Ron Paul raised approximately $4 million yesterday on the internet. 40,000 people contributed to his campaign. This impressive haul is causing some folks to suggest that Paul should be taken seriously as a candidate. At the Corner, David Freddoso says, “among those for whom a sustained Iraq occupation is not a make-or-break issue, Paul’s big day is going to win him a second look.” And Captain Ed declares that “Republicans have to find a way to address [Paul supporters] outside of conspiracy theories and allusions to blowing up buildings.”
I have two responses. First, Paul has been a highly visible presence in this race for some time and does not do well in the polls. Even in New Hampshire (the “Live Free or Die” state), the Real Clear Politics average has him at 3.6 percent. In Rasmussen’s poll, he’s at 2 percent. One poll, by St. Anselm’s college, shows him with 7 percent. That looks like an outlier, but let’s assume instead that it’s evidence of a trend others have missed — 7 percent isn’t going to get much done. In short, Ron Paul is not a serious force at this juncture, and there’s no reason why the fact that 40,000 people saw fit to give him money should cause the rest of the population to give him a second (or a first) look.
But since he may command more than de minimis support, shouldn’t Republicans find a way to address his supporters? That depends on what those supporters are looking for. Captain Ed seems to assume they’re looking to a significant extent for free market policies. But that’s not how Ron Paul sees it. A few months ago, in response to a question about the expected entry of Fred Thompson into the race, Paul said this would be a good thing for him [Paul], since it would further divide the pro-war vote.
The candidate understands his campaign very well — it’s an anti-war candidacy and little else. Notice how during debates, he routinely turns questions about domestic policy — normally meat and drink for a libertarian — back to Iraq
The only other seriously distinguishing feature of the campaign is that it’s nutty. Being anti-war is respectable, but Paul’s opposition to the war is founded on conspiracy theories, over-the-top isolationism, and an unhealthy dose of hostility to Israel. Paul’s opposition to big government is not a distinguishing feature. There are plenty of other Republican candidates this cycle who embrace small government conservatism. Again, the only only distinguishing feature of Paul’s small government platform is its nuttiness — the gold standard, the Federal Reserve conspiracy stuff, etc.
Republicans should respond to voters who find Ron Paul appealing with a cold shoulder.
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