Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why Ron Paul can’t win

Ron Paul is a frequent winner of straw polls and has a loyal following among libertarians. In spite of winning these polls, Paul has no chance of winning the Republican nomination. This is not because of a Republican or media (or Bilderberger or Illuminati or any other) conspiracy. The reason lies in Paul’s political beliefs and the nature of the straw polls that he wins.

Paul, a Republican congressman representing a Texas house district, is not a normal Republican. Between terms in Congress as a Republican, he ran for president as a Libertarian Party candidate. Even today, his platform is starkly different than those of other Republicans.

One of the issues where this is most apparent is drug legalization. Ron Paul has supported the decriminalization of narcotics and an end to the drug war. While the American public is almost evenly split on the issue of marijuana legalization according to an October 2011 Gallup poll, only 35 percent of Republicans are in favor. The fact that Paul is out of step with Republican voters hurts him as a candidate in a Republican primary.

While Paul opposes attempts to redefine traditional marriage, he opposes a federal marriage amendment, which is the only way to prevent the courts from imposing same-sex marriage. As with drug legalization, this is an issue on which the American public is divided according to a recent Associated Press poll, but support for traditional marriage is stronger among Republicans and conservatives. When voters have had a chance to vote on definition of marriage laws or amendments, they often pass by a large margin. Georgia voters approved a marriage amendment with 76 percent in favor in 2004.

On other issues Paul is similarly out of step. After U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, Paul said in an interview on Iowa’s WHO radio that he would not have ordered the raid. As reported by ABC News, Paul said that the raid was “absolutely not necessary” and did not reflect “respect for the rule of law and world law, international law.” Paul said that he would have favored cooperation with Pakistan to arrest bin Laden.

Paul’s position again conflicted with the beliefs of most Americans. According to a Washington Post/Pew poll, by a margin of 34-8 percent most Americans believed that Pakistan had done more to hurt U.S. efforts to find bin Laden than to help. Seventy-two percent of Americans felt relieved that bin Laden was dead. Bin Laden’s death made 60 percent of Americans feel proud and 58 percent felt happy. These percentages are probably even higher among Republicans.

Even more current and troubling to most Americans is Paul’s position on Iran. CNS News reports that Paul said, “For them [Iran] to be a threat to us or to anybody in the region, I think it’s just blown out of proportion.” Paul opposes sanctions or military action against Iran and says that the U.S. should offer friendship instead, a position closer to that of Barack Obama than his fellow Republicans.

In contrast, a UPI poll released on November 12 shows that 50 percent of Americans support U.S. military action against Iran and 57 percent support an Israeli attack on Iran. According to a CBS/Global Research poll, only 17 percent of Americans do not believe that Iran poses a threat.

As the polls were released, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report that confirms that the Iranian nuclear program is focused on developing weapons rather than nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Coming on the heels of the FBI’s disruption of an Iranian assassination plot in Washington, D.C. in October, it is likely that many more Americans are coming to see Iran as a dangerous threat that will not respond to anything short of military action.

On the other hand, Paul’s long-time advocacy of government spending cuts is now being supported by a majority of Americans according to Gallup and there are signs that his desire to bring back the gold standard is gaining support as well. A Rasmussen poll from October surprisingly showed that 44 percent of Americans favored the gold standard compared to 28 percent opposed. When the question was phrased to say that the gold standard would reduce the powers of “bankers and the political class,” support increased to 57 percent and opposition dropped to 19 percent.

Rep. Paul’s call to “end the Fed” may be gaining support, but is still a minority position. A Bloomberg poll from December 2010 showed that only 16 percent wanted to abolish the Federal Reserve. That number was twice the eight percent who favored abolishing the Fed in October of that year. Even if most Americans don’t favor shutting down the Federal Reserve, 39 percent did want to make it more accountable and only 37 percent favored the current model with an independent Fed.

Ron Paul’s economic policies are finding favor in the current climate of massive government spending and deficits. On domestic issues and foreign policy, however, he is out of step with most Americans and even more out-of-step with Republicans, whom he must win over to reach the general election. Consequently, he stays below ten percent according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, even as he wins unscientific straw polls where his supporters turn out in droves. In Georgia polls, Paul remains similarly in the single digits, near his under-three percent finish in Georgia’s 2008 primary election.

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