Republican voters had an opportunity to examine Ron Paul in detail during the 2008 primary season. The result? Paul averaged only 5.58% in the Republican primaries he contested, and that figure actually exaggerates his appeal because it includes late season primaries where he was the only alternative on the ballot to presumptive nominee John McCain.
It wasn’t a lack of money that sank his campaign, Congressman Paul actually outraised and outspent Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson, both of whom were considered very viable candidates. The Paul campaign got their message out there, the problem was that Republican voters weren’t interested.
Was it the message or the quirky 72-year-old political gadfly they rejected? Does it really matter?
A second bid for the White House by Ron Paul would tie up money and grassroots resources that could be far more effectively used by another candidate with a similar message. I’m speaking, of course, about former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. If both men run, they will split an already small slice of votes and neither will be able to make a significant dent in the discussion.
Johnson is already taking some steps to seperate himself from Paul’s shadow. In February, the ex-governor spoke to POLITICO about his nickname – “Governor No” – and the similarity it has to the nickname “Dr. No” that some have labeled Paul with. (Paul is a physician)
“There was a big difference between Ron Paul and me when it came to the ‘no,’” Johnson told POLITICO. “His ‘no’ was philosophical. It was reasoned. It was right. My ‘no’ actually put a stop to legislation. It cut spending. Mine carried further than just no. I had to follow through with the debate, discussion and dialogue on why my ‘no’ wouldn’t result in people starving, schools being shut down and the delivery of services to the poor wasn’t going to be curtailed.”
It seems like candidates who run for President and enjoy some success just can’t help themselves from giving it another shot. We’ve seen how well that worked for John Edwards in 2008, Steve Forbes in 2000 and Ross Perot in 1996. What Ron Paul accomplished in 2008 was laying the groundwork for a more credible candidate from the libertarian wing of the party to make a real go at it.
Paul should step aside, support Johnson in 2012 and cast an eye toward the future and a potential run by his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, in 2016 or 2020.