Sorry, Ron Paul Nation. It's time for Ron Paul to drop out of the GOP presidential race.
Paul and his supporters have made a splash in this election, and the candidate's presidential run has helped to bring the libertarian message of libety into the national spotlight. But Paul will not win the GOP nomination, so he and his supporters would be wise to step aside, refocus their tactics, and look toward putting forward an electable candidate in 2016.
Let's start by looking at Paul's primary record. Paul has not won one of the early contests for president. With the exception of Maine, he hasn't even come close to winning the popular vote in any of the first nine states to vote. In terms of delegates, Paul trails far behind in fouth place, according to the AP count, with 19 delegates. (It takes 1,144 delegates to win the Republican nomination, and Romney leads with 123 followed by Santorum with 72.) But that's not all. A new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll reveals Paul is not even close to winning in his home state of Texas. If the election were held today, Santorum would get 45 percent of the vote, Gingrich would get 18%, Romney would receive 16%, and Paul would only receive 14%. Although things could change as Texas is not scheduled to vote until May 29, it seems clear that Paul will not be able to even carry his home state.
Even though he cannot win the nomination, is there still value in Paul remaining in the race? The Paul campaign seems to be banking on the strategy of winning enough delegates in the caucus states to land a prominent role in the Republican national convention this summer. The campaign is hoping for a primetime speech at the GOP convention in which Paul serves as agitator-in-chief, by criticizing American military action overseas and condemning the War on Terror. Going off message at the convention, so the argument goes, could force the Republican party to grapple more closely with libertarian views.
Spending millions of donors' money and investing more time and energy in the race just so Paul can deliver a prime-time convention speech does not seem like a compelling enough reason to push forward. What's more, the longer Paul charges ahead, the more he seems to be distorting his message in the process. The Paul campaign began with the simple, and alternative important message that more individual liberty, less government intervention in Americans' lives, and less military excess overseas will benefit our country in the long-term. But, on Sunday morning on CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley, he said he's concerned the U.S. is heading down the path to fascism.
“Fascism is an authoritarian ruthless rule of government,” he said. “They think of Mussolini and Hitler, just think of this change in civil liberties that nobody wants to talk about, the arrest of American citizens by the military and held indefinitely without a trial and people aren’t concerned about it?”
As detestable as President Barack Obama's signing of the NDAA may be, comparing the U.S. government to Mussolini and Hitler is beyond bounds and undermines Paul's message. These kinds of attention-grabbing statements may get Paul more time in the media spotlight, but they also show that he's losing touch with the average Republican voter as his campaign drags on.
Has Paul been an important voice in this election? Yes. Has he built an impressive grassroots army of supporters on the ground and online? Definitely. Have his policy ideas pushed some of the Republican candidates to grapple more seriously with antiwar positions? Probably. But is there any benefit for Paul to continue on? Not that I can see, and there are most certainly costs.
So, here's what I propose for Paul Nation. Back out of this presidential race, but start looking forward to 2016. It's clear that libertarianism has legs if led by the right candidate. So, start building an even more vast and impressive fundraising and political network. Continue to spread the message of liberty and limited government. And, most importantly, identify a candidate whom Ron Paul nation can stand behind, one that is actually electable.
If that man happens to be Ron Paul's son Rand Paul, then build him up and promote his term in Congress. And if it turns out to be Marco Rubio or another, lesser-known libertarian, then focus on putting him/her into office.
Spending more money and time on Ron Paul at this stage will harm libertarians' chances of winning big in 2016.
Photo Credit: Jayel Aheram