Yesterday as we drove through the greater Provo/Orem area here in Utah, we saw people in the process of putting up three garage-door size signs for Ron Paul. This added to an already large number of signs for the libertarian Presidential candidate.
Full of Mormons, Utah is generally considered to be a for-Mitt, by-Mitt, of-Mitt redstate. Not so. A quick google-search revealed a number of ardent Ron Paul revolutionaries (examples here and here). And a second look at the results from Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan, showed good results for Paul--when compared to the amount of attention he gets from the MSM.
We believe Ron Paul has a generally positive influence on the Republican Presidential Primary. To us, his foreign policy beliefs seem irresponsible. Additionally, many of his domestic and economic politics appear extreme. But his positions force every other candidate to reconsider the importance of the small-government, libertarian wing of the Republican party.
Winning 10, 8, and 4% of the vote in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan, respectively, shows how much his beliefs resonate with Republican and in some cases, Independent voters. He may be used as a punching bag in debates, but however ridiculed, much of what he says finds enthusiastic believers. His one day record take of over $5 million USD shows his supporters are willing to back up their votes with cash.
None of this would be possible if Paul were to run as a 3rd party candidate. He might take votes from the eventual Republican candidate, aiding in a Democrat win, but more people would resent him for that (Ross Perot) than remember fondly how he reminded Republicans of conservative fiscal policy.
We wouldn't vote for Paul and we disagree with those who predict a break-up of the Reagan coalition (fiscal & social conservatives, foreign policy hawks). George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George W. Bush collectively were not carbon copies of Ronald Reagan politically. In each instance, different wings of the Republican party were more or less satisfied with each President's (or candidate's) positions on a host of issues. But each time, the majority of each part of the coalition voted for the Republican candidate because they best matched their beliefs.
Such will be the case in 2008. By and large, each of the major candidates more closely matches the beliefs of fiscal/social conservatism & foreign policy hawks better than any of the Democratic candidates. The only concern is that one or more of these groups stays home on election day--not that they vote for the Democratic candidate. But the same thing that happened before will happen again--the Republican nominee will do what is necessary to solidify the support of the Reagan coalition. In the meantime, the longer than normal competitive primaries will help Republican candidates and voters alike to sort out what matters most.
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