Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has a good chance of winning his party’s nomination and the presidency next year, yet few in the media (mainstream or otherwise) seem to notice.
Ensuring that voters understand this is essential to having an informed discussion about the direction the country should take in the coming years.This is especially true because of the frequency in which people write off the congressman since they consider him unelectable.
Before we begin, I should note that I write this as someone who does not agree with Paul on everything, does not belong to any group advocating his election and does not plan to join any group advocating such.
I also write this, however, as someone who shares his passion for promoting personal and economic freedom and as someone who believes he is probably the only presidential candidate from any party that has a chance of doing net good while in office.
With that said, let’s look at some of the major indicators of electability in order to determine just how good a shot Paul has.
For many, the most important question regarding electability is a candidate’s performance in head-to-head matchups against the president. By this metric, Paul does very well, averaging 41.5 percent to President Barack Obama’s 43 percent in polls conducted in the last month.
Only one candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, does better by this standard, and his average margin of victory against the president is just 0.6 percent. Additionally, only one other candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, comes close to either Romney or Paul, losing to the president by an average of 2.5 percent.
This means voters looking for a candidate that can beat Obama but that has a more consistent record of promoting limited government than Romney or Perry should give the congressman another look.
After considering his chances against the president, most people are curious about Paul’s performance in national polling relative to his fellow Republican contenders. Despite the cable news channels’ fervent efforts to elevate statist, warmongering candidates such as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Paul has consistently placed third among announced candidates for about two weeks.
His average standing in the national polls among declared GOP candidates since Aug. 27, according to RealClearPolitics.com, is third place (9.2 percent), behind Perry (31.8 percent) and Romney (19.8 percent). This still leaves him a distant third, but he has gone from trailing Bachmann by seven percent on July 20 to leading by three points as of Tuesday.
Those who think Paul is too far behind to make a surge should recall that, at this point in the 2008 cycle, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the eventual GOP nominee, was in a distant third place (15.3 percent), trailing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (28.6 percent) and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson (23.4 percent).
In addition, polls conducted in states that hold the first primaries and caucuses can be very important.
There has only been one general poll conducted in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire in the last month, but Paul placed a solid third in it, earning 14 percent, much less than Romney’s 36 percent but quite close to Perry’s 18 percent. RealClearPolitics.com lists three polls conducted in the leading caucus state of Iowa in the last month, and Paul averages a respectable fourth in those.
The fact that he came within one percentage point of winning the Ames Straw Poll in August, however, is a strong indication of a passionate, well-organized following, something that will be especially beneficial in small-scale contests such as caucuses and small-state primaries.This recent success in polls of Republicans in these consequential states means Paul has the potential to catch a major break if he can win or place second in one or both.
In the second quarter of this year (the most recent complete quarter) Paul was second only to Romney in fundraising, and his margin over the third-place fundraiser (former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has since dropped out) was a comfortable $4.5 million to $4.2 million.
This is an indication that he will be able to compete with the president’s fundraising machine in the general election.
The above figures do not prove Ron Paul is destined to be the GOP nominee and our 45th president, but the news media should acknowledge that they at least prove his viability as a contender.