Steve Kornacki explains why Ron Paul isn’t going to run as a third-party candidate this year:

This offers Ron Paul a different, more meaningful way of enjoying the last laugh in his war with the party establishment: Stepping aside gracefully at the end of the GOP primary campaign and handing off the family political franchise to his son.

The logic is compelling. The Paul libertarian economic message is becoming increasingly mainstream in the Republican Party, as the growth in Ron Paul’s support between 2008 and 2012 attests, and long-term trends suggest the GOP will only move further to the right in the years ahead. In other words, if there’s an open presidential nomination in 2016, Rand Paul could be a major factor — starting with the base that his father now enjoys and expanding it in ways he never could. Or maybe he’d have to wait until 2020. Either way, though, it’s not inconceivable that Rand Paul could ultimately mount a successful campaign for the Republican nod.

Michael made a version of this argument earlier this week, and it makes perfect sense. There is really nothing to be gained by launching a third-party bid, and it would provide the GOP with an easy excuse in the event that Romney lost the election. That would prevent the much-needed examination of the party’s flaws, and it would link Paul’s ideas with Obama’s re-election. In any case, it’s been clear for some time that Paul was never going to run as a third-party candidate.