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.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. With just under a week to go to the Florida primary, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich continue to duke it out over who will win that big and important state. An estimated 2 million voters are expected to turn out for this Republican-only contest.
SIEGEL: Texas congressman Ron Paul is polling in fourth place this week. He is not expecting a big win on Tuesday. In fact, he's not even competing there. He's back home in his home state today, and that's where I reached him earlier.
Representative Paul, welcome to the program once again.
RON PAUL: Thank you. Good to be with you.
SIEGEL: This week's release of Mitt Romney's taxes, and President Obama's advocacy of a millionaire's tax, raise questions about fairness in funding the government. The first question: Do you believe that income derived from dividends, interest or capital gains should be taxed at a lower rate than income earned from a salary or commissions?
PAUL: Well, I'd like to have everybody taxed at the same rate and, of course, my goal is to get as close to zero as possible because there was a time in our history when we didn't have income taxes. But when government takes it upon themselves to do so much, you have to have a tax code. But if you're going to be the policemen of the world and run all these wars, you have to have a tax code.
But as far as what the rate should be, I think it should be as low as possible for everybody.
SIEGEL: But since we do have a tax system, you would say do away with the preferential rate for investment income?
PAUL: No, I wouldn't do away with it. I would just realize that there are some problems with it. If you want it equitable, we should lower everybody's rate down to the investment rate...
SIEGEL: So, 15 percent or so?
PAUL: Yeah. I mean, if the investment rate, or the capital gains rate, is 15 and somebody else is paying 30, I wouldn't go for equity by raising everybody to 30. I'd want to lower everybody to 15.
SIEGEL: If - you've - you advocate auditing the Federal Reserve. If the Fed were closely audited and overseen by the Congress, why wouldn't it be reasonable for us to expect that more direct political pressure on monetary policy to always produce lower interest rates? Can you imagine the Congress that would say, why don't you raise interest rates already? Why don't you make money tougher on people?
PAUL: No. I think you're absolutely right. That's why I don't want that to happen because indirectly, that is the case. Presidents have put pressure on the Fed, and there's been statistics to show in election years, if you have a friendly Fed, they keep interest rates low. So you're right. I don't want the Congress dictating interest rates. I want the market to dictate interest rates by savings.
SIEGEL: But doesn't the proposal to audit the Fed, and to be able to get inside the workings of the Fed - doesn't that, in fact, increase congressional pressure on monetary policy?
PAUL: Oh, it can't be any worse than it is right now. But what it would put pressure on is, find out how they spend $16 trillion - which they used during the crisis - which banks got benefited, which European banks got benefited, and which ones will in the future? Why should their budget be two or three times bigger than the congressional budget, and nobody knows what they're doing?
SIEGEL: Newt Gingrich has proposed a commission to consider a return to the gold standard. Do you think he's sincere about the gold standard, or is he just trying to win over some Florida libertarians who might otherwise vote for you?
PAUL: I think the latter is the case.
SIEGEL: You think it's more of an electioneering ploy?
PAUL: Oh, yeah. I mean, he would've had the chance over all those years to help me out.
SIEGEL: Everyone else who's still in the Republican race can claim to have won a caucus or a primary - but you. What state can you point to down the road which you think is a sign of the viability of your candidacy - you can win, and should win?
PAUL: I'm not going to do that because I haven't calculated, so we have to wait and see. That Iowa vote was a straw vote, and the delegate allocation hasn't yet been done. And I've a very good chance to do quite well out there. So we've only had two, and I will be working in the caucus states. So to say that this means that I have no chance on - gathering up adequate number of delegates is sort of jumping the gun.
SIEGEL: No, but what's an adequate number of delegates?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
PAUL: As many as I can get. More than 10.
SIEGEL: But if you're in it to win.
PAUL: I haven't even looked at them carefully enough. Somebody else worries about those kind of things. I just think that this thing is so up and down. Romney was up for a long time. Now, he's down. Gingrich was down at the bottom and now, he's up. How many have come and gone? One thing you can't say about my campaign - I don't come and go. All I do is add.
SIEGEL: Last subject. When you've been asked about a third-party run, you always say you don't plan, intend or want to do that. Let me put the question this way: After contesting the Republican primaries and caucuses, would it be honorable to say, I didn't win; I'm going to take my marbles, go home, and run against the Republican candidate?
PAUL: Would it be honorable to do that?
PAUL: I think it's total neutral. I don't think it's honor one way or the other.
SIEGEL: But doesn't taking part in the Republican process imply some loyalty to the Republican Party so that your rivals whom you're debating with all this time and running against, if one of them bests you and gets a lot more delegates...
PAUL: Well, what if, what if young people now decide that the Republican Party wants sound money and no wars? Would it be honorable for them to come and join us?
SIEGEL: Well, that would be their decision. My question is about you as a candidate. Would you go with them? It sounds to me - you're not taking it off the table, is what it sounds like to me.
PAUL: Well, it's awfully premature because as you said, you're waiting to find out what state I'm going to win, and how many. So we have a few months to go before I will need to answer a question like that.
SIEGEL: Fair enough. One thing that Republican - or conservative pundits always remark on is, they say that what's different now from past cycles when you ran is that your son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, his future in the Republican Party might be jeopardized if you were seen as disloyal to it. Is that a factor at all in your...
PAUL: Well, I don't think that's true. I don't think they'd punish the next generation for something they think that I might've contributed to.
SIEGEL: Well, Representative Ron Paul, thank you very much for talking with us today.
PAUL: All right. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.