The Republican’s ‘Paul Problem’

What are the Republicans going to do about Ron Paul?

He resonates with young people – I’ve seen more of my Facebook friends post videos and articles about Ron Paul than every other Republican candidate combined.

He’s adept at using social media.

He’s a civic conservative, a social neo-moderate, a libertarian and a little F’ing crazy.

He’s also a little dangerous.

If Tea Partiers who really want to hold the line on big government like Ron Paul more than Mitt Romney and attempt to galvanize support behind a third party candidate (Where Paul has threatened to run), it could really hurt the GOP’s base.

No, he can’t beat Obama. In fact, he can’t even beat Romney.

On the other hand, he’s one of the few candidates who has seen significant and steady support throughout the primary and nomination process.

Much like Mitt Romney, Paul’s support has remained pretty strong. That, of course, is due in part to the fact that no one really takes his candidacy seriously.

Depending on the poll, the Texas Congressman is holding about 13% of Republican support.

Republicans continue to win generic polls against our soon-to-be-former President and I do think Paul’s position on spending, gay marriage, drugs and isolationism war are appealing to a sect of Republicans.

On the other hand, Paul lacks mainstream appeal and isn’t a true threat to Romney.

***

In some ways, the Republican’s “Paul Problem” isn’t as much about Ron Paul as it is Mitt Romney. Conservatives despise Romney, and the intensity of support for him, while growing, is precariously low.

If the Libertarian sect of the Republican party decides it would rather vote for Paul, even though he can’t win, they’re taking away votes for Mitt Romney.

The only way Romney wins is if Paul isn’t running on a separate ticket.

As Mark Levine pointed out on his radio show yesterday, 46% of people are going to vote for the Democratic nominee no matter what and 46% are going to vote Republican no matter what, so there is 8% in the middle being fought over.

We can argue over how important moderates and independents are in an election (Karl Rove won two elections for George W. Bush by mobilizing the conservative base, not courting moderates), but regardless of the strategy, taking even 6 or 7% of Republican votes away will be a deal-breaker.

Then, suddenly, in order to win, Republicans need to grab just about every independent vote, an onerous and seemingly insurmountable burden.

That makes the GOP choice for second on the Republican ticket paramount to this election.

If you pick Ron Paul, then you’ve totally isolated the conservative traditionalist base. The ticket would be too quirky, too non-traditional to excite core conservatives.

You can argue Republicans are going to vote anyway, but it seems like a Romney/Paul ticket might be too untenable to justify a hardcore Republican vote.

What you have to do, if you’re the Republicans, is pick someone who is going to energize the conservative base, and I don’t mean Sarah Palin (god forbid).

I’m talking about a conservative activist who appeases both conservatives and libertarians (who are somewhat apathetic by nature).

Romney is there for his mainstream appeal, his ability to win over those middle 8 percenters. The vice presidential candidate has to be someone to bring conservatives to the polls.

If the Republicans have a reason to turn out, a reason to mobilize, then Romney can take care of the independents and the GOP will have such strong support, Paul can’t cannibalize Republican votes.

That’s a potential solution for 2012. The third party issue however, isn’t going away, whether it’s Libertarian, Green or another party.

Americans have become dissatisfied with the system and in the immortal words of Sam Cook, “A change is gonna come.”

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