet, to keep the government from treating it as a "public utility."
Benton implied that if the carefully selected items are not included in the platform, many of Paul's supporters might withhold support from Romney in the fall election.
"The ball is in the court of the Republican Party and the court of Mitt Romney," Benton said. "We're bringing forward an attitude of respect, and we're also bringing forward some very specific things that we believe in. If our people are treated with respect, if our ideas, their ideas are embraced and treated seriously and treated with respect, I think the Republican Party will have a very good chance to pick up a substantial number of our votes."
"On the flip side," Benton continued, "if they're treated like they were in 2008, a lot of people are going to stay home and a lot of people are going to sit on their hands."
There was even a hint that current promises to respect decorum at the convention might be thrown aside. That may not be an idle threat. Paul controls more than 100 bound delegates, Benton said, and he estimated that there are another 200 delegates from states that Romney won who are bound by party rules to Romney, but who support Paul and could conceivably decide to disregard the rules and voice support for Paul at the convention.
"If his supporters are treated very poorly, [Paul] could do some different things," Benton said. "At this time, I would say that is extremely unlikely."
On Monday Paul said he would no longer campaign in the 11 states that have yet to hold primaries or caucuses, an admission that he cannot win the nomination. But he is continuing to work to win delegates through the state convention process, aiming to influence the party infrastructure and activist base, and also to influence the platform, with an eye toward shaping the GOP beyond 2012.
Benton was definitive about one thing. He was asked whether Paul might consider campaigning for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
"There is no chance of that," Benton said.
Below, more on the path of Paul's campaign: