Ron Paul more winnable?

Ron Paul at CPAC in 2010
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Is Ron Paul more winnable than before? He’s moving up, has better organization, and draws support from independents in the same year that many people are disaffiliating from the major parties.

The Virginia setup

In the last twenty-four hours, the news broke that only two Republican candidates qualified for the March 6 primary ballot in Virginia. One of these was Mitt Romney. The other: Ron Paul. That Ron Paul did gather 10,000 signatures on a petition is at least as remarkable as that Newt Gingrich didn’t. Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry did not qualify, either. Gingrich wants to set up a machine for a write-in campaign, but Virginia election laws don’t seem to allow that. Perry thinks he can sue to get on the ballot, but whether he even has standing is highly doubtful.

Since Ron Paul has qualified, he obviously has a good organization and an equally good base of support. And if the putative front-runner is so weak that he cannot qualify, then the rest of the field cannot be much stronger. (As if to underline this point, Gary Johnson narrowly made a filing deadline in New Hampshire and admitted that his campaign “just screwed up.”)

More independent voters

Of further interest, millions of voters are disaffiliating from both major parties. 2.5 million voters have left the two major parties since 2008. Some have switched from Democratic to Republican, but most of these are disaffiliating altogether. By some estimates, twice as many former Democrats as former Republicans now call themselves independent voters. But if the Democratic Party was the only party with which voters had lost patience, that ratio would have been ten to one, or even a hundred to one.

Most voters don’t bother about a thing like this. In New Jersey, a voter who wants to disaffiliate from a major party must file a form with the Division of Elections. Disaffiliation lets a voter show up on Primary Day to vote in the primary of his or her choice. But the Democratic Party isn’t having Presidential primaries this year (though they are having Senate and House primaries). So something more is at work.

Ron Paul could benefit from this. Public Policy Polling guessed last week that Paul would draw independent voters to the Iowa caucuses on January 3. He has a message that might resonate with them: anti-war and anti-intervention. Except for a hasty retreat from Iraq, Barack Obama has disappointed those voters who want all the troops to come home (and perhaps muster out completely), not just from Iraq but from Afghanistan, too. They might decide that Ron Paul can and will do for them what Barack Obama will not.

The Boston Globe makes a detailed case that Ron Paul could indeed draw support on this issue. This includes sitting in on a discussion among likely attendees in the Iowa caucuses. The things that those people said to one another strongly suggest that Ron Paul and/or his supporters are starting to convince some (but not all) evangelical Christians that continued warfare overseas is neither necessary nor proper.

Even Newsmax.com, which has a slight bias for Newt Gingrich, admits that if Ron Paul wins in Iowa, he will be a formidable opponent not only in the primaries but also for Obama.

But if Ron Paul is truly unelectable why do Democrat pundits attack him? And why do other Democrat leaning television networks pan him? Paul is just as deadly to Obama as Romney or Gingrich and he draws more independents than either one of them.

Indeed. And with more voters explicitly calling themselves independent, Ron Paul can and will draw in many of them.

Guilt by association

Ron Paul, official portrait

Representative Ron Paul (R-TX-14). Photo: US House of Representatives

Once again, many who criticize Ron Paul do so by citing what they consider unsavory associations. David Bahnsen chastens Ron Paul for associating with alleged bigots on one hand, and alleged ne’er-do-wells on the other. Douglas Wilson shoots back that the American government has its own share of unsavory associations.

[W]hy [is] association with Ron Paul…a problem, but continued association with Pakistan isn’t[?] Say what you will about Ron Paul, he wasn’t hiding Osama in his basement all these years.

Indeed. Nor is Ron Paul persecuting lawful residents in this country or any other just for being Christian, or Jewish either.

Ron Paul on Israel

Ron Paul did ask, last month, whether Americans should take for granted that American treasure, or boots-on-the-ground, would “always” flow to Israel. He said that after the United States Army did send a radar system, and a team to run it, to an Israeli Air Force base in the Negev.

Two weeks later, Ron Paul gave this interview to Newsmax.com to make himself clearer on Israel. Yes, he wants to stop the foreign-aid cash flow, not only to Israel but to other countries besides. He would also share intelligence, and refuse any arms sales that would put Israel at a disadvantage. And he would put an end to peace initiatives, Quartet Framework Agreements, and other such folderol:

We should not announce bargaining positions even before she begins her negotiations. We should not dictate what she can and cannot do. We should stop trying to buy her allegiance. And Israel should stop sacrificing their sovereignty as an independent state to us or anybody else, no matter how well-intentioned.

Ron Paul on the budget

Ron Paul has sworn to cut the budget by a trillion dollars in his first year in office. Jonah Goldberg doubts that he can do it. Goldberg goes on to say:

Paul has been in Congress, off and on, for nearly 30 years. In that time, he will rightly tell you, Congress has spent money with reckless abandon, expanded the state’s police powers, launched numerous wars without a declaration of war and further embraced fiat money (he got into politics when Richard Nixon took us fully off the gold standard). During all of that, he took to the floor and delivered passionate speeches in protest convincing … nobody.

Yes, and since then, the American people elected “Mister Thompson” of Atlas Shrugged, and now seem to realize what a mistake they made. The gold standard, and the proper place of government, are part of the national discourse as never before. Ron Paul put it there, not least by embarrassing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke  when he actually said that gold is not money.

Conclusion: Ron Paul is winnable

In sum, Ron Paul might be better able to win election than anyone thought. He still needs to adopt a more persuasive tone. But many of the arguments that various commenters advance against him seem specious and logically fallacious. He managed to get on the ballot in Virginia, and all that Newt Gingrich can do is call the system “flawed” and try to wage a write-in campaign that might not even be legal. And he is doing all this in a year when voters are deserting both parties, in great numbers.

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