Ron Paul

It's All About the Pauls: Ron, Rand, and Ryan

Tea partiers' and libertarians' growing influence in the GOP will be on full display when the three Pauls converge in Tampa for the GOP Convention.


Tea Partiers' and libertarians' growing influence in the Republican Party will be on full display this weekend as the three the Pauls—Ron, Rand, and Ryan—converge in Tampa for the GOP Convention.

Ron Paul may be libertarians' and the Tea Partiers' past, Rand Paul the future, and Paul Ryan—well, he may be the best the Republican Party can do at the moment.

The three Pauls represent a dawning realization among strategists and pollsters that libertarians are among the most important slices of the electorate, up and down the ticket—from the presidency to key Senate races to key House races. The data show why.

Libertarian Tea Partiers key to turnout

First, if 2012 becomes a turnout election, Romney may well be betting on the energy of Tea Party libertarians to put him over the top.

Many people on the left still confuse the Tea Party as the same old religious right, but the evidence says they are wrong. The Tea Party has strong libertarian roots and is a functionally libertarian influence on the Republican Party.

In a new study at Cato, "Libertarian Roots of Tea Party ," we compile data from national and local polls and dozens of original interviews, and find that half the Tea Party is socially conservative, half libertarian—that is fiscally conservative, but socially moderate to liberal.

Libertarians led the way for the Tea Party . Starting in early 2008 through early 2009, we find that libertarians were more than twice as "angry" with the Republican Party as were conservatives, more pessimistic about the economy and deficit since 2001, and more frustrated that people like them cannot affect government. Libertarians, including young people who supported Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign, provided much of the early energy for the Tea Party and spread the word through social media.

Tea Party libertarians report higher levels of political activism according to Washing­ton Post polling data. The Washington Post data show 65 percent of Tea Party libertarians report attending a political rally, speech, or meet­ing, compared to 48 percent of Tea Party conservatives. Forty-six percent of Tea Party libertarians report being likely to contribute money and 75 percent plan to convince neighbors to vote, compared to 35 percent of Tea Party conservatives who were likely to give money and 66 percent who plan to convince someone to vote.

Tea Party libertar­ians are the more active, angry, ani­mated part of the Tea Party movement. That's how libertarians and Tea Partiers propelled Rand Paul to victory in 2010 over establishment Republicans' objections. And that's why libertarian Tea Partiers are a key liability for the Romney campaign.

Ron Rapport at William and Mary showed that among FreedomWorks supporters, who would become part of the Tea Party movement, only 40 percent of libertarians did something for the McCain-Palin ticket in the 2008 general election, compared with 70 percent of the supporters of every other major nomination candidate from that year. Tea Party libertarians and Ron Paul supporters may otherwise be less inclined to turn out and help than conservative Tea Partiers.

Romney's famously data-driven campaign no-doubt tested Ryan's impact on various segments of the electorate, libertarians included. Part of the Romney campaign's calculus for Paul Ryan may be that he moves Tea Party libertarians more than conservatives. Ryan is no libertarian, for sure.  But many libertarians have admitted some enthusiasm, notwithstanding their reservations, about Ryan.

Libertarian independents are the true swing voters

Second, even in turnout elections, swing voters matter. And that's why candidates will also need libertarian independents.

In Declaration of Independents, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch chronicle the rising importance of independents and libertarians:

"Independents and libertarians are arguably the vanguard of American public opinion, an advance scouting party hinting at where and how hard the country as a whole will turn against its leaders." 

A new poll from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation confirms this. Many independents have already made up their mind. But 13 percent of the independents, or about five percent of the total electorate, are truly undecided.

Cato's David Boaz points out that these voters are highly dissatisfied with today's political system, that 64 percent support "smaller government with fewer services," and 63 percent favor gay marriage. He writes, "These are the true swing voters, and they might well be described as fiscally conservative and socially liberal."

This helps explain why more and more Republican candidates are running as "functional libertarians"—emphasizing fiscal issues such as spending, tax reform and ending bailouts, while avoiding subjects like abortion and gay marriage—and winning. This strategy may unite Tea Partiers in the primaries, appeal to libertarian independents, and woo other general election voters concerned about the economy.

Rand Paul may be a savvier politician than his father, perhaps trading his endorsement for Romney for a primetime speaking slot. But Ron Paul delegates, libertarians, and Tea Partiers' views influenced the GOP platform. The Fiscal Times reports that in addition to "privatizing Medicare," and promoting a "flatter income tax," the draft GOP platform calls for a "permanent audit" of the Fed and even a national commission to study returning to the gold standard.

Paul Ryan is more political still, and perhaps the best libertarians can expect from today's Republican Party. Notwithstanding claims that Ryan's budget is "draconian" "radical" and "extreme," Ryan only manages to balance the federal budget in 2063, compared to Rand Paul's plan that balances in five years.

The story of the three Pauls and libertarians' growing political clout should give all libertarians reason to cheer—libertarian Tea Partiers and libertarian independents included. Thomas Jefferson wrote that "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." Increasingly, politicians fear libertarians. And that's a good thing. 

NEXT: Paul Festival: The Fight for the Ron Paul Grassroots' Soul

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  1. The other Paul, the one with the first name, does not belong in the same room with the 2 last name Pauls. To be honest, I am not sure that either of the younger Pauls belong in the same room with the elder Paul.

    In my opinion, I would say that Rand is about the best that we can expect right now from the Republican party, leaving out the POTUS race. Paul Ryan is a neocon/socon, a smart guy, but not a libertarian bone in his body.

    Libertarians are the only future for the GOP. The younger generation is ours for the taking, we just have to keep pounding out the message. We are headed into, metaphorically speaking, a caged death match between free market/free mind libertarians and a growing segment of the population totally dependant upon big government. The only way we win without total economic collapse is to stop the ability of politicians to buy votes with tax payer money.

    1. My understanding is that Ryan wants to balance the budget (albeit slowly), reduce the size of government (albeit not by much), and is generally in favor of free markets. I think those count as libertarian bones.

      1. Ryan does not want to reduce the size of government. He wants it to grow more slowly, but does not want to shrink it. And I guess it depends on what you mean by “generally in favor of free markets”

        1. He’s unelectable because of his positions and the electorate’s immaturity. It’s not ‘self-perpetuating’ it’s reality.

          Why didn’t Jim DeMit run!?!?!?!

          1. Disregard fail post.

        2. Paul Ryan is about the best we can do for Romney’s running mate. In fact we’re stuck with him. I may vote another symbolic vote for Gary Johnson/Libertarian Party.

          I alternate between not voting, voting Repub. and voting libertarian. I voted for Bush the first time because he talked about improving trade with Mexico and better relations with them and the free market and had been in the oil business and was hoping he could continue the fiscal restraint that happened under Clinton with a Repub. congress.

          But 9-11 happened and Bush turned out to be a really big gov’t republican and here we are.

          Paul Ryan is mostly in favor of free markets the same way most republicans are: only in theory and only until they get in office.

          The few times I voted LP, I felt I wasted my vote since they got such a small percentage no one noticed. If the LP ever got 3% or 7% of the vote, people might take notice.

          But this time, even a smaller % may be noticed if it helps cost Romney the election.

          Let Obama destroy the economy and take the blame. If Romney does it, it will all be that “libertarian Ryan’s free market” fault.

          1. Your vote is never going to alter the election or the reported percents. I don’t know why people feel like their vote only counts if they vote for the guy that wins (not saying you necessarily believe this, but a lot of people do)

            1. You don’t get it Calidissent. You should feel like your vote is wasted unless someone notices it. Look at me!

    2. The younger generation is ours for the taking,


      1. The younger generation is not showing many sogns of making more sense than the one preceding it. A little more sane on the drug war, and lot less sane on the ‘self sufficiency’ isue. “Gimme gimme free shit” is becoming our knew motto. I prefer the older one “Give me lerty of give me death.” Shame Patrick Henry is not remembered as our first President.

    3. Problem is how much of the young generation actually believes in the whole libertarian message not just on social issues. Being a libertarian myself this worries me.

      A lot of people are “libertarian” until you start talking about cutting the goodies such as NASA or entitlements.

      Cutting defense spending and equal rights are great but they aren’t the whole movement.

      1. You cant even get a majority on those two issues. I like having the baddest military around, I just do not see why we *feel* we need to be able to defeat the whole planet — all at once. Now one even comes close to our military budget, by a factor of 2 or 4.

  2. OH, and FIRSTEST!

  3. Tea Party has strong libertarian roots and is a functionally libertarian influence on the Republican Party.

    Could you please tell my local Charleston Tea Party that. Thanks.

    1. Or tell us why the TPers supported sweater vest over Ron Paul? Nothing libertarian about that.

      1. They didn’t like Romney and didn’t go for RP because of FP ‘ideas’ and even more so because RP is perceived as unelectable. That perception is correct bte.

        1. Yes, he’s unelectable because he’s unelectable. So let’s vote for some shitty big government candidate who can at least win (not saying you think this way, but for plenty of people out there, these are the conclusions of their logic)

          1. He’s unelectable because of his positions and the electorate’s immaturity. It’s not ‘self-perpetuating’ it’s reality.

            Why didn’t Jim DeMit run!?!?!?!

            1. Maybe in the general, but in the primary I think you have to admit it is self-perpetuating to a large extent. Not to mention, polls showed Santorum and Gingrich were less electable than Paul.

              DeMint is pretty good on fiscal issues. I’m not a big fan of his Soconism or his foreign policy, though he has had a few good votes in recent times on non-economic bills (such as NDAA, Rand Paul’s bill to officially end the Iraq War, etc). I also don’t see how he’s any more electable than RP. Leftists could just as easily play the “extremist” canard with him

              1. The primary leads to the general doncha know?

                JD would be better because of his lack of kookiness (which is what really puts voters off RP), NEWSLETTERZ, and RP’s iffy speaking abilities. JD does have some SoCons triffle but he has totally de-prioritized that. He’s kind of the embodiment of the Tea Party and its effect on the GOP. Oh and he strokes my war boner in only the right places…as far as I know he doesn’t want to play globocop in the South China Sea.

                1. Yes, but my point was Ron Paul at least could have won the primary. And that the people that these people voted for instead were even less electable.

                  You make some good points, but I still think the Dems could have painted Demint as an extreme socon, which I think is worse than being painted as a fiscal/economic extremist. And it would be funny to see a supposedly liberal president play the role of war hawk in the debates

              2. he is a big drug warrior. fuck him

              3. The left will cry ‘racist, homophobic, war mongerer and hater of the poor’ no matter who is running against them. Be it TEAM Red, or a libertarian party man. They have one play book. It works. They do not fuck with their play book. People are stupid.

    2. My mom is an avid tea partier and if her group in rural Ohio is typical, then it’s true that the TP influence on the republican party is libertarian. But that in no way means they’ll abandon TEAM RED come election day. I spent an hour on the phone with her the other night trying to convince her that voting for Romney is just voting for more big government, which is just the opposite of what she’s trying to accomplish in the tea party. When it comes down to the wire, they hate TEAM BLUE more than they’re angry with TEAM RED.

      1. True, and that sucks. But it hasn’t prevented the TP from having a hugely positive effect on the GOP, usually in the highly direct manner of ousting old incumbent bastards.

      2. Okay well there may be some influence or something but so far from my eyes here it is just another elect (R) camp no matter what position (R) holds. shrug.

        1. They’ve already removed several shitty GOP establismentarians and put Rand in so they are not another R camp whatever else you may want to believe.

          1. My remarks were about the Charleston, SC Tea Party.

            1. Ooops sorry.

  4. Unfortunately, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, being only 32, is too young to legally have been considered as a VP running mate. He would been such a better choice over Paul Ryan.

    1. Amash is a good dude. Which is why the media will have none of him if he ever gets a bigger platform.

  5. I think it’s telling that being a fiscal conservative counts as “libertarian” when discussing Republicans these days. Didn’t that used to be a REQUIREMENT of being a conservative/Republican?

  6. Neil died. I don’t care. Nor do you.

    1. “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. Oops, I’m dead! ggghgharghggharggahhhaaahhhh….”

  7. Before I get accused of anything improper, I’m at home in California preparing for my fantasy football drafts.

    On a serious note, he was possibly the greatest American that ever lived. Rest In Peace, Neal Armstrong.

    1. I’m sure he was willing to forgive the young punk that fucked with his mailbox. When you walk on the moon and narrowly escape an in-flight space emergeny, I imagine you gain perspective on things.

      While I think Chuck Yeager had the biggest balls in the history of men, it is true that no one will ever forget Neil Armstrong. May he rest in peace or come back as the Star Child from 2001.

    2. Is there any truth to the claim that Buzz Aldrin was supposed to walk on the moon first? I once heard that he was the commander of the lander mission and changed the order of who walked on the moon first.

      1. He being Neil Armstrong was the commander of the lunar landing but Aldrin was supposed to walk on the moon first.

    3. Ok, I’m fairly new here, so could someone explain the sloopy/Neil Armstrong mailbox meme to me?

      1. If I’ve been had I’ve been had.

        Sloopy hosts a fantasy football league.

        Neil Armstrong just died.

      2. In his precocious teen years, Sloopy was the designated hitter for the local mailbox baseball team. Since he lived not far from Neil Armstrong’s ranch, well, you can see where this is headed.

        1. Assuming it’s true, that’s hilarious

    4. Its a good thing you’re going to Hell, sloop. Otherwise Neil Fuckin Armstrong would be waiting just outside the Pearly Gates to whip your ass before forgiving you and welcoming you to Heaven.

      1. I’ll send him a letter apologizing when I’m on my way to heaven, but I don’t think he’ll get it.

        Seriously, though, he was a great man, even if he was too dumb to install a durable mailbox.

      2. I made a crappy remark about Neil here.

  8. We did not get into this mess overnight and cannot get out of it overnight. I urge people to look at long term objectives as well as short term.…

  9. I don’t get the Libertarian Swing voter thing. The Democratic party as it now stands represents everything I oppose. I may swing between Republican and Libertarian, but never Team Blue. I don’t understand how any libertarian could.

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