Ron Paul’s strategy for winning: Independent and cross-over voters

With not a lot of enthusiasm for either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, Ron Paul may become increasingly attractive to independent and cross-over voters. At least that's what his supporters are counting on.

Winslow Townson/AP
Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks to small business owners in Concord, N.H., Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011.

Ron Paul beats Barack Obama in recent poll.”

That headline (made up by me) is sort of true. It refers to a Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month in which Paul beats Obama among independent voters 48-39 percent with 13 percent undecided.

Unremarkable, you say, since Obama beats Paul 47-41 percent among all likely voters in the PPP poll. Besides, I agree, such polls are ephemeral at best, more art than science in their dissection.

Still, the same one-on-one fake elections show other Republican presidential hopefuls in the field – Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann – losing to Obama among independents. Only GOP front-runner Mitt Romney comes close, tying Obama among such partyless voters (but losing overall, as do the others).

Why is this important?

It’s because independents are the fastest growing segment of our nominally two-party system, swelling the ranks of voters as the Democratic Party and the Republican Party alike lose trust and loyalty.

That’s the point Paul-supporter and publisher Robin Koerner makes in his recent Huffington Post column.

With not a lot of enthusiasm for either Romney or Obama, Koerner argues, Paul’s cross-over appeal becomes increasingly apparent. He also points out a sleeper tidbit potentially offsetting the GOP’s more saber-rattling stance than Paul on foreign affairs: Paul has been getting more donations than his rivals from those who actually do the nation’s fighting – those identifying themselves as active duty or retired military personnel. (Chickenhawks and other Neocons take note.)

An unscientific anecdote seems relevant in retrospect.

As our Thanksgiving crowd watched droolingly while the turkey was being carved, someone (me) brought up Ron Paul. I expected sparks to fly among the cranberries and corn pudding, but no. Three friends – a liberal Democrat, a moderate Republican, and a fan of Rush Limbaugh – all had good things to say about the Texas congressman with strong libertarian tendencies.

One can make too much of this. Ron Paul has an enthusiastic fan base that (like Robin Koerner) scans polls and other political entrails selectively to make the point that their man can win not only his party’s nomination but the general election.

Still, Paul soldiers on, typically going his own way on issues from immigration to Israel, speaking without pretense or political calculation at debates, holding his own in polls (certainly more so than most of the rest, especially those like Bachmann, Perry, and Cain who surged then fell back to the second tier).

And as he does so, he’s getting more media attention (although supporters still complain that he’s being ignored).

Take the Iowa caucuses next January, the first test of a candidate’s relative strength, where Paul is putting lots of resources and effort.

“Paul is an interesting wild card in Iowa,” writes Brent Budowsky, who blogs for The Hill newspaper. “He can win Iowa, and if for some reason Newt falls back, I suspect he will win.”

“The media has always underestimated the premium of passion, conviction and organization in the Paul campaign,” writes Budowsky. “Paul's main competitor in Iowa is Newt. If Newt maintains his support, which is questionable, he has a good shot at Iowa, and if he does not, my bet is Paul.”

“If conservatives are forced to settle for Romney, who many hold in contempt,” Budowsky concludes, “Ron Paul could run a blockbuster third party campaign, if he chooses.”

Of course, that’s what they said about Ross Perot in 1992 and Ralph Nader in 2000. Which is why we had Bill Clinton for two terms and George W. Bush for two more.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.