The always excellent Steve Kornacki of Salon has a rundown of whether Ron Paul could be convinced to enter the 2012 presidential race as a 3rd party and join the likes of Ross Perot and Ralph Nader as General Election spoilers:
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last week showed the libertarian congressman receiving 18 percent of the vote in a race against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — a number that came mainly at Romney’s expense. In a two-way trial heat, Obama led Romney by six points, 49 to 43 percent. But that margin doubled when Paul was tossed in, with Obama opening a 44 to 32 advantage over Romney. Notably, Paul fared much better than another potential third party candidate, Michael Bloomberg, who netted only 13 percent.
This would be an absolute Republican nightmare scenario akin to what happened in 1992 to George H.W. Bush and in 2000 to Al Gore. They nominate the electable moderate Republican that most people don’t actual like and because of that piss off their hard-right, libertarian base so much that they demand a 3rd candidate thereby assuring that Barack Obama is guaranteed a 2nd term.
I kind of like Ron Paul. Some of his opinions are batty and he has definitely rubbed elbows with white supremacists (or “neo-confederates”) in the past (he is, after all, from central Texas) but he is also the only Republican in the race (besides maybe Huntsman) with a shred of integrity. Make no mistake, the people running for president are the comical mix of half-baked ideologues ever assembled for a Republican nomination (since I am 26 this is a clearly hyperbolic thing to say). They are, in many ways, the direct product of a Republican base that is further outside the mainstream than it has been in the past half-century. That said, moderates rule these elections. They rule every battleground state and they won’t vote for a guy like Ron Paul. They may not like Mitt Romney, but he doesn’t scare them and he probably won’t raise their taxes (even though lots of that comes down to State and local issues it is what people vote on).
A Ron Paul 3rd Party Candidacy (I am waaaayyy too excited to find out what his new party and campaign would be called) would energize the Republican base, allow Romney to move to the center in the hope that he can peel off some Center-Left voters unenthusiastic about another Obama campaign (do they exist?) and hope for the best. Meanwhile, Obama tacks hard left, goes to his base who no longer believe a word he says but don’t have the heart not to vote for him and he knows that he will still trounce Romney because the Republican base is gonna go with Paul.
Of course, all of this matters but how it matters it completely dependent on how the Congressional elections of 2012 turn out and, come on, you know that nobody in their right mind would pretend to have a clue about how that’s gonna all go down.