Tonight's GOP debate was dominated largely by personal attacks and pandering to local interests, and there was little space for Ron Paul. His unwavering resolve to stick almost entirely to national issues during the Florida Primary debate is a testament to his political ideology and his seriousness about solving America’s problems.
Unfortunately for Paul, he is now faced with a Catch-22. The debate proved that unless he tailors his rhetoric to his audience, he will remain on the periphery of the remaining candidates, but doing so would mean contradicting many of the tenets of his campaign thus far.
It was bad luck for Paul that the debate was not more focused on national issues, which would have provided him with a more appropriate platform to express his opinions. Paul’s presidential campaign is based on the idea of a federal government that adheres strictly to the Constitution, meaning that a large part of his electoral platform is comprised of broad theories about how government should operate. To a pragmatist like Paul, this is the logical way to run a campaign for national office, and who can blame him for thinking that way?
The problem for Paul is that, often, these broad theories do not translate well to the state level, and the primary system creates a situation in which a candidate might as well be running for president of the state next in line to hold its primary instead of running for president of the United States. This was painfully apparent during the Florida debate in which there were questions about NASA, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. All of these issues are much more pressing for Florida than they are for the country as a whole.
Granted, it was the Florida Primary Debate. Thus, a focus should be given to Floridian issues, but it is a shame that Paul was essentially penalized for his adamant refusal to pander to local interests. Unfortunately for Paul, the primary system is the one in which he must compete, so, unless he changes his approach, he faces an extremely difficult battle.
All of this is not to say that Paul did not have his moments during the debate. When asked about his stance on Latin America, he did especially well by advocating for non-interventionism and a more isolationist approach to American foreign policy. He also received considerable applause when he stated that his goal was to abolish the 16th Amendment and rid the country of the “welfare and warfare mentality.” Yet, he failed to draw the level of applause that Gingrich, Romney, and even Santorum received on multiple occasions.
Moving forward, the reality facing the Paul campaign is that it must change its approach if it is to regain momentum. It was apparent during the Florida Debate that it cannot survive in its current form. However, the question arises, would a change in approach contradict many of the principles of Paul's campaign? Thus far, he has based his campaign on an acutely consistent ideology and a steadfast adherence to the nation’s pressing issues. For many Paul supporters, catering to different crowds would be a betrayal of Paul’s most admirable traits. It would destroy what they love most about him -- his honest and resolute approach to politics and his consistent ideology.
It seems that the Catch-22 confronting Paul’s campaign is that a change in approach is needed to win the nomination, but such a change is entirely against Paul’s fundamental principles. If Paul were to change his approach, it would mean destroying what is most admirable about him -- his pursuit of a limited government based on the wisdom of the Constitution in an honest, no-nonsense manner. Perhaps what can be taken from the Florida Primary Debate is that there is no place for this type of approach in politics anymore, but that is not a thought I wish to entertain.
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