Mitt Romney on Thursday denied that he has entered into talks with Ron Paul's campaign to secure his delegates in case the former Massachusetts governor falls short of the 1,144 needed to clinch the GOP nomination.
While Romney remains the strong favorite to win the nomination outright, the proportional assignment of delegates in coming primary contests means that the he could fall short of the 1,144 threshold. In that case, signals from Paul to his delegates to support Romney could become crucial for whipping enough votes at the convention.
Reports Thursday suggested that Paul and Romney had been discussing that scenario through back channels, with Paul seeking either a legislative promise or a spot on the ticket for his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in exchange for his support.
But Romney denied such conversations have occurred.
“No, there have not. Ron Paul is a very independent sort as you know. We have only seen each other briefly in halls; we have never had a sit-down discussion," Romney said on Fox News Radio's "Kilmeade & Friends." "My hope would be to get the support of these folks. Let me tell you, I will support our nominee. There are four of us on the stage, I will support whoever our nominee is, I will go to work and help whether it is Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum or Ron Paul. I want one of these people to replace Barack Obama; I think I am the best person to do that.”
Romney also said he had made no decisions regarding a potential running mate.
“I have no plans in that regard at all. Haven’t even had a discussion about running mates at this point," Romney said. "We talk about the fact of what characteristic we want in a running mate if I get the nod is someone who is unquestionably capable to step in as president if that were necessary.”
Romney went on to make the point that he needed to do a better job of selling his message to voters, rather than simply articulating the delegate math. Republicans earlier this week criticized Romney for emphasizing his inevitability rather than a positive message.
"This is not a game for me about figuring out how I can get around the chessboard, or I guess you don’t get around a chessboard, but how you can get around the game board fastest. This for me is a question of what is right for America, and if the people of this country believe that I am the right one to lead the nation, then I will become the nominee and the president. And if not, someone else will," Romney said. "This is about the country; this is not about me. I think I am the right guy to lead it at this time and the right person to defeat Barack Obama, but if other people disagree, that’s their right, and I’m happy to live with that.”
Romney also responded to comments made by rival Rick Santorum on the same program earlier in the week, in which he suggested Fox News was "shilling" for the former governor.
“I don’t think you’re shilling for anyone, to tell you the truth. Each one of the people I meet has their own opinions. My guess is different ones of the commentators have different people they think have a better shot but you don’t hear that from the network or from the individual commentators. So look, you are free to express your own views but I think it’s as you say, pretty fair and balanced,” Romney said.
Romney also downplayed a question about whether he heard negative things about his campaign on the network. A testy interview with Fox host Megyn Kelly Wednesday caused speculation that the Romney campaign was upset with his treatment.
“Well it’s funny, when you hear a broadcast and nine nice things are said about you and one not nice thing is said about you, that’s all you remember is the one not nice thing. You think, 'oh my goodness they’re killing me,' and so I can see how a candidate might begin to think that someone is getting on their case but the truth is you report it all and you give us a chance to respond, that’s all we can ask for," Romney said.