Should Conservatives Unite Behind Ron Paul To Defeat Romney?

Ron Paul has asked the rest of the field to drop out and help him defeat Romney.

Mitt Romney’s victory in New Hampshire Tuesday doesn’t cement the former governor’s lead quite as much as he had hoped. Ron Paul came in a strong second – maybe not as strong as Santorum’s close second in Iowa – but strong nonetheless. Since everyone who scores gets some delegates this time around – unlike past years where it was winner-take-all – this leaves Paul with the second most delegates. Now the Paul campaign is urging that everyone other than Romney drop out and unite to defeat Mitt and support Paul.

“Ron Paul tonight had an incredibly strong second-place finish in New Hampshire and has stunned the national media and political establishment,” said campaign chief Jesse Benton in a statement.

“When added to Paul’s top-tier showing in Iowa, it’s clear he is the sole Republican candidate who can take on and defeat both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

“The race is becoming more clearly a two-man race between establishment candidate Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, the candidate of authentic change. That means there is only one true conservative choice.

“Ron Paul has won more votes in Iowa and New Hampshire than any candidate but Mitt Romney.

“Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have been shown in national polls to be the only two candidates who can defeat Barack Obama.

“And Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are the only two candidates who can run a full, national campaign, competing in state after state over the coming weeks and months. Ron Paul’s fundraising numbers — over $13 million this quarter — also prove he will be able to compete with Mitt Romney. No other candidate can do all of these things.

“Ron Paul is clearly the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney as the campaign goes forward.

“We urge Ron Paul’s opponents who have been unsuccessfully trying to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney to unite by getting out of the race and uniting behind Paul’s candidacy.”

Of course, this is never going to happen. Romney’s enemies may despise him but they tend to despise Paul just as much. It’s dubious that Newt Gingrich could deflate his ego long enough to forget that Paul called him a chickenhawk. Even Newt’s deep-seeded loathing for Romney won’t erase Paul’s own attacks on the former speaker.

Beyond that, while Paul is certainly positioned to run a national race, he may lose momentum in South Carolina. He’s polling around fourth place there behind Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney. No chance anybody but Perry drops out before South Carolina though the bumbling Texas governor doesn’t seem to realize this.

At some point we’ll start to see candidates leaving the race. Huntsman put all his eggs into the New Hampshire basket. If he can’t make headway in South Carolina or Florida I don’t see any reason he’d stick around. Santorum will likely get a boost in South Carolina though that may not last beyond Florida and neither he nor Gingrich have the warchest to keep this act up much longer.

So it is possible – likely even – that sometime in the near future this does become a two-man race between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. But don’t expect chickenhawks like Gingrich to lend him their support. Santorum and Huntsman are wild cards, but it’s hard for me to imagine either of them going to bat for Paul. Which means he’s on his own, paving the way for his son, Rand Paul, to win in the next election or the election after that.

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In New Hampshire ‘Live Free Or Die’ Voters Will Choose Romney Because Freedom’s Just Another Word

Voters wait outside a polling station before its door opened for primary voting January 10, 2012 in Concord, New Hampshire.

Voters wait outside a polling station before its door opened for primary voting January 10, 2012 in Concord, New Hampshire.

Despite being a bastion for libertarian-minded independents, New Hampshire voters will probably choose Mitt Romney in Tuesday’s primary. It’s possible that Ron Paul or Jon Huntsman could pull a Santorum-like surprise, but not very likely.

Of course, anything is possible this primary season. Even Rick Santorum is polling better in New Hampshire after his strong Iowa showing. Santorum’s boost in the Granite State is a sign of Romney’s weakness. Voters are scrambling to find whichever anti-Romney candidate will do – even a socially conservative populist like Santorum.

Santorum has had a little help from his friends, of course, as all the candidates turn their ire on Romney. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is out for blood, accusing Romney’s former company Bain Capital of “looting” workers. “Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money?” Newt asked, turning his own populist rhetoric up another notch.

The Gingrich of the past has been very clear about his capitalist credentials. Certainly his talk of the current president’s ‘secular-socialist machine’ has been a far cry from the populism of his current campaign. Then again it’s no surprise that the mercurial former speaker is turning to populism. His tenure as the leader of the opposition in the House was defined by his anti-Clinton populism.

Meanwhile, Santorum is running as the Pat Buchanan candidate, minus Buchanan’s foreign policy views. Economically populist, socially conservative, it’s striking that in the Tea Party infused GOP Santorum is holding such sway with voters. Then again, it’s somewhat baffling that Romney or Santorum would make inroads with New Hampshire voters.

This is home to the Free State Project after all – a movement aimed at getting as many libertarian-minded people to move to New Hampshire as possible and create a sort of libertarian safe-haven there. New Hampshire voters are more socially liberal than other conservative states but they’re very fiscally conservative. This is essentially the antithesis of Rick Santorum. Romney isn’t much better.

The lesson is simple: never underestimate the culture wars. The Tea Party, it turns out, was just a clever facade. The conservative movement has never truly shifted gears from social to fiscal conservatism. Tea Party austerity politics are simply a manifestation of the recession – the confluence of a liberal in the White House and high unemployment. Social conservatism is still very much en vogue. Peel back the fiscal conservatism and underneath the Tea Party veneer you’ll find the culture wars very much alive and kicking.

New Hampshire may be a better fit for Jon Huntsman or Ron Paul than it is for Romney or Santorum. And Huntsman does appear to be surging after a tireless on the ground campaign there. But it’s too little too late for the former Utah governor whose socially moderate views and fiscally conservative record place him more inline with New Hampshire voters than either Romney or Santorum.

Ron Paul has a steady show of support in the state as well but probably not enough for the win. He may be the Tea Party dream candidate, but in 2012 the Tea Party may be going out of style – if it ever was truly in style to begin with.

As strange as it is for the independent, deeply libertarian state of New Hampshire to elect a big government conservative like Romney when they have perfectly acceptable candidates in both Paul and in Jon Huntsman, smart money is still on Romney for the win.

Beyond New Hampshire, unless Santorum can pull another magic trick after South Carolina, the nomination is Romney’s to lose. Santorum doesn’t have the financial base to pull off a nation-wide Iowa surprise. Paul does but it’s hard to see him getting enough delegates nationally to topple Romney (Paul may not be running to win, of course, but more on that later.)

In any case, after the surprise in Iowa, today’s New Hampshire primary should be interesting. But “Live Free Or Die” will prove about as true a motto as it was in 2008 when New Hampshire went to that other neoconservative big-government candidate, John McCain.

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Peace, Love, and the Ron Paul Revolution

Ron Paul in New Hampshire

Once upon a time, Congressman Ron Paul published a newsletter. In it were many vile, racist things – at least for a several year period in the late 80′s and early 90′s when whoever was at its helm attempted to rile up nationalist white fears about race wars, a unified North American state, and various other kooky ideas.

But is this the Ron Paul we see today in the campaigns of 2008 and 2012? Is this the Ron Paul we see campaigning across New Hampshire or railing against American arrogance overseas?

I would suggest that it is not, and furthermore I’d suggest that this was never the real Ron Paul. If anything, Ron Paul was far too lax and too libertarian when it came to who he accepted into his big libertarian tent. The people behind his newsletters, at least for a few years, should never have been given the keys to the city.

Thank goodness that the reason Ron Paul now gains traction among so many people on the right and the left is not the things written in his newsletters. I would argue that, despite what many of his detractors say, his appeal is also not in ‘nationalism’ or ‘isolationism’ but rather in one very simple concept: peace.

Sure, many Ron Paul fans want a drastically reduced federal government and an end to the Federal Reserve and so forth, but these are not compelling enough ideas to cast such a wide net. It’s peace and love – hippie stuff! – that make Ron Paul a sort of icon these days.

And he is more of an icon than a likely president – a fiery prophet of sorts. A John the Baptist for the American Empire, standing at the edge of American decline.

This is a great ad, but it’s right there at the end that fascinates me, just as the word LOVE emerges and then flips around to complete the Revolution logo.

I don’t know if Ron Paul is an honest man or if he is simply obsessed with the Constitution rather than a man who cares deeply about the consequences of our unconstitutional actions. A lot of people suggest that his anti-war stance only applies to undeclared wars. I’m not so sure. He emphasizes unnecessary wars just as often as he mentions that they’re undeclared. Perhaps the two aren’t so different.

Either way, I don’t think he’s racist or homophobic. I don’t think his federalism would set back too many individual liberties. Red states are already red and blue are already blue and the abortion debate and the gay marriage debate are already being fought on a state-by-state level. Federalism, in other words, is largely a reality in this country. Moving more in that direction may or may not be a good thing. Ending the Education Department might hurt funding for some schools, but so far as I can tell the most illiberal reforms in education in the past decade have been at the hands of the feds under No Child Left Behind.

Paul is a mixed bag, but his candidacy represents a real turning page in American politics – a turn from pure tribalism and the hawkish status quo toward something different. Toward peace and love and all that hippie nonsense. It’s refreshing. More like this please.

P.S. I’m actually hoping for a third party run from Paul with Dennis Kucinich on the ticket. You say you want a revolution…

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