Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Why Hasn't Ron Paul Dropped Out?

Some people might read that title and insist, Rocky-like, that the race isn't over until it's over.

My contention is that, if Super Tuesday has come and gone and your caucus results are consistently negligible, the race is over. The states have spoken, and all they have for Mr. Paul is single digits. In my opinion, it has been conclusively proven that Ron Paul is not viable presidential material, at least this time. There's no way around it.

Some point to media bias in the lack of reporting on Ron Paul, but, truth be told, there just isn't that much to say about him. He's losing badly, just like Guiliani and Thompson before him. The difference is, in gentlemanly fashion, these candidates dropped out and let the others pick up their vote percentages. Ron Paul has not only refused to do this now, he doesn't seem to plan on it in the future. This leads me to wonder: what's the idea? What's his master plan?

There are only 2 reasons a candidate stays in a presidential race: (1) He has reasonable hopes of winning, or (2) he recognizes that he cannot win, but wants to use the momentum/funds/fame gained toward some other political end.

A good example of this second point would be the famous Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who ran for president again and again in the 1990's with no hopes of success. Nader was no fool, he understood that he had no hopes of actually gaining ascendancy, but he ran anyway. His goals were to get federal funding for his embryonic party, and to bleed votes from the other candidates. Though he wasn't able to get enough votes for the former goal, the latter campaign was so successful that Nader himself takes some of the credit for George W. Bush's victory over Al Gore in 2000 (Nader's book, Crashing the Party, talks about this in more detail).

While I disagree with Ron Paul ideologically, I don't think him to be an idiot. Surely, he must see his own poll results. The point of this post is not to demonize him, but rather to raise legitimate questions about what is touted by many as a noble or crusading presidential campaign. Ron Paul would be a very naive man indeed if he did not realize that he cannot take this election, so that leads me to conclude that his reason for staying in the race must be some other agenda. But what?

Libertarian though Paul's record may be, he is running this race as a Republican, and it is as a Republican that he shall be judged. Therefore, his purpose in running cannot simply be trying to legitimize some fledgling third party, since he is running as a member of the Grand Old Party. So much for that.

It is also unlikely that he is simply in it for the money, running a campaign to run up donations, then backing out of the race when his caucus results prove unfavorable. I may not agree with Mr. Paul, but I think he's a better man than that.

The only other reason that I know of that a losing candidate stays in a presidential race is to bleed votes from the other candidates. Sadly, I'm afraid that this is what Ron Paul is doing.

Like Fred Thompson, who waited just long enough to drop out of the race to effectively kneecap Mike Huckabee in the South Carolina caucus, Ron Paul knows that he, too, is regularly stealing votes from his fellow Republicans. I believe that this is why he ran as a Republican to begin with, and why he continues to show up in caucus after caucus, splintering his party into a messy 4-way battle. Paul makes no bones about his differences with his party and with his running-mates, and the fact that his touted "man apart" campaign image is slashing at the votes of his colleagues. Ron Paul is running the Pat Buchanan campaign; the stick-it-to-your-party-like-the-voice-in-the-desert campaign, the campaign with nothing to win and therefore nothing to lose.

All this, while the Democratic giants Obama and Clinton loom higher and higher on the ever-nearing horizon.

Paul lacks the pragmatism to see the danger he poses to his party, and the boon he offers to whoever ends up becoming the Democratic nominee. American politics is an inexact science; and even though most of us would love to see the best man win, we don't mind seeing the OK man beat the absolutely awful one.

Clinton and Obama are both pretty awful. I'm OK with Mike Huckabee and I could even come to grips with McCain or Romney if need be. Pragmatically speaking, one of these is going to be the nominee, not Ron Paul.

Mr. Paul needs to take the hit like a gentleman, doff his cap to the other candidates, and step down.