In a wide-ranging discussion with All Things Considered’s Robert Siegel, Ron Paul, the Republican congressman from Texas, said of all the GOP hopefuls, he’s been the steady one.
“All I know is that the message is powerful,” he said in response to a question about the viability of his campaign. “The message is well-received. Our numbers are growing, and we don’t go up and down like a yo-yo.”
Paul has had solid showings in the first three contests of the primary season, but he’s the only one of the four candidates left who can’t claim a victory. He came in third in Iowa with 21 percent of the vote; second in New Hampshire with 23 percent, and came in fourth in South Carolina with 13 percent of the vote. In Florida, which votes Jan. 31, the latest CNN/Time/ORC poll has him in fourth place with 9 percent support among Republican voters. (Correction at 6 p.m. ET: We mistakenly pointed to a Gallup national poll earlier.)
Robert asked him if he could win any of the upcoming states. Paul said he had not made those calculations. Robert also pressed him on whether he would consider a third-party run. Paul, who throughout the campaign has not ruled that out, has worried Republicans because they believe a third-party run could help Democrats in the general election.
So Robert asked him if a third-party candidacy would be an honorable thing to take on.
“I think what is honorable is for me to do what I think is right,” Paul said.
Robert also talked plenty of policy with Paul. Here are some of the highlights.
— On what he thinks about Mitt Romney paying a lower interest rate on his income than many middle-class Americans, Paul said he would prefer everyone pay the same tax rate.
“I wouldn’t go for equity by raising everybody’s taxes to 30 percent. I’d want to lower everybody to 15 percent,” he said.
So, Robert asked, a person who makes $50,000 a year would pay the same as someone who makes $5 million a year?
“I don’t like the principle of a graduated income tax. It’s reflective of a system which is designed to redistribute wealth,” he said, adding that it is also an incentive for government corruption.
“Usually it just invites people to use that power to protect their wealth. This is certainly what’s happening today in both the monetary system and the way the system is structured in Washington with the powerful special interests. They’re able to use those powers to punish the people that they’re supposed to protect.”
— During Monday’s debate, Newt Gingrich said he supported Paul’s proposal to take the country back to the gold standard. Paul said that Gingrich was probably saying that for political expediency.
“He would have had the chance over all those years to help me out,” he said. “I’ve gotten more help from from [Democratic Rep.] Barney Frank. He helped me get the bill passed in the House to audit the [Federal Reserve].
“Progressive Democrats are much better in helping sort out and find out what the corporations are doing and what the banks are doing than conservative Republicans.”
— Paul walked a fine line when talking about civil rights laws. Paul has courted controversy before by saying he would not have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
During the interview with Robert, he made similar arguments saying that he can’t imagine anyone in today’s world putting up a sign that says they wouldn’t serve blacks, for example.
“I mean that is ancient history,” he told Robert.
Paul made the argument that government is the problem, that government was the one that instituted slavery and instituted Jim Crow laws. But when pressed, when asked if Americans would have voluntarily integrated, he admitted, “Some of those laws were good laws. Some of that was to repeal bad laws.”
For more of Robert’s interview with Paul, tune into All Things Considered on your local NPR member station. We’ll post the as-aired version of the interview here, later today.