The evergreen and libertarian leaning Ron Paul has officially announced his candidacy to be the Republican nominee for President. The 75 years young Republican Congressman for the 14th congressional district in Texas is making his 3rd run at the Presidency after first running in 1988 as a Libertarian.
He is now somewhat of a cult hero amongst in American politics after running a uniquely swashbuckling campaign in 2008 for the Republican nomination. Clearly he’s looking to build on that success saying in his announcement on Friday: “The time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I’ve been saying for 30 years.” Adding: “So I think the time is right.”
Speaking of his aspirations for 2012 he said: “I’d be fine by doing very well. I believe right now, we’re coming in number one and the Republican primary is an absolute possibility.” He went on to say that this time around his prospects were, “many, many times better than it was four years ago. Our troops, our supporters – the grassroots – are enthusiastic, more so than ever.”
Ron Ernest Paul M.D. is also a very experienced obstetrician having delivered over 4000 babies and is naturally opposed to abortion but, in keeping with his libertarian beliefs, he is opposed to the government intervening on the issue. With abortion being one of the third rail issues of American politics such a perspective is going to be unpopular with the socially conservative grassroots of the Republican party which is undoubtedly the faction of the GOP he appeals to least. In the event he does become the nominee his appeal will be strongest amongst the socially moderate in both parties, fiscal conservatives including Blue Dog Democrats, libertarians and independents. Whilst his appeal is certainly broad his biggest struggle will be with the first hurdle.
The nature of the primary process ensures that nominees must first impress the party grassroots before they earn the opportunity to broadcast their message on a national stage. His relatively moderate stance on social issues such as abortion, drugs, faith in schools and other topics falling in the realm of ‘American values.’ In the past we have seen relative GOP moderates, such as John McCain in the 2008 election, move to the right on these issues in order to secure the party nomination.
It would be unlikely for Paul to bend his beliefs and pander to the grassroots of the party so late in his political career. Currently he serves of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Joint Economic Committee and Committee on Financial Services. He is also chair of the near 20 strong congressional Republican Liberty Caucus which seeks to promote the ideals of individual liberty, limited government and free market economics within the GOP. According to the American Journal of Political Science the Pennsylvania-born Congressman possesses the most conservative voting record in Congress since 1937 although undoubtedly this is as a result of his views on fiscal responsibility than his social views.
He also happens to be the father of junior Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and also seen as a founding influence of the now ultra-conservative Tea Party movement. Initially the movement was set up to protest against the first two budgets of the Obama administration consisting of 3 and 3.8 trillion dollars. They preached for fiscal restraint which is something at the core of Paul’s libertarian values however as the movement increasingly became a threat to the mainstream party it became increasingly co-opted. As a result the movement has departed from its unfiltered message of fiscal responsibility and morphed into a group that became the stomping ground for more socially conservative politicians such as Sarah Palin, the infamous Christine O’Donnell and the then unknown Marco Rubio who beat out party big wig Charlie Crist for the Senate.
Based on Paul’s 2008 run we can come to expect a strongly committed grassroots base with even more than the 500 ‘Students for Ron Paul’ groups organised in the last election. With the strong youth vote he draws he is expected to continue his strong online presence which earned him the highest rate of contributions from individuals and military personnel amongst Republicans. Whilst it is fair to say Congress’ ‘Dr. No’ is a long shot to be nominee he will certainly have the national spotlight shone on him given his pedigree and undoubtedly will ruffle a few feathers in the candidate debates like he did with Mitt Romney in 2008.
Photo by Gage Skidmore.