Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ron Paul and Republicans: It's Decision Time

Dr. Ron Paul
(image credit: paul.house.gov)
There's been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere and the news lately about whether Ron Paul may abandon the Republican Party and choose to run for President on a third party ticket.  It's not exactly a surprise to be hearing these rumblings.  However, as the first presidential primaries draw closer, it is time for both Ron Paul and the Republican Elite to make a decision on how they want to proceed.
The first decision needs to be made by the Republicans.  It's time to answer a question: Is it more important for a Republican to win the presidency, or is it more important for Barack Obama not to?  That's the decision the GOP may be making when they decide to support or not support Ron Paul.
Let's break that down.  First, don't give me that "third party candidates steal votes" crap.  It isn't true.  Our votes do not belong to candidates, they belong to us.  If I vote for a third party candidate it's because they earned it.  If a major party candidate loses by a margin smaller than the amount of third party votes, then that candidate did not earn a win.  The winner wins because they earned the most votes.  The loser(s) lose because they were not successful at earning the number of votes they need.  That is fact.  You would be unable to convince me otherwise.
Next, Ron Paul is doing pretty well.  He is raising a ton of cash.  He is obliterating the competition in straw polls.  In head-to-head comparisons, he fares extremely well versus Obama.  The only people that don't seem to like him are the Republican Elite and the media.  Hell, even the media is slowly starting to come around.
But, as noted, the Republican brass don't seem to care for Paul much.  No matter how well he does, they just can't come to embrace his libertarian ideals.  More, I believe that they dislike him because he does what he believes is best rather than simply falling into line.
Now, though, the Republicans are going to be faced with a major problem.  There is growing belief that Ron Paul will be unable to earn the Republican nomination for President.  Because of that, the calls for Paul to run on a third party ticket get louder and louder.  On Saturday, ABC news reported that the director of the Manhattan Libertarian Party had specifically called for Paul to run for the LP. (Because of his libertarian ideals, and his 1988 run for president on the Libertarian ticket, the LP seems to be the most likely spot for Ron Paul to land if he ran as something other than Republican.)
The problem for Republicans has to do with Ron Paul's enormous popularity with those outside the Republican Establishment.  If Paul ran on a third party ticket, he would most certainly earn a huge number of votes, including a part of the Electoral College. If the votes are split three ways, there is little chance that a Republican candidate will earn enough votes to win the Presidency.  In fact, because of Paul's attraction to people on both sides of the aisle, a Third Party Ron Paul could quite possibly earn more votes than the Republican counterpart.

(image credit: wikipedia.org)

So, the Republican Elite have themselves in a pickle.  Their choices are: A) Suck it up and throw their support behind Ron Paul, a candidate they don't seem to care for but that has a real shot head-to-head versus Obama, or; B) Risk Ron Paul running on a third party ticket, in which case the GOP has no chance of 2012 victory.
That being said, I doubt that the Republican Elite have the intestinal fortitude to give enough support to Ron Paul to give him a shot at the nomination.  That would require conceding.  Conceding anything is not something the two major parties are known to do.
This brings us to the decision that needs to be made by Ron Paul.  He could wait for the Republican Elite to make a decision, but that decision is predictably a negative one for Paul. The problem is, if he waits for the Republicans to decide then they could stall.  My understanding of sore loser laws is that if Paul loses a GOP primary, then most states will not allow him to run for the same office on a different ticket in the subsequent general election.
That means Paul must decide about a third party run before the primaries, which gives him precious little time to do so.  Thus far his answers to questions on this issue have been relatively vague, but seem to lean heavily towards not doing so.  Of course, he's still running for the Republican nomination, so acting like he's considering defecting would be a sure-fire way to end any shot he has at an R nod. So, for now, it makes complete sense that Paul denies any third party rumors that are out there.
If, though, Ron Paul is serious about his intentions to be President, and all indications are that he is, he and his campaign team have to be seriously looking at the Third Party possibility.  Within a month, unless polls show him much stronger among likely Republican voters, Paul will need to decide whether to hang up his hat or to run for another party.
Paul's decision about a third party, though, will mean he will need to consider many of the same things that the Republican Elite will need to consider while thinking about him. If he runs as a third party candidate, there is little chance that the Republican candidate will earn enough votes to win the Presidency.  Paul, on a third party ticket, may earn more votes than the Republican, but will have a difficult time earning more votes than both the Republican and the Democrat.  In that case, it would appear that the Presidency remains under the grasp of Barack Obama. So, is it more important for Ron Paul to win, or for Obama to lose?
The Republican Elite and Ron Paul are both nearing the zero hour for a decision to be made.  I'm sure there are Republicans everywhere begging Ron Paul to not run third party.  I'm sure, also, that Ron Paul is using that to apply some leverage to his fellow Republicans.  "If you don't want me to go, you'd better get out there and start supporting me." The GOP probably won't offer that support, thinking they are calling Ron Paul's bluff.
Historically, though, Ron Paul is not known for bluffing.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if Paul announces a third party run within the next month.  If so, it's just one other story that's going to make 2012 one hell of a ride.


  1. Sometimes I just sigh and roll my eyes when a Paul posts comes up on a blog I read.

    Paul isn't going to win and isn't a serious candidate in the GOP field. You know this, I know this, and even Paul himself knows it. He doesn't have the support, he doesn't have the infrastructure, etc...

    Straw polls are all about turnout and passion and aren't an accurate representation of actual voters in primaries/caucuses in any way, shape or form.

    The reason Paul often polls, and then receives about 10-13% in primaries/caucuses, is because his supporters are EXTREMELY supportive of him and are not "soft" support. On the other hand, these people aren't going to vote for other GOP candidates. So if Paul drops out, these people aren't going to vote for any other GOP nominee. They're only there for Paul. This is unlike, say, supporters of Perry or Gingrich. If their guy doesn't win, they might be a bit disgruntled, but they'll still support the GOP nominee.

    Paul raising a lot of money early on in the primary is essentially meaningless because most big money donors on both Ds and Rs wait until there's a definite winner and the jokes have dropped out. If Romney, for example, wins New Hampshire and finishes 1st or 2nd in Iowa, expect all the big, establishment donors to start supporting him and everyone else to drop out and support Romney.

    I wish this whole "media ignores Ron Paul" meme would be dropped. Paul is a MEDIA DARLING and gets tons of attention from them.

    Finally, I think Paul has a lot of shady ties that wouldn't live up to scrutiny. I think there are a handful of more liberty-oriented Republicans, like Gary Johnson, who have a history of being elected to statewide positions and getting stuff done. AND without some of the shady baggage that someone like Paul has.

  2. So, @IndyStudent, do you think there is any shot the Ron Paul goes rogue and jumps to a third party ticket? What is your early election prediction should that occur?

  3. Will he run 3rd party? Sure. But it'll be little more than a warm up for his future as a Cato Institute/libertarian PAC speaker or analyst.

    I think since 1996, the national electorate is a lot less willing to vote for 3rd parties unless they have a shot. That's why we're seeing success, albeit limited, in municipal and state elections from 3rd parties and indepndent candidates. But it'll be a long while until a non-D or R has a shot at the white house.