I watched most of the Republican presidential debate last night. There were seven participants, which included Ron Paul. The media, while paying more attention to him, continues to discount him being a contender. I think he will have trouble overcoming the pro-war majority in the Republican Party, but it would not surprise me if he won some primaries/ caucuses.
Ron Paul made a better showing than most would have imagined four years ago. He is starting way ahead from where he was then. Most people outside of his district and outside of the libertarian movement had never heard of him before 2007. Now he is a household name with a big following. With the internet and his new notoriety, he has gained even more of a following since then.
One thing I found interesting about last night’s debate was the stance the candidates were taking on war. Ron Paul is, for sure, the only anti-war candidate. He is the only one who would begin troop withdrawals immediately. But I couldn’t help but notice that the other candidates were far less hawkish than what we saw in 2007 and 2008. Part of this may be the candidates themselves. There is no John McCain or Mike Huckabee. A little part of it might be because of Ron Paul. In addition, these candidates are running against Obama and do not feel the need to defend Bush.
One other significant factor in the less hawkish war stance is public opinion. The majority of American people have soured on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and most of them were never on board for Libya. Perhaps the Republicans are starting to realize that they can’t advocate endless war and still expect to win.
One thing that surprised me about the debate was just how nice everyone was. If I have one criticism of Ron Paul from last night, it would be that he is just too nice. I think the candidates should be attacking Romney (the supposed front runner and establishment favorite). They should point out that the Republican nominee cannot be someone who invented Obamacare before Obamacare even existed. The other candidates should be asking if this election should be Obamacare vs. Romneycare, or about a real choice.
I think Ron Paul should also try to distinguish himself more (if that is possible) on economic issues. He spoke about monetary policy which no other candidate touched and that is good. But he is letting these other people get away with deceiving their audience with generalities. Just about every Republican candidate is saying we need to cut spending and cut taxes. But where, specifically, would they cut?
Since the debate moderators won’t hold them accountable, I think Paul should point out that these calls for spending cuts are not specific. He should say that he would abolish the departments of education, agriculture, housing, labor, energy, etc. He would end all foreign aid. He would end all corporate welfare. Try to force the others to take a position.
Overall, Ron Paul is a great representative of the libertarian philosophy. Libertarians should be so thankful that we have someone who is consistently on message and who is principled and intelligent. His many years of advocating liberty has made him into one of the best. It is not easy in a debate when you have no idea what specific question will be asked. He can hold his own and he will continue to help educate others on the benefits of a free society.
If I were a betting man, I would bet that Ron Paul will not win the Republican nomination, but he will surprise many. He will probably come in second or third and he may actually win some states. I don’t completely discount him taking the nomination, but it is still a long shot at this point with the party being so pro-war. If Paul did win the nomination, he would have a good chance at beating Obama.
In conclusion, if Ron Paul takes second place or better in the primaries, I think libertarians should be very optimistic about the future. If he places third, then I think there is reason for some optimism with the realization that there is still a lot of work to do. If he does worse than third, then Galt’s Gulch becomes more appealing (a reference to Atlas Shrugged). I think we will be pleasantly surprised.