View Full Version : Ron Paul The New Dark Horse?

Bradley in DC
10-17-2007, 06:10 AM

Ron Paul The New Dark Horse?
Emergence of surprise candidates with different views can spice up presidential politics.

One of the good things about the presidential primary process is the emergence of surprise candidates that can force leading candidates to go in directions they would just as soon avoid.

For example, could Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul be this political season's equivalent to Howard Dean or Patrick Buchanan?

The Texas Republican is certainly not your middle-of-the-road candidate. If elected, he wants to dramatically reduce the size of the federal government — including elimination of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service (he would end the federal income tax). He would also abolish the Federal Reserve.

Rep. Paul also wants to shrink the power of the presidency and feels the nation should follow a nonintervention policy in foreign affairs, utilizing the military only for the defense of the nation's borders. Based on that philosophy, Rep. Paul opposed the Iraq invasion.

Perhaps it is no surprise that his radical platform sounds more Libertarian than Republican since Rep. Paul ran as the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988.

His ideas could be dismissed as appealing only to the political fringe, his candidacy as a mere curiosity, if not for the fact he is getting some traction. The 10-term congressman far surpassed the expectations of campaign observers when he raised more than $5 million in the third quarter, July-September. That's impressive considering Sen. John McCain of Arizona, considered a “serious” candidate, raised $6 million.

The Ron Paul express appears to be gaining steam, generating larger donation totals with each passing quarter. And his appears to be a genuine grassroots campaign, with two-thirds of the donations from the Internet.

According to a recent Washington Post story, Rep. Paul has been the most popular GOP candidate on the Web, with more supporters on MySpace, Facebook and Meetup than any of the perceived Republican frontrunners.

The phenomenon has similarities to Howard Dean's run for the Democratic presidential nomination four years ago. Fueled by Internet support in the then-emerging blogosphere, Mr. Dean seemed to come from nowhere to become a serious contender. And in 1996 Republican Patrick Buchanan was registering just single-digit poll numbers in the months leading up to the primaries, only to win in New Hampshire.

Of course both those candidacies quickly faded, but not before they forced the frontrunners to sharpen their rhetoric and policy positions.

The ability for the dark horse to emerge and test the mettle of favored candidates is among the strengths of the primary system. Presidential candidates, after all, are supposed to stand for something besides getting elected. Upset-minded presidential aspirants can force top candidates to evaluate exactly what that is.

The process of electing a president will lose something valuable if the primary season is so compressed into so few primaries, or one, that it does not give time for such candidates to emerge and spice up the debate.