Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) says he would consider putting the liberal congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in his Cabinet if he were to win the presidency in 2012.
Paul said his libertarian political philosophy helps him connect with some on the far left — including Kucinich, who shares Paul’s general anti-war stance.
"You've got to give credit to people who think," he said.
"Being pragmatic is about forming coalitions," Paul said at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. "I probably work with coalitions better than the other candidates. I don't think I've said anything negative here about the president."
Paul spokesmen Jesse Benton later said the remark was a joke, and said Kucinich is too ideologically different from Paul to be a candidate for a Cabinet spot.
"Ron works with Dennis on some coalition issues, and respects him as a thinker, but was joking and would not consider him for Cabinet position. He made clear he did not want to name Cabinet officials," Benton said.
Paul’s bid for the GOP nomination has yet to catch fire, though he enjoys perhaps the most passionate following in all of politics. He has had difficulty elevating himself to the top tier of candidates and complained that the media is not taking his campaign seriously.
But the congressman said he’s playing the long game, and values bringing political change over winning the presidency.
"Politics doesn't drive me as much as economic policy," Paul said. "We're in a big mess, personal liberty is under attack."
Paul said his presidential campaign is more about an "educational effort" of libertarian philosophies than a reflection of his personal ambition.
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"There are a lot of people who just don't want to hear this," Paul said. "Very few people understand this, they don't have an understanding of how free markets work."
The congressman said the fact that other Republican candidates are talking about the Federal Reserve or rolling back entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are victories for his campaign. Paul also says his campaign — coupled with a financial crisis that has brought into question the stability of the American economic system — is changing the prevailing attitudes of voters.
"It requires a lot more education and a lot more inroads," Paul said. "But absolutely, I think the whole country has come this way."
But Paul continues to struggle in the polls, hovering around 9 to 10 percent of likely Republican primary voters. While his showing is consistently better than some candidates who have garnered more attention, he is unsure of how he will propel himself to the top of the field.
"The supporters believe it's possible, I don't know," Paul said. "There's no reason to rule out the fact this can explode. Something has to give here."
"It partially is my fault, and I think that's what I work on most, refining my message," Paul said.
But Paul rejected the idea that he should adopt a more pragmatic or conciliatory strategy that would enable him to either grow his base among those skeptical of some of his views — particularly in terms of non-interventionist foreign policy — or achieve smaller pieces of his domestic policy goals legislatively.
"If you give up your principles, you're not being very pragmatic," Paul said.
—This post was updated at 3:45 p.m. with a comment from Paul's office.