The Ron Paul Third Party Scenario?

Talk of a Ron Paul third party candidacy is starting to buzz a bit louder on the blogs. Between his answer at the debate the other night where he refused to promise to support the eventual party’s nominee and his successful fundraising. I think most of this speculation is fueled by a mixture of wishful-thinking Democrats and disgruntled Republicans. Chris Weigant writes the following for the Huffington Post..

A few months ago, the chattering classes were all a-tizzy over the prospect of a Michael Bloomberg third-party bid for the White House. Nothing much came of it, but we all had fun pontificating about the possibility. Since it was such an enjoyable exercise, I’d like to be the first to roll out another third-party scenario to provide fodder for the punditocracy (in case this turns out to be a slow news week).

After taking several recent announcements into consideration, I have gazed into my crystal ball and foreseen Ron Paul as the nominee of the Libertarian Party for 2008. Paul will be supported by droves of “family values” voters and will actually gain a respectable percentage of the popular vote. The Democratic nominee then waltzes into the White House, spikes the ball, and does an end-zone dance in the Oval Office.

Now, I realize I should have saved this for my Hallowe’en column (where I present nightmarish scenarios for both parties), since it would be absolutely disastrous for the Republican Party as a whole. But recent events forced my hand.

The first was Ron Paul’s third-quarter fundraising total, a whopping five million dollars plus. That is nothing to be sneezed at, considering he outraised many candidates from both parties, and (going solely by fundraising) has effectively risen from “third-tier longshot” to “second tier” candidate within his own party. Of course, the mainstream media hasn’t noticed this yet, but with five million bucks to spend Ron Paul’s name is going to be on some airwaves soon—as paid ads if not in the actual news.

The second thing which happened last week was James Dobson (president of Focus on the Family) announcing after a secretive meeting of right-wing Christian bigwigs that the Christian Right may very well back a third-party candidate if they deem the Republican nominee insufficiently zealous on their favorite issues. This is a shot across the bow to Rudy Giuliani, the current Republican frontrunner.

Some dismiss this talk as bluster. The soul-killing question reverberating around Washington is no doubt that old chestnut: “Who else are they going to vote for?” This question is often used by both parties when one of their constituent groups threatens to go off the reservation. Anti-war types enraged by Democrats? Who else are they going to vote for? Blacks annoyed that their votes are taken for granted by Democrats? Who else are they going to vote for? On the Democratic side, this is often followed in ominous tones with: “Look what happened with Ralph Nader.” But this time, the question is coming from the Republican side of the aisle, with the same sneering little chuckle of laughter—The religious right isn’t happy with the presidential nominee? Who else are they going to vote for?

This is pure cynicism distilled from the entrenchment of the two-party system in American politics. The problem is, when you’ve identified yourself as a one-issue (or even handful-of-related-issues) voter, and the party doesn’t nominate someone reliably on your side, what do you do? The evangelical right is terrified that Rudy Giuliani will win the nomination, because he’s tolerant on almost all the things the religious right demands intolerance on: God, guns, and gays—as well as the 800-pound gorilla in the room, abortion.

Time will tell whether (1) Giuliani even gets the nomination, and (2) whether the religious right will bolt the GOP en masse in the election or not. But assuming for the sake of argument that Rudy walks off with it in February, and the family values crowd isn’t bluffing, it opens up another third-party scenario for the election.

Enter Ron Paul. Since if (1) is true and Paul loses to Giuliani, he will be free to be courted as a third-party candidate. This is about the point that everyone will realize the fact that Ron Paul has already run as a third-party candidate. In 1988, Ron Paul was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president. He’s really a Libertarian in Republican clothing to begin with, so this wouldn’t be an enormous philosophical political journey for him to make.

And while Ron Paul has been getting a lot of attention in the online world for his stance on the Iraq war (he’s against it) and for other equally Libertarian viewpoints, something many people (especially on the left) haven’t noticed is that Paul has unshakable bedrock-values anti-abortion views. These views will not change one iota, it should be noted. Ron Paul is a doctor—an OB/GYN to be precise. Which means his views on the life of a fetus are not something he puts on as a cloak of convenience to get elected to office (like some Republicans I could mention), they are fundamental viewpoints he has held in his profession for his entire life.

If Ron Paul loses the nomination battle in the Republican Party, it is conceivable that the Libertarians would court him. Since he’s already run as their nominee previously (and since he’s got a better shot at it this time around due to the internet “buzz” which surrounds him), it is also conceivable that he would be open to the Libertarian Party’s nomination.

Back to the religious right. Now, it’s one thing to threaten to vote for a third party, but it actually takes a whopping amount of time, money, and effort to “create” a political party which gets on the ballot in all 50 states. Ross Perot created a political party out of whole cloth (and a bottomless checkbook), but then he was a billionaire to begin with. It’s also one thing to threaten to “just stay home” on election day, and quite another to actually vote for someone else.

But what if the evangelical right was presented with a strongly anti-abortion candidate as the nominee of a party that was already on the ballot in every state? That would be a tremendous shortcut—one which might indeed fracture the base of the Republican Party. The question is whether the family-values crowd can put up with Ron Paul’s other policy stances, some of which may be a little unpalatable for such voters—his anti-war stance, for instance. Or the Libertarian Party’s stance on the War on Drugs, for instance (they’re for legalizing everything).

It’s hard to even estimate exactly what the religious right’s strength is within the Republican Party in the first place, and harder still to estimate how many of them would bolt Rudy’s nomination. But it’s a pretty safe bet that a Ron Paul Libertarian candidacy would hurt Republicans more than it would hurt Democrats. Paul could get a respectable percentage of the popular vote, perhaps even on the scale of Ross Perot (who got 19% in 1992), but it’s doubtful he could win any electoral college votes (Perot got zero, even with one-fifth of the total votes). Which would turn him into a spoiler for the Republican Party. He might even precipitate a general and fundamental shakeup within the GOP itself, between the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives—something moderate Republicans have been hoping will happen for years.

So while there are many caveats to my prediction, the following outcome should be seen as predestined. If Rudy is the GOP nominee, if Ron Paul is the Libertarian nominee, and if the evangelical leaders start supporting Paul—then the result is an absolute lock on the White House for whoever the Democratic nominee happens to be (who will doubtlessly begin practicing end-zone dances the day after Ron Paul announces as the Libertarian candidate).

20 Responses to “The Ron Paul Third Party Scenario?”

  1. Scott Bludorn Says:

    Pending the outcome of the GOP primaries, I think the best thing those in the Freedom Movement could do would be to allow Dr. Ron Paul to keep his word about not seeking a 3rd Party nomination.

    That said, it would make all the sense in the world for the LP to nominate Dr. Rand Paul.

  2. Scott Bludorn Says:

    To make it clear, I believe Ron Paul WILL win the Republican nomination as it becomes more and more apparent that Ron Paul is the only Republican that can beat Hillary Clinton.

  3. G.E. Smith Says:

    That’s why I support Ron Paul: Family values.

    Give me an f’ing break. These lefties really are clueless.

  4. Fred C. Says:

    Way to completely ignore any challenges to the dems from the left! Nevermind that the leading dems are as stay-the-course as most republicans on the war.

  5. Gene Berkman Says:

    I do not expect Ron Paul to run as the Libertarian candidate in 2008, but I will support him if he does. I think he should run to keep his seat in Congress instead, so that we have at least one “no” vote on bad bills.

    But if Ron Paul runs as the Libertarian candidate, he will not only get conservative votes from erstwhile Republicans. Many antiwar liberals will vote for him in preference to Sen. Clinton, who voted for the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. So, no matter who loses in 2008, they can blame Ron Paul.

  6. G.E. Smith Says:

    There are more libertarians due to Ron Paul’s presidential run, and there will be even more if he takes it all the way. I hope he wins the GOP nomination, but as of now, there’s only a 6% shot of that—that’s a lot better than when he started, but still long odds. If he fails to win the GOP nomination or has it stolen from him, then I hope he runs as the LP presidential nominee, or failing that, the CP ticket, because there will be even more libertarians when he’s done.

    He’s 72 years old. His no votes, while welcome, haven’t done anything for us. His presidential run has already done more good for the movement than all of his years in public life prior to it, combined. We don’t need him one Ron Paul in Congress for, what, another term or two? We need 300 Ron Pauls in Congress. And the best way for that to happen is for him to run for president until November of 2008.

  7. NH Says:

    How many people like John Fund and lesser bloggers must I inform that Ron has JUST announced that he will NOT run as third party on Tucker Carlson’s show last night?

    Geesh. There is no buzz, because there is no truth to the ‘rumor’. Put it to rest.

  8. Trent Hill Says:

    NH, while reactionary—is right. Paul has said he wont run—and has done it emphatically and repeatedly. I know everyone is going to say, “well he wouldnt say it NOW”. But I honestly think he has no plans to run third party—nor will he accept a drafting.

  9. G.E. Smith Says:

    NH - Ron Paul probably won’t run third-party. But he can’t SAY he would even if he were planning on it. You just can’t say it. All I’ve heard him say is “I have no intention of doing that.”

  10. hiimallen Says:

    The reason Ron Paul will not go third party is this:
    The only thing worse than a Republican president, is a Democratic one

  11. G.E. Smith Says:

    If you like big government, then the above is true.

    If, instead, you like small government, then history has proven Democratic administrations are preferable to Republican ones.

  12. SovereignMN Says:

    I agree with UA/GE completely that it would be more beneficial for the movement if Paul were to run as a third party candidate than run for re-election for his seat. He’s 72 years old…that’s no spring chicken. I love his ‘no’ votes in Congress but it has done little/nothing to stop the tide of big government.

  13. JR Says:

    1. IMO, all talk of RP running on a third-party ticket hurts his chances of getting the Rep. endorsement.

    2. Dobson et. all won’t say a positive word about RP because they’ve bought the neocon foreign policy pitch, and because they have a litmus test for amending the Constitution to protect state matrimony licensure in the “traditional” sense.

    3. The best advice I’ve seen for promoting RP in Republican circles is (paraphrasing): “The only thing the Christian Right is more passionate about than their crusade against Muslims is fear of Hillary. They need to be convinced that Ron Paul is the only candidate that can beat Hillary. Repeat it with every breath … ‘Ron Paul is the only candidate that can beat Hillary’.”


  14. Jeff Weinberger Says:

    Ron Paul went Republican from being a Libertarian. He’s not going back, and he knows that being Republican gets him funding and access to power. He’s not true to the third party movement because if he were he would be the Libertarian Congressman from Texas and not the Republican one. We do have a good Libertarian Candidate in Daniel Imperato, and this guy is ready to finance the campaign, but the online community needs to start supporting him.

  15. G.E. Smith Says:

    Jeff - He’s 72. Hello.

    Imperato is a nutjob and you’re his only supporter. Get a life.

  16. go go gadget dick Says:

    In all likelihood, that actually is Imperato.

  17. Tom Bryant Says:

    The sentences didn’t break enough grammar rules for it to be Imperato.

  18. Kris Overstreet Says:

    How does Ron Paul convincing people that small-l libertarians should support Republicans aid the big-L Libertarian cause?

  19. Jackcjackson Says:

    Well, it might introduce people to libertarianism in general..and after RP loses the GOP nomination, all the supporters who aren’t really Republicans might look for another place to call home.

    Plus there is certainly the libertarian cause that has nothing to do with the LP.

  20. JR Says:

    Have you heard RP suggest that anybody support other Republicans? I haven’t. RP has said himself that he’s not likely to support them.


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