Let me blow your collective minds by arguing that this is real news even though it’s predictable twice over — once because of Rand’s feud with Christie and twice because Ron Paul hasn’t endorsed a GOP nominee since Reagan, I believe. The only thing that could get him to endorse a Republican again, I expect, is if Rand himself is nominated. And even then, he’ll probably have to think about it after Rand’s initial vote to filibuster Chuck Hagel.
So why is it news? For starters, there are simply more Republican primary voters now than there were in the past who are sympathetic to the Pauls’ position on civil liberties versus national security. The more Ron and Rand single out Christie as an especially objectionable big-government hawk, the more even some of his would-be supporters inside the Beltway may calculate that nominating him would cause an unusually deep party split in the general election. They’re looking for an establishment candidate to back who can beat Rand and Cruz, and then Hillary. If they think Christie would be too “divisive” to Republicans, some might move on to Rubio or Ryan instead.
More importantly, the precedent set by Ron of not compromising on principle to endorse the nominee in the interest of beating the even-worse Democrat could come back to hurt Rand. The threat of McCain and other superhawks crossing the aisle to vote for Hillary if Rand’s nominated is real. If/when McCain does it, he’ll point back to the fact that not only did Ron Paul refuse to endorse him in 2008, he was preemptively non-endorsing potential nominees like Christie right up to the 2016 cycle. And, McCain will add, he was right to do so; people need to do what they think is best for America on balance in choosing a president, not toe the party line out of mindless loyalty. This is why, I think, Rand decided to endorse Romney last year — to the great consternation of grassroots libertarians — even after Ron refused. He had his eye on 2016 already and knew he was vulnerable potentially to hawks pointing to his dad as someone who bucked partisan affiliation in presidential elections. Rand did his best to make that harder for them by backing Mitt, but there’s only so much mileage to be had from that. I thought maybe Ron, when asked this time, would be coy about potentially endorsing some of Rand’s GOP rivals on the theory that Hillary Must Be Stopped no matter what our other differences. Rand then could have pointed back at that down the road as part of a “unity” plea, as proof that even his famously contrarian dad thought the party should pull together to stop the spread of statism. Instead, he got this. Oh well.