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Is Ron Paul a Double Threat Candidate?

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One of the arguments used to dismiss Representative Ron Paul’s viability as a presidential candidate is that he is a libertarian masquerading as a Republican who appeals to a limited but high intensity audience, a popularity which will not translate into victory in most states. This argument is being used by pundits and media spokespeople to explain away his near-tie for first in the Iowa Caucus.

It’s a reasonable argument based on his small but loyal following in the 2008 election, but despite its basis in fact it is not sufficient to explain Paul’s current success. The problem is that Iowa is anything but a state dominated by libertarian-leaning Republicans. In fact, Iowa’s Republicans are 54% evangelical Christians who are strongly socially conservative and have very little in common with more libertarian Republicans. If Paul’s only appeal were to Liberty Republicans then Paul would have done poorly in Iowa where voters are anything but pro-liberty.

One measure of how libertarian Republicans in a state are is how active the Republican Liberty Caucus, which represents libertarian Republicans, is in that state. Iowa is an extremely weak state for RLC membership and involvement. Unlike most states, especially Republican dominated states, it has no active RLC chapter and it offered a single endorsee for office in 2010 and he did not win election. Compare that to New Hampshire where the RLC offered over 100 candidates for office in 2010 and has 81 members in the state House of Representatives.

New Hampshire Republicans lean libertarian and those in Iowa clearly do not. If Paul’s appeal was solely to libertarian voters then Paul would be dominating New Hampshire and would have bombed in Iowa where a libertarian message is not terribly welcome. Yet Paul pulled off a tie in Iowa, receiving the same number of delegates as Santorum and Romney, even better than he is likely to do in New Hampshire where he seems a solid lock for second place. He may also go on to pass the declining Gingrich and take second in South Carolina which has a balance of libertarian Republicans and more socially conservative Republicans.

All of this suggests that contrary to the conventional wisdom, Paul is not a single-constituency voter, but rather a double-threat with two bases of support. He appears to appeal not only to the expected pro-liberty demographic, but also to more traditional conservatives including a lot of religious conservatives. Paul’s balance of libertarian policies and personal inclinations towards social conservatism seems to resonate with both groups, giving him a much broader base than just the high-intensity ideologues most commonly associated with him.

In fact, based on the combination of his personal views and policy positions, Paul may not be the marginal candidate many assume him to be. With the exception of hardcore neoconservatives for whom an aggressive foreign policy is paramount – a viewpoint in disrepute after the failures of the Bush era – Paul has something to offer most of the other constituencies within the Republican party. His hands-off policies appeal to many social conservatives as well as libertarians. His clear personal religious faith attracts religious conservatives. His fiscally conservative policies appeal to both those who want government reform and to pro-business Republicans. In addition, the latest FoxNews poll shows asked voters who was the “true conservative” in the race and 40% answered Paul while 34% answered Santorum. Clearly Paul has created a larger niche as both the most Conservative and most Libertarian candidate in the race.

In Iowa Romney got almost none of the conservative vote while Santorum ended up sharing the conservative vote with Paul. But unlike Paul, Santorum has very little money and even less appeal to voters outside of that hardcore conservative base. Santorum polls very poorly in New Hampshire and without money he lacks the legs to catch up with other candidates. As Santorum’s Iowa surge fades, it’s quite likely that many of his supporters – who may be “anyone but Mitt” voters – will move to Paul with whom he shares conservative common ground.

If it proves to be true that Paul has two bases of support within the Republican Party, winning over both serious conservatives and libertarians, that puts him in position to be the preeminent challenger to Romney’s broad but lukewarm appeal. Though the media may continue to argue that Paul is unelectable, with this clear evidence that his base of support is much broader than originally believed, this may come down to a very close two-man race between Romney and Paul.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Arch Conservative

    “The Repubs have absolutely zero candidates who appeal to the nation at large.”

    I agree that that is true to a certain extent Greg but you forget that this election, like all elections involving an incumbent president, is largely a referendum on that incumbent and Obama aint exactly winning the hearts and minds of the nation at large these days either.

    There are many many out there who will be voting for Romney this Novemebr simply for the fact that he’s not Obama.

    By your reference to the tea party as loons I’m assuming there’s a good chance that you may be one of the kool aid drinking Obama cultists. You misunderestimate the “I’m not voting for this guy I’m voting against that guy,” mentality that may deliver the presidency to the GOP this fall.

    Oh and as for your assertion that “Your only possibility is Romney – and all of you hate him even more than you did McCain,” I can only assume that by “you” you mean Republicans, to which I say, as least in my case, you couldn’t be more wrong. Romney while not even close to my ideal candidate, is far more platable than McCain was. I didn’t vote for McCain but will most likely vote for Romney in 2012 general. People like myself have the motivation of Obama’s miserable performance and his constant patting of himself on the back that was not there in 2008.

  • Greg Barbrick

    Does anyone think this guy actually has a chance? Last week it was Gingrich – and we all know how Bill Clinton made the man his b***h.\

    I don’t care how the country feels about Obama with over a year left in his term. The Repubs have absolutely zero candidates who appeal to the nation at large.

    Tuff teats – but you guys have nothing but TP loons who may appeal to you – but not to the public at large.

    Your only possibility is Romney – and all of you hate him even more than you did McCain.

    It is too bad you have been taken over by the lunatic fringe, because you actually had a shot.

  • zingzing

    so archie appreciates totalitarianism… the virtue of compromise is democracy, pluralism, freedom, liberty, etc.

  • Arch Conservative


    Can someone please explain the virtue of compromising with those whose belief system is just about 180 degrees from your own? I don’t get it.

  • Glenn, Paul has shown some ability to compromise recently, much to my surprise. And a Santorum/Bachmann ticket could never get elected.

    I much prefer the idea of a Paul/Huntsman match-up. It would be electable and between them they balance out very nicely.


  • Arch Conservative

    “You know in your heart of hearts that Paul cannot win.”

    What I know is that Paul cannot win because the majority of my fellow Americans are too GD ignorant to recognize a good thing when it comes along. They are entirely too vested in the lies they have been telling themselves for years and the mainstream politicians that have been selling them lies for years.

    That’s what I know at 12:30am on Friday night bi$+h!

  • Arch Conservative

    “i want reality-based political actions that archie disagrees with. but he can’t seem to point any out at this point.”

    For starters Obama and the Dems added 4 trillion to the debt in 2 years and they also passed a monstrous healthcare reform bill that they not only attempted to justify by using the most perverse, twisted interpretation of the commerce clause but which will also not make healthcare more affordable or accessible for the average American.

  • Bubba Habermas

    what’s the whole Rev Wright thing? That he said America got what’s coming? Obviously a religious man would believe that God was punishing America for its sins, much the way other preachers have

  • Igor

    Point taken, Dave.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    You know in your heart of hearts that Paul cannot win. The best he can hope for is a VP nomination – but that might be a viable strategy for Romney, since Republicans would hold their noses and vote ‘R’ anyway, Romney might pull a percentage of the moderates his way, and Paul will certainly pull even some Dems his way.

    But I’d rather see a Santorum/Bachmann presidency than to see Ron Paul in the White House, for our political system was designed by the founders to work with deal-making, and America would suffer greatly with an ideologue like Ron Paul in the White House (even if he isn’t racist (but you and I both know he is)).

    To your credit, IIRC you supported Gary Johnson more, so please consider the anti-Paul statement an attack on Paul and not on you.

  • Technically Paul did win, as the result of the Iowa caucus was a three way tie. Regardless of the exact vote count, each of the top three candidates, including Paul will get 7 convention delegates.


  • zingzing

    i guess all i get from archie is a bunch of unfounded character judgments (archie doesn’t know the guy, and neither do i, so i guess archie could be right, but there’s no real reason to suspect so).

    the “incompetent president” line seems like an afterthought, and that only the latest right-wing line (after they stopped saying he was the ant-christ then hitler then stalin). if he’s “incompetent,” that would be because of republican obstruction of his attempt to turn us into socialist europe or whatever, and archie should be happy. HAPPY! such is right-wing “logic,” i suppose.

    i don’t really give a shit about archie’s opinion of the man’s character… they aren’t going to be dating or anything, so spare me the jilted girlfriend routine… i want reality-based political actions that archie disagrees with. but he can’t seem to point any out at this point.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    zing –

    Don’t you know that every bad trait that can be associated with a human being is personified in Obama? Just ask Archie’s fellow conservatives like the evangelicals, the teabaggers, the banksters and corporatists, the militia groups (including every neo-nazi group out there since apparently all of them hate anybody who’s not white)….

  • zingzing

    or do you think it was a pretty clever (although failed,) attempt by the right to claim obama guilty by association?

  • zingzing

    (first, do you think that obama sitting in church in front of a man who believes in a bearded spirit in the sky reflects upon obama in any way?)

    archie, are you religious? i think you’ve said you’re not. that said, have you gone to church in the past? frequently?

    obama proclaimed himself to be a christian because he had to in order to get into political office in this great nation of ours. he’s done little since to make it seem like his “faith” is anything other than a necessity for his job.

    if you step back for a minute, i doubt you’ll see much of rev wright in obama. but you can’t do that, i suppose.

    if you refuse to believe paul is a racist for saying that “90% of african americans are criminal or are going to be” or whatever it was, do you believe rev. wright’s crazy talk had any affect on obama?

  • Arch Conservative

    There’s the whole Reverend Wright thing for example…..The very people that are so sure that Paul is a racist are the same ones that said Obama sitting in a pew in front of a deranged pastor for two decades in no way reflects upon Obama.

  • zingzing

    what are those things, archie, and why are they true? i’m really asking… you have registered your distaste for the king of kings, but you haven’t spelled out your reasons.

  • Arch Conservative

    Just like you dolts choose not to believe all the ugly things that are said about the Obamessiah (which mostly happen to be true), I do not believe Ron Paul is a racist.

    I’d take Paul over the rest of the NWO freaks being presented us.

  • Bubba Habermas

    Arch has already admitted to having troubles with reality on another thread so don’t be to hard on him. And I don’t mean Roger, Glenn

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    I agree about Arch. How anyone could believe a man who claims that he didn’t know that racist and inflammatory statements were being made in HIS magazine over a period of years…is beyond me.

  • Igor: the ABR (Anyone But Romney) gang and the religious maniac gang got together behind Santorum, and Paul and Bachmann suffered for it (she’s done). Still a good showing though, especially as not all state Republican Parties are as demented as the Iowa one seems to be.

  • Igor

    #2-Arch must not have been following the scandals about Ron Pauls evident racism and coverup: “Ron Paul’s candor and integrity is a breath of fresh air…”.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave Nalle does have credibility in that he presents the libertarian point of view and has much more exposure to inner workings of the GOP than most of us here do. That doesn’t mean he is any better at prognostication than the rest of us – besides, those involved in politics are largely required to predict victory even when being ground to dust in the jaws of defeat.

  • Igor

    What happened to “… his impending victory in the Iowa Caucus.”? (Talking about Ron Paul.)

    Did the author of the article, Nalle, have any credibility at BlogCritics? It’s gone now.

  • Arch Conservative

    Yes much before my time. I was born when Carter was inflicting his own unique brand of misery on the nation. I seem to remember reading something about George Romney saying something about the being brainwashed by the military brass in Vietnam and this sentiment putting the kibosh on his presidential ambitions much in the way a drive in a 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 on a fair summer night in 1969 killed the presidential ambitions of one “Senator Swimmer” from Massachusetts.

    Willard may well be an intelligent guy but he doesn’t come off as quick on his feet.

  • He’d have abetter chance if he slowed down his rate of speech. Creates the impression of being nervous.

    Probably it’s before your time, Arch, but his dad, George, was more impressive as a political persona.

  • Arch Conservative

    I think that a major part of Ron Paul’s appeal is that, agree with him or not, most can recognize that when he goes out in public and speaks he is actually saying the things that he believes and not the things that his handlers have told him would get the most votes based on the latest opinion polls.

    Year in and year out we see from both sides of the aisle nothing but a collection of pure political animals who would sell their own mothers to reach that next tier in their ambitious quest for political power and recognition.

    Ron Paul’s candor and integrity is a breath of fresh air. However he will most likely not be the GOP nominee let alone the president as there are far too many Americans that are far too vested in lying to themselves and supporting politicians that lie to them.

    While it is true as you point out Nalle that my home state of NH is more libertarian leaning than Iowa, I’d point out that we, as a group, are more pragmatic than idealistic. In the midterms NH elected a republican to almost every seat that was up for election in the state. It was a bloodbath for Democrats in NH in 2010. (contrast that with our idiot neighbors to the south who elected nothing but Dems at a time when the rest of the nation was turning their backs on the Democrats) NH will be looking in 2011 to pick someone in it’s GOP primary who has the best shot at beating Barack Obama and that man is Mitt Romney. I will be voting for Ron Paul in the NH primary but expecting Romney to win it by at least 10 points.

  • Santorum definitely won’t last even if he wins Iowa, Gingrich is already fading, so you may well be right.