Ross makes the argument why Ron Paul should run as a third party candidate:
Second, if it wasn’t clear already it should be clear now: Paul ought to run as a Libertarian in the fall. Those Republicans who say that Paul is too far outside the party, ideologically-speaking, to be running for its nomination aren’t that far wrong: I suspect that if the Democrats take the White House, certain elements in the GOP will rediscover their 1990s-vintage fealty to a Quincy Adams foreign policy, but for now at least Paul’s positions are at once popular enough for him to run a well-funded campaign and almost completely unrepresented in the mainstream of either party.
Stop for a moment and think about the claim that Paul is “too far outside the party, ideologically speaking,” and reflect on how bizarre that is. I’m not saying it isn’t a correct assessment about the party, but it is a remarkable transformation (or rather deformation) that has taken place in the last decade. Twelve years ago, there was a freshman House class whose ideas about sovereignty, foreign policy and most other major policy questions were an awful lot closer to Ron Paul than to the modern Bush-afflicted GOP, and seven years ago (as Paul never ceases to remind us) the Republican nominee, old what’s his name, ran at least as a foreign policy realist with limited ambitions overseas. On issue after issue, Ron Paul espouses the strict construction constitutionalist line that other Republicans pretend to believe when it’s election-time, while also defending objectively popular positions opposing illegal immigration and free trade agreements and also affirming his opposition to abortion. Social conservative, economic conservative, populist, libertarian–you would think that he has something for all of them, and ought to be winning support from most factions of the party. Of course, the war trumps everything and drives these potential supporters away, and so we have the strange spectacle of possibly having a pro-abortion social liberal as the nominee while imposing a litmus test on whether we should perpetuate an aggressive war and occupation of another country. The endless pursuit of the “real” conservative candidate continually disappoints voters, because they seem intent on ignoring the one candidate who actually agrees with conservatives on everything where modern conservatives don’t radically abuse the Constitution (particularly relating to war and civil liberties).
Okay, so given that the majority of the GOP is pretty much completely hostile to Paul and his message, should Paul break away and run on a third-party ticket? Certainly, he could serve as a pro-life protest candidate if Giuliani were the GOP nominee, but if that were going to work it would also be necessary for him to gain the Constitution Party’s nomination to keep the two “third parties” of the right from splitting that protest vote and thus maximise the protest’s effectiveness behind one candidate. However, as he keeps telling us, Ron Paul has no intention of running on a third party ticket or as an independent, and I think this is the right judgement. It is also entirely consistent with how Paul has campaigned to date.
Throughout the campaign, Paul has stated that his foreign policy views belong to the tradition of the Republican Party and that Bush Era interventionism is a departure from that tradition. He has made what I think is much more than a tactical appeal to Republican Party political fortunes, insisting that the GOP has to embrace non-interventionism (or at least turn against the war) if it is going to fare well in the future. He has cast his candidacy as the one that represents the best of Republicanism and the one that will make the GOP the most competitive. Whether or not you find these claims convincing, he wouldn’t have made the claims if he didn’t mean them (this is one of the fairly refreshing things about Ron Paul). Besides, to split off into a third-party campaign and guarantee a Democratic victory that is likely to happen anyway will simply provide the militarists with an excuse for their repudiation at the polls and will change nothing. The campaign more likely to steal Ron Paul’s issues would be the Democratic one, especially if Clinton is the nominee, as this would be a way of neutralising the threat of disaffected antiwar progressives who will be unhappy with a Clinton nomination defecting to a third party. A third party run would make sense only to the extent that it could realistically force the Democratic nominee to become seriously antiwar and less belligerent on Iran. Both of those seem unlikely.