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As we all know, Ron Paul induces a strange dual reaction of fear and loathing in conventional Republican circles.  He is supposedly so irrelevant and “nutty” [1] that he can be safely dismissed and his supporters ignored, but at the same time he allegedly represents a dire threat of an independent run [2], potentially Naderising the 2008 election.  The first response seems foolish, since a lot can change in Iowa and New Hampshire between now and January–voters there make their final determinations fairly late in the process. 

Despite the fact that he has explicitly and repeatedly ruled out an independent run, the fear of his impact on the general election is real enough.  Dismissing and insulting Paul’s supporters are the defensive responses of a crumbling, dying party, as if to say, “Yes, most Americans may despise us and everything we have done, but at least we’re not a bunch of kooks who talk about the Constitution!”  If things were like they were in 2002 and the GOP was still dominant, this arrogant dismissal of a small but noticeable group of Republican and independent voters might make more sense, but under the present circumstances it is baffling why anyone interested in GOP victory next year would go out of their way to insult and denigrate a relatively small but extremely active segment of the electorate.  This response is premised on the assumption that Ron Paul has little Republican backing, but until a couple months ago no one thought Huckabee had that much backing, either.  There is a significant bloc [3] of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire who favour immediate or near-term withdrawal from Iraq, but many of these voters are currently split among the various pro-war candidates.  They make up approximately a third of the Republican electorate up there–there are many in the modern GOP who want to write off 30% of its supporters who are antiwar.  This 30% represents a bloc of natural Paul voters, who could lift him to a respectable third or second-place finish if he could rally them on the question of withdrawal.  That doesn’t mean this will happen, but it shows that Paul’s potential base of support is much greater than current polling suggests.       

Sullivan has [4] more [5].

6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "Threatening"

#1 Comment By Koz On November 7, 2007 @ 3:37 pm

This is easy. If there are 30% of GOP primary voters who want to bring the troops home yesterday, _still_ none of them are supporting Ron Paul.

I think some of it is because his bitterness and invective breeds distrust among voters who oppose the war, but nonetheless accept it as a reality and are looking for the best option, whatever that may be. But that’s only a partial explanation. He ought to be able to get 5% of something, somewhere. Frankly, it’s inexplicable to me.

#2 Comment By Daniel Larison On November 7, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

None of them is supporting him yet. Maybe they never will, in which case they deserve the bad leadership they get. My point is that it is still conceivable that he will become a factor in New Hampshire. If Ron Paul is “bitter” and engaged in “invective,” descriptions that seem as inapt as can be, I don’t know anyone who is not.

#3 Comment By Koz On November 8, 2007 @ 12:01 am

Daniel, if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed must come to the mountain. Whether it’s 99% or 98% or even 70%, clearly the vast majority of Republicans (and the vast majority of voters) don’t believe “blowback” is a sufficient answer to life, the universe, and everything. Clearly, not everyone is going to agree with RP. But if he’s not even going to engage the rest of the body politic, he will stay in fringe-flake land.

#4 Comment By lakelly On November 8, 2007 @ 11:27 am

Koz, I hear you but I think you underestimate both his message and his grassroots movement. As a lifelong Democrat who thought I would sooner die than vote Republican, I would never vote for anyone other than Ron Paul. Not only did I join a local meetup group (he has more than 1000 of them across the country) I started my own website at [6]. Writing that he is “naderizing” the election is also an understatement given Monday’s record online fundraising haul. The movement is infectious. His followers don’t just like him –we are passionately active in his campaign. We’re all looking forward to early primaries. ~Lisa

#5 Comment By Daniel Larison On November 8, 2007 @ 8:11 pm

I take your point, Koz. His speeches tend to focus on foreign policy and civil liberties, and as right as I think he is I also know that most people do not vote on foreign policy and civil liberties, and they are also less likely to vote for someone who is an absolutist in both areas. He has also worked in some references to national debt, spending and health care, but that has not been his main appeal. Nonetheless, he has generated a lot of enthusiasm, as Lisa’s comment shows, and I think the breadth of his support may yet surprise us.

#6 Comment By Koz On November 9, 2007 @ 8:22 pm

Daniel, the problem with RP isn’t about (entirely) about policy, it’s about temperment. According to substantial scholarship from Raoul Berger, most of the welfare state as we know it is unconstitutional. I don’t know exactly if I believe that, but I’m sympathetic.

But if I were President, what would I (or Ron Paul) do? How would relate to certain facts of life that are bigger than he is, eg, the war, the welfare state, floating currencies?

There are a substantial number of people who disagree with Giuliani who nonetheless feel they can trust him anyway (I disagree with that judgment, btw). By contrast, a substantial number of people who might agree with Ron Paul (at least as far as the war is concerned) will never even consider voting for him because his flake quotient is completely off the charts.