Paul would become a pariah in his party, while his son, Sen. Rand Paul, who would be forced to endorse his father over the GOP nominee, would be ruined as a future Republican leader.
Why would Dr. Paul do this, when the future inside the GOP looks bright not only for him but for his son?
The course Ron Paul will likely take, then, is this.
Commit to this nomination battle all the way to Tampa, contest every primary and caucus, amass a maximum of delegates.
If Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich lose in South Carolina, they will lose in Florida, and begin to peel off and drop out, for none is a cause candidate and each will soon come to realize that his presidential aspirations are done for now if not for good.
Their departure will leave the Republican contest a Romney-Paul race, giving Paul half a year on the campaign trail to increase his visibility, enlarge his following, grow his mailing lists and broaden his donor base.
In return for a commitment to campaign for the ticket, Paul should demand a prime-time speaking slot at the convention and use the speech to emulate Barry Goldwater in 1960 when he admonished conservatives at the convention to "grow up," so that "we can take this party back."
Assuming the nominee is Mitt Romney, should he win in the fall and Paul has campaigned for him, Paul will not only have a friend in the White House, but be a respected figure in the party with a constituency all his own.
Most important to Paul are the issues he has campaigned on: a new transparency and accountability for the Federal Reserve, a downsizing of the American empire, and an end to U.S. interventions in foreign quarrels and wars that are none of our business.
Whether Paul goes home to Texas when his last term in Congress is over in January 2013, or whether he remains in Washington in a policy institute to advance the causes he believes in, his views will be sought out by the major media on all the issues he cares about.
Moreover, his fears of a coming collapse, manifest in his portfolio, could come to pass, making of Ron Paul a prophet in his own time.