Ron Paul: Third In South Carolina, Confusing the Politicos, the Progressives' Only Hope, and the Right Policy on Iran


Since New Hampshire,  the Real Clear Politics running average has Ron Paul tied for third precisely in South Carolina with Rick Santorum, at 14.7. That isn't particularly competitive, now, with Gingrich at second at 22 percent, but we've got a week to go. Paul is raising money today for his South Carolina efforts with a dedicated moneybomb (at $448K as I write).

The idea that he is deliberately not ever clashing with Romney (which is not true–the campaign ran paid official radio ads attacking only Romney in Iowa) continues to float about, leading this Hill journalist to wonder: what does Ron Paul want?

"If he keeps placing in the top three, he's going to have between 100 and 200 delegates," said Ron Bonjean, a veteran Republican strategist. "Therefore, he would have some type of recognition at the convention."

That analysis seems way off for two reasons: one, there seems little reason to believe there will be three candidates running through the entire campaign, and the Paul campaign's efforts to target caucus states where delegates earned need not match popular vote percentages.

Romney, meanwhile, has largely left Paul alone when attacking his Republican rivals – he's said multiple times that he likes Paul — giving the Texas congressman and his issues credibility and respect, even if nobody can quite gauge what he's going to do next.

"Paul's kind of like a dangerous animal that needs to be treated with respect," said a GOP consultant working for one of the 2012 candidates. "People underestimate him at their own peril."

I too can't imagine Romney leaving Paul alone if and when it comes down to the two of them. And while "dangerous animal" isn't a very flattering way to be perceived by the GOP establishment, I suppose it beats "irrelevant kook."

Libertarianism in general and Ron Paul specifically have a lot to offer the progressive left, and not just on war, or even just on war and civil liberties. Paul's stated Rothbardian beliefs about pollution, in theory, are a far more powerful weapon for protecting the environment than any imaginable real-world regulatory state, for example, and Paul always says that any aid program for individuals that they have become dependent on will be last to get cut, even in his fiscally tight world where such programs aren't even constitutional. Matt Welch blogged earlier this month on progressives' increasing tumult and confusion on the Mysterious Case of Ron Paul.

Conor Friedersdorf returns to the matter at the Atlantic:

If progressives are frustrated that relatively doctrinaire libertarians are attracting the attention and support of people who care deeply about civil liberties, why don't they work to offer some alternative? Guys like me will probably still prefer Johnson. But is it really the case that the Democratic Party can't produce a prominent civil-libertarian politician who Glenn Greenwald would prefer to Ron Paul? 

That is itself a devastating truth about the post-2009 left. 

As Election 2008 proved, however, it isn't impossible to change. Democrats can in fact unapologetically run against indefinite detention, excessive executive power, and needless wars, and get elected doing it. What's additionally required is a civil-libertarian constituency big and motivated enough to hold them to their promises. That is what progressivism apparently lacks. Until progressives have a plan to change that, they should think twice about marginalizing and dismissing a civil-libertarian voice that, however flawed, is better than any they've got to offer. 

Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer on Judge Napolitano's show, saying Ron Paul "has the most realistic policy on Iran," whether or not they actually have or might soon have a nuke (which Paul does not believe):

Reason's Paul archives. My forthcoming book, Ron Paul's Revolution.