A Moment Of Hubris On The Ron Paul For President Campaign

Much has been written in the libertarian blogosphere, both here and elsewhere since news broke last week that Texas Congressman, and one-time Libertarian Party candidate for President, Ron Paul had taken the first steps on the road toward running for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008. None, however, were quite as gung-ho as this post from James Ostrowski at Lew Rockwell.com:

Ron Paul is Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare. Forget about the establishment describing his campaign as “quixotic,” Ten or twenty years ago, maybe so. Not now.

Hillary will be the Democratic nominee once the Obama fantasy subsides. Bet the ranch on that one.

Hillary wants to run against the old neocon warhorse, John McCain. As I said in September, she wins that one 52-48. She wants to run against someone whose moral culpability for the war is greater than her own. She outflanks McCain on the war.

Ron Paul outflanks Hillary on the central issue of the campaign, the war. He was one of the few Republican congressmen to oppose it.

He also outflanks Hillary from “the left” on the drug war and civil liberties.

In Ron Paul, Hillary faces a candidate who can outflank her on the left and right all at the same time. Will the center hold?

Well, before Congressman Paul can take the podium with Hillary Clinton in a real Presidential debate, he’s got to win the Republican nomination and, for the following reasons, I don’t think he can do it. Instead, if you do support the Paul for President campaign, you should be focusing on different goals.

1. Money:

It’s the mother’s milk of politics, and if you don’t have it, you aren’t going to win. Modern Presidential campaigns cannot be run on a shoestring and expect to be successful. You can expect McCain, Rudy, and probably Romney, to raise tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars and qualify for FEC matching funds. Even if he models his campaign after Howard Dean’s 2004 strategy, Ron Paul will not raise nearly that much and I would be incredibly surprised, and dismayed, if he did accept FEC matching funds.

2. Message

Let’s face it, you, I, and most of the people who will read this will be very receptive to Ron Paul’s ideas. Most Republican primary voters, however, will not. One mention of drug legalization will through voters in places like South Carolina completely off.

3. Name Recognition

This really goes back to the money issue noted above. When most people don’t know who you are or what you believe, you need to spend a lot of money teaching them about those things. Without the money to do so, you have to rely on free media coverage to do it. When I read mainstream press articles about Paul that describe his campaign as “quixotic” and describe him as “iconoclastic” I don’t take that as a good sign. To me, it’s a warning that they may treat him more as the Dennis Kucinich of the GOP than as a serious candidate.

Even if that doesn’t happen, though, there is a danger when you rely on free media to define your campaign. Just ask Howard “The Scream” Dean.

Given these three factors, and others, I don’t think that any suggestion that Ron Paul has a chance of winning the GOP nomination is realistic.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope he comes strong out of the gate and that, when the Virginia primary comes in early June mid February 2008, he’s on the ballot so I can vote for him like I did in 1988. But I don’t think that will happen. In fact, we need to keep in mind that, so far, Ron Paul has not officially declared he’s running for President, he’s only formed an exploratory committee. It’s been quite common in American politics for someone to form such a committee and then decide not to run — it’s already happened once in the 2008 campaign when Indiana Senator Evan Bayh formed a committee then announced he would not be running. It could happen again.

I welcome Ron Paul’s entry into the race, and I think he can have an impact on the policy debates currently taking place in the GOP, but I’m not going to pretend that the campaign can go any further than that.

Update: Via Rhymes With Right, comes this from someone who has been close to past Ron Paul campaigns:

Well, I’m sure many of you have heard about it by now. Pop and I have known for a while, and if Ron decides to make a big push for the Presidency – we’re behind him 100%. Goodness knows that the current crop of candidates are extremely disheartening when it comes to the topic of conservative government.

Let me address one thing. The internet is abuzz with rumors on who will replace Ron in his Congressional seat. Off the top of my head, I can name at least 8 people who would put their names into the ring for a primary battle.

However, I also have no indication on whether or not Dr. Paul intends to retire from Congress in 2008. At this moment, he is exploring the Presidential bid. He has not announced his impending retirement, and I would not be surprised in the least if we see Dr. Paul on the ballot for CD 14 in 2008.

From this, I read two things. First, Ron Paul is thinking of retiring from Congress. If he does, he might run for the GOP nomination. Second, if he decides to stay in Congress, then the Presidential campaign is dead as a door nail.

Update # 2: Further thoughts, and a response to Ostrowski’s second piece on the Paul campaign’s chances, can be found here.

Related Posts:

Ron Paul For President !
Ron Paul’s Presidential Chances
Ron Paul Votes For Price Fixing Prescription Drugs