During the 2012 primary season, we have had a good amount of talk about Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx.) and his “unelectability.” Granted, it has not been quite as severe as in the past, but the question has remained relevant and has a habit of popping up here and there. Another recently published article explains why Paul supporters should go out and rally around a more “electable candidate” for 2016. Questions about electability have also turned into fears of a third-party campaign which would draw votes from the Republican nominee.
All of this, however, focuses a bit too much on the present. Yes, Rep. Paul is unelectable: He sounds unorganized, looks unpresentable, and carries a message which does not easily mesh with Republican or Democratic voters. Indeed, it is not simply the man that is unelectable, but also his message; we are not quite ready to relinquish the fundamental belief that government exists to gives us what we feel entitled to.
Right or wrong, that is our state of affairs. So why does Paul do what he does? Simple: He aims to create a brand.
There is recent speculation about an alleged “friendliness” between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, but in light of the idea of his brand, there is another interpretation: Paul wants to avoid any “competing brand” of conservativism. Even if Romney ends up taking the nomination, it would be much better if he took it with primary opposition from Paul instead of someone like Rick Santorum. This gives more publicity to the “Paul brand,” and it allows for someone like Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to pick up the argument later.
This is why it would also be surprising for Rand Paul to accept a vice presidential nomination from Mitt Romney: It would compromise his ability to work towards a presidential nomination later on. Above all else, this brand seeks what any brand would: autonomy.
So Ron Paul will not drop out, he will not seek a third-party campaign, and his son will not accept a nomination for the vice presidency; all of these things run contrary to the larger goal of redefining American conservativism for a people who have drifted away from it. What he will do is keep raising money, attending debates, and building his base of energetic supporters.
This approach prompted commentator Wayne Root to offer Mitt Romney some unsolicited advice. “The GOP,” he writes, “needs Ron Paul. You need his Libertarian supporters. You desperately need a shot in the arm – the energy, passion and excitement that Paul's youth vote brings to your campaign. Disregard them at your own peril.”
Of course, even this advice operates under the false assumption that either Ron or Rand Paul have a need for Romney’s open arms – they don’t. After four years, Paul’s numbers have seen huge jumps. Should the economic situation worsen (it will) or the overseas obligations increase (they will), could anyone doubt the viability of a future Rand Paul campaign?
Putting the Paul campaign in perspective is important, not only for the Republican establishment that is worried about the effect he may have on a general election, but also for those who have worked energetically for his campaign during the last four or five years. Republicans, after all, may have another Paul on their hands coming 2016.
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