Ron Paul?

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

20 December 2011

Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul

Recently, I was asked what I thought of Ron Paul's chances at the Republican nomination. Since polling currently has the Texas Congressman in the lead in Iowa, and Nate Silver predicts he'll win the state's caucus next month, I thought it might be useful to reproduce my response over here:

With my usual caveat about making political predictions: Ron Paul is meaningless. He won’t be the Republican nominee for president. The proper response is to ignore him, or sometimes laugh at him, because he is a sideshow.

The primaries are about the Republican Party choosing someone it wants to represent it in the election next November, and Ron Paul is far too far outside the Republican mainstream to be its figurehead. I see speculation, including in that Douthat post I linked to, that he could win Iowa. The theory behind this is that he’s well organized and his supporters are passionate, and Iowa rewards candidates with those traits. I would be surprised if Paul does win Iowa, but even if he does, it doesn’t matter. If he wins, he’ll keep going, but lose later. If he loses, he’ll keep going because he’s Ron Paul and he’s fighting a quixotic battle against reality. Dennis Kucinich kept going for a while in 2008 after the initial primaries too, even though the party didn’t want him.

One thing separating Paul and Kucinich, however, is that Paul has managed to shift the debate in his direction far more successfully. Paul has infected the Republican mainstream with his ideas far more adeptly than most novelty candidates do. And good for him! Democracy and such. That won’t help him, though; Tea Partiers have picked from his platform buffet style, and are content to chow on his opposition to spending on social programs while ignoring some of his less orthodox ideas.

As for whether he’s the worst thing to ever happen, well: he’s a crank, and he’s helping to pull the GOP in the direction of cranks. Really, his economic ideas are just nutty, particularly his vehement opposition to the Federal Reserve and his witch doctor passion for “hard money.” I know some folks like his principled stand on certain foreign policy issues, but I see him as basically unhinged, and I’m not going to pay credence to a madman on a street corner, even if he stumbles across something reasonable every now and then.

Ron Paul is pretty much Lyndon LaRouche with a better run fan club. And though that fan club makes for impressive polling in Iowa right now, it’s a fan club with a hard ceiling in terms of membership. The best thing to do is ignore him. I take the Homer Simpson Theory of Presidential Candidates pretty seriously.

Regular readers may notice that I've said something about more than a few of the other Republican contenders. (Regular readers may also note that I've been right about them.)  I didn't think much of the rise of the now waning Newt Gingrich, and I certainly didn't think Herman Cain was worth bothering about.

It isn't that I think I know what's going to happen in the GOP contest. The closest I'll make to a prediction is to say that, at the moment, Mitt Romney is best placed to get the nod. But the race thus far has seen a lot of contenders who are far too flawed to be taken seriously, even if a good poll result or two successfully convinces the media otherwise. Ron Paul, like Newt Ginrich, Herman Cain, and Donald Trump before him, is simply not a credible candidate, and it doesn't make sense to treat him otherwise.

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