Ron Paul denies third-party run. So why are pundits still talking about it?

It's unlikely that a third-party run by Ron Paul would garner significant support. But it could be a factor in the overall election, much like Ross Perot's run was in 1992.

Dave Schwarz/The St. Cloud Times/AP
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul speaks at the St. Cloud Civic Center in St. Cloud, Minn., Saturday.

A third-party run for Ron Paul?

The GOP presidential candidate – who has deeply loyal supporters – has nixed the idea at least twice. So why are pundits still talking about it?

Most recently, Representative Paul was asked on a "Fox News Sunday" interview whether he would consider an independent run. He replied, “I have no intention of doing that. That doesn't make sense to me to even think about it, let alone plan to do that.”

That's almost identical to an answer he gave CNN several days ago.

But at least one political analyst, on Politico, sees some wiggle room in Paul's answers: "If Paul really has absolutely no interest in running outside the GOP, a shorter answer would be 'no.' But he keeps going back to 'no intention,' a famously non-binding construction," writes Alexander Burns.

(Also, Paul earlier said that he "wouldn't rule out" such a third-party run.)

Paul, whose followers perennially complain he's being short-shrifted by the media, has been stacking up an impressive array of straw poll wins – most recently winning an Illinois straw poll vote with 52 percent. It's an indication of the depth, if not the breadth, of his support.

Paul, despite his straw poll wins, continues to poll in the single digits (behind Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry) in national surveys of likely voters, and it's unlikely a third-party run, even if he did choose that, would garner significant support.

But it could certainly be a factor in the overall election, much like Ross Perot's run was in 1992.

Moreover, Paul has been reluctant to support other Republican candidates. In that same Fox interview, Paul said he would "probably not" give his support to a GOP candidate unless that candidate agreed with most of his positions (highly unlikely, given Paul's stances on everything from the Federal Reserve and defense spending to foreign affairs and aid to Israel).

"If they [the GOP presidential nominee] believe on expanding the wars, if they don't believe in looking at the Federal Reserve, if they don't believe in real cuts, if they don't believe in deregulation and a better tax system, it would defy everything I believe in," Paul told interviewer Chris Wallace, saying that giving his endorsement would betray the trust of his donors and supporters. 

It's yet another interview that underscores the marked differences between Paul and the rest of the GOP candidates. Given the loyalty of his followers, it's hard to see them easily shifting to another candidate once – or if – he bows out of the race.

All of which, of course, is why the question of that third-party run keeps popping up.

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