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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Will Ron Paul be a Third Party Candidate?

by John Fund | Wall Street Journal | November 28, 2007

Many Ron Paul supporters think he's seriously considering a third-party run for the White House after the GOP primaries are over. In 1988, he left the GOP to run as the Libertarian Party candidate, and pundits note that he's been sounding increasingly exasperated with the current GOP field. You'd think that the recent success of the U.S. surge in stabilizing the security situation in Iraq might make Mr. Paul, who is emphasizing his anti-war message, more charitable towards his fellow GOP candidates. Nothing doing.

RealClearPolitics.com notes that Mr. Paul has now taken to calling all his GOP rivals "neo-conservatives" and suggesting none would be worthy of his support as the party's nominee next fall. "They think we're supposed to spread our goodness through force," Mr. Paul told MSNBC. Noting that none of his adversaries would pledge not to wage war on Iran, he added, "How could I support something like that?"

Mr. Paul did tell MSNBC: "I don't plan to run in a third party. That's not my goal. But if we have a candidate that loves the war and loves the neo-con position of promoting our ...." Unfortunately, in a classic example of an interviewer stepping on potential news, the MSNBC reporter chose that moment to interrupt and the remainder of Mr. Paul's thought was lost.

Should he choose to go the third-party route, Mr. Paul would enjoy far more visibility than in his haphazard 1988 campaign. The Libertarian Party national convention doesn't meet until late May in Denver, and becoming its nominee would immediately guarantee him a spot on 26 state ballots. Another 20 state ballot lines would be fairly easy to obtain.

It's also likely Mr. Paul would be the rare third-party candidate who could actually raise his own money. He's on track to raise over $12 million for the GOP primaries in just the last quarter of 2008.

Despite the conventional wisdom that Mr. Paul would hurt the GOP candidate if he ran in the general election, an argument can be made his third-party run would also take votes away from the Democratic candidate. If he emphasized his support for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq immediately, he would trump Hillary Clinton on the left. If he talked about his support for drug decriminalization, he would clearly appeal to a constituency ignored by both major parties. Hillary Clinton and the GOP frontrunners all support the Patriot Act, a major bugaboo for Mr. Paul. Calling for its repeal could increase his appeal to the ACLU crowd.

The bottom line is that while everyone assumes Mr. Paul would be the Pat Buchanan of 2008, he also might appeal to some voters who backed Ralph Nader in 2000. Exit polls in 2000 found that a quarter of Mr. Nader's supporters would have backed George W. Bush if Mr. Nader hadn't been on the ballot, and another third wouldn't have voted at all.

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