Presidential candidate Ron Paul is not expected to ultimately endorse presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Paul's chief strategist said Tuesday.
"Never say never, but I don't believe that's likely," said Jesse Benton, during a half-hour-plus give-and-take with reporters.
And there's also no chance, he said, that Paul, who is remaining in the race in an effort to collect delegates to the Republican National Convention, will endorse Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Or that he would endorse anyone outside the Republican Party, he said. Unless his supporters are treated badly.
During the call, in what appeared to be a direct message to Paul supporters, Benton repeatedly emphasized that the campaign expects its delegates to the national convention to act with "decorum and respect."
"Our supporters are going to get an excessive amount of blame for problems that arise in heated moments" during the August convention in Tampa, Fla., he said, calling for "respect and civility" among those participating.
"They're going to be under a microscope," Benton said.
The Paul campaign estimates that it already has secured about 100 national convention delegates committed to Paul, a Texas congressman.
On Monday, Paul announced that his campaign would no longer invest in presidential primary states, and Benton said the campaign had turned down the Republican National Committee's offer to set up a joint general election fundraising committee, as it has with Romney.
But Paul is expecting to pick up additional national convention delegates this weekend at the Minnesota state GOP convention, and in coming party conventions in Washington, Missouri, Louisiana and Iowa, Benton said.
The delegates are serving as Paul's leverage to influence the party's convention platform and party rules going forward. Benton said the campaign has been in contact with Romney campaign officials about the platform, and they've "agreed to be helpful."
Paul's platform focus includes Federal Reserve transparency and accountability, monetary reform, Internet freedom and opposition to indefinite detention.
"There have been no discussions [about] whether Ron will speak or not speak" at the convention, he said.
As to whether Paul supporters would get behind Romney once he secures the nomination, Benton had this to say: "I think that's still up for grabs. The ball is in the court of the Republican Party, and in the court of Mitt Romney."
It depends, he said, on whether Paul supporters and their ideas are treated "seriously and with respect."
"In a nutshell, we want to do things that open up the party," he said, and that prevent the party establishment from "locking the party down and benefiting the people who are already inside the tent."
Is Paul concerned that if he doesn't endorse Romney, the expected GOP nominee might lose to President Obama?
"That is not going to figure into Dr. Paul's calculus," Benton replied.