President Barack Obama’s supporters who root for a third-party run by libertarian candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) as a way of splitting the GOP vote to help the president get reelected, should be careful what they wish for.
Paul’s momentum – as evidenced by his campaign’s grassroots enthusiasm and fundraising might – mirrors Obama’s historical 2008 run, and could chip away at the president’s voting base during the general election, endangering his reelection chances and instead helping the Republican nominee.
Paul, who this week proposed to abolish the TSA and blasted the president’s State of the Union Address as a “campaign speech,” has repeatedly denied that he would run as a third-party candidate (some cite that he may not want to taint a potential Rand Paul 2016 presidential run within the Republican Party).
However, the volatile and dysfunctional GOP primary has already had its fare share of twists and turns. And, since it shows no sign of slowing down, it wouldn’t be surprising if Ron Paul changes his mind and drops out of the GOP race to run as a third-party candidate.
If he does, here are the reasons why his independent bid would actually hurt Obama:
• Ron Paul is the new "hope and change" candidate: Obama and the rest of the Republican field are perceived as part of the status quo, while Paul is perceived as an outsider whose timeless values of honesty and personal liberty resonate with anti-war and young voters, who also happen to be tech-savvy and will cross party lines (or become independents) to support the candidate they feel best represent their values.
• Ron Paul is the new king of grassroots fundraising: As Obama and his eventual Republican challenger prepare to wage America’s most expensive presidential campaign to date, Paul’s surprisingly competitive and sustainable fundraising has been fueled by the same individual donors who flocked to Obama in 2008. And given Ron Paul’s momentum, there’s no reason to doubt they will continue following him if he decides to launch an independent run in the fall.
• It’s not 1992 anymore: For a group that calls itself “progressive,” Democrats spend an awful lot of time invoking icons from the past such as FDR, JFK and WJC (true, Republicans do it too with Ronald Reagan). Ron Paul's third-party candidacy chatter has been fueled by those who wrongly see a parallel between 2012 and the 1992 presidential election when third-party candidate Ross Perot helped then-governor Bill Clinton unseat the incumbent Republican President George H. W. Bush by splitting the vote. They’re wrong. 2012 is not 1992, and Ross Perot – despite his calls for balancing the budget – is definitely no Ron Paul. President Obama is no Clinton either. In fact, he finds himself in a similar position that one-termer President Bush in 1992: running on a successful foreign policy and a poor economy.
Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes