Ask ten of your Republican friends who refuse to support Ron Paul why and I would venture a guess that the majority would simply say “he’s unelectable.” In other words, what they’re really saying is, “he can’t beat Obama in November 2012.” The most specific answers may have to do with his age. He’s 76 but arguably in better health than any of his competitors, including Obama. He issued this challenge in earlier this year: “I’ve offered to ride a bicycle for 20 miles in Houston when the temperature is 100° and the humidity is 100% and I will go 20 miles with them and then we’ll decide who’s the youngest.” (video)
Another relatively specific answer would simply be a pejorative such as calling him a “kook” or “crank” or flat out “crazy”. Typically, people who use these terms seems to be talking about issues where Dr. Paul actually stands out from the rest of the paper doll symmetrical GOP candidates, especially foreign policy or drug policy. A conversation may go: “Why is he a kook?” “Because he’s an isolationist.” Or “Why is he crazy?” “Because he wants everyone to do drugs.” Both are false on their faces and both are terribly misguided and myopic. Dr. Paul is neither an isolationist (j’ever hear of free trade? You can’t have free trade if you’re an isolationist and Dr. Paul is the most pro-free trade candidate there is) nor does he condone drug use (he’s a medical doctor who probably knows more about the dangers of drugs than the rest of Congress combined). But the point of this post is not to defend Dr. Paul’s policy positions, particularly to those who have no interest in discerning the truth in the first place.
The point of this post is to highlight the lunacy of the excuse that Dr. Paul is “unelectable.” National polls are mostly useless. The Presidency isn’t decided by the popular vote. If any further proof were needed, just look at the approval ratings for Congress. National polls show Congress with near single-digit approval ratings yet relatively few seats really change hands (especially safe are the seats of long time members of Congress…the ones that need to change hands the most). For the sake of thoroughness, Real Clear Politics’ compilation of polls shows Dr. Paul polling just under 10% (of GOP voters), but some of the polls RCP includes were take well before the Cain Train was derailed by allegations of sexual impropriety and secret payoffs. Exactly where Cain’s backers will scatter their support now is unknown.
It’s better to look at primary states. New Hampshire and Iowa are the first prizes up for grabs. RCP’s aggregation of polls in New Hampshire show all candidates trailing Mitt Romney by a sizable number (which is no surprise) with Dr. Paul polling at almost 15%. In Iowa, according to RCP, Dr. Paul polls around 11%. With Iowa holding a caucus instead of a primary, it can be difficult to gauge exactly how poll numbers may reflect voter participation. Again, these numbers are before the Cain Train leapt the tracks so exactly where they go from here is anyone’s guess.
One common theme from all of the polls is that candidates like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum and John Huntsman all tend to lag far behind the other candidates, including Dr. Paul, while Rick Perry, after his colossal gaffes in the debates, runs a bit closer but still behind the others. I’ve not heard any GOP supporters or pundits suggest that these candidates are necessarily “unelectable” and yet they consistently poll poorly across the board. If Dr. Paul is unelectable then all of the other challengers who are behind him (and their supporters) are far more deluded than Ron Paul supporters are accused of being. Sauce for the goose.
One further point should be made. These polls include GOP voters. It is difficult to predict this far in advance what the issue du jour will be a year from now, but you can bet that independent voters will be a major part of the election process come November 2012. One recent poll suggests that Dr. Paul has a better chance at independent voters than any of his GOP counterparts. Apparently he’s quite electable.
The GOP needs the support of independent voters. Neo-con GOP establishment types like Gingrich and Romney will not garner a large following from independents. In addition, many Ron Paul supporters who are registered Republicans will not support another GOP candidate just to get Obama out of the White House. Voting for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil and conscientious Constitutionalists understand that, especially when there is so little substantive difference between Romney/Gingrich and Obama (see especially health care, drug war, war on terror and the Fed. Independents and conscientious conservatives will either stay home, under vote or vote third party. In any of these cases, a significant portion of the independent bloc and a good number of Republican voters will not support the eventual GOP nominee, basically paving the way for a second Obama term by default. So, who’s unelectable now?