IF RON PAUL IS A THIRD-PARTY SPOILER, WHICH CAMPAIGN WOULD HE SPOIL?
Ron Paul may or may not be seriously considering a third-party run, but if he is, I'm not sure why George Will is so certain about this:
... assume ... that at least 80 percent of Paul's votes would come at the expense of the Republican nominee.
Is Will simply unaware of the kind of campaign Paul is running now? And who's responding to it, for what reasons?
... Several hundred young people, mostly students, packed the Great Hall of Iowa State's Union building. Many wore flannel shirts and knit caps on a cold snowy night. They listened intently as Paul, standing behind a lectern, touched on some of his more esoteric views, on Austrian economists and returning to the gold standard. But they responded with enthusiasm when he got to issues they could relate to, like the threat he says is posed by the Patriot Act.
"There's a serious attack on our personal liberties -- your rights, your privacy, passing bills out of a panic mode and passing things like the Patriot Act. it does not help your personal liberty. I'd like to get rid of the Patriot Act, to tell you the truth."
Paul also struck a chord when he called for a sensible foreign policy, one that does not feature thousands of American troops fighting and based overseas.
"That's one of my major goals, is to get back to a sensible foreign policy and say a foreign policy ought to be for giving us a strong national defense -- mind our own business and start bringing all our troops home from around the world," Paul said.
Of course, Paul also got applause when he said the war on drugs had been a detriment to personal liberty, and that people should be allowed to buy and drink raw milk and to grow hemp....
It's the stuff that seems progressive that's working for Paul.
I'd say that Paul threatens to take far more votes away from Obama -- but it seems more appropriate to say he'd take votes from what should be a Democratic Party constituency, namely young people. Paul's economic ideas are nuts, and these young people seem not to get that (or not to care), but I think a lot of them will vote if he's in the race and simply not vote otherwise. They're certainly people Obama should have been able to win over again, but the economy is particularly godawful for the young, and the Goldman Sachs-ization of Obama's administration can't have escaped their notice. (Never mind the fact that a Ron Paul laissez-faire utopia would be even crueler.)
Paul has the potential to be the John Anderson of 2012 -- people forget this, but Ronald Reagan actually won Massachusetts in 1980, largely because Anderson, who got 6.6% of the vote nationwide, received 15% of the vote in the Bay State. College students? In Massachusetts? Yeah, I'd say so. If Paul runs, I guarantee that a non-trivial number of voters in Massachusetts will vote for him and Elizabeth Warren.
(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)