I will start with a disclaimer: I am a huge Ron Paul supporter. I supported him in 2008 from the start. I have supported him all this campaign season. I even have documented evidence for anyone who doubts my Paul supporting bona fides that I was calling for him to run for President even before he announced in 2007 and almost no one knew who he was. As a paleoconservative and not a libertarian, I have some issues with Ron Paul and I have never hesitated to make those clear, but he is clearly the best candidate of them all and is so right (and so alone in being right) on so many issues that I can forgive him on the issues where I believe he is wrong.
That said, I have never believed that Ron Paul could win the nomination nor be elected President. I have always considered his campaigns to be message campaigns, although this year he has clearly done a better job of running a “real” campaign, as his presence in Iowa attests. While I don’t think it helps to pour water on people’s enthusiasm, and I think the candidate always needs to maintain the pretense that he is in it to win it, I do think it is important to temper expectations. When I read or hear people say Ron Paul is the only Republican who can beat Obama, I cringe a little.
One of my concerns has been that if Ron Paul happened to win an early state or look like he might, then the weight of the Establishment - left, right and center – as Patroon points out below, would go ugly. So far a lot of the attacks on Ron Paul have been from ideological stakeholders (Mark Levin, Jeffrey Lord, Rush Limbaugh, National Review, etc.) who feel threatened by Ron Paul and feel he is encroaching on their turf and potentially spreading dangerous ideas that the rubes shouldn’t be exposed to lest it corrupt their minds, hense the hysterics to shout him down rather than engage his ideas. However, the main elements of the Establishment have so far patted Paul on the head. But if it looks like he is going to win Iowa or does win Iowa, then all bets are off.
Now I hesitate to go further, because I don’t want to be accused of giving anyone any ideas, but I also don’t want to be accused of flattering myself believeing that many people other than a core group read what I post here. I also think that my observations that follow are so obvious that it is not possible they haven’t already occurred to people.
I think Paul is unelectable, because I don’t think the voting public is ready yet for strict constitutionalism and what that would mean. As a strict constitutionalist (actually an anti-Federalist who sees strict constitutionalism as a transition) I obviously think this is unfortunate, but I believe it is true. Paul has always benefited from the fact that a lot of people really don’t understand what he believes. So he is a Rorschach test of sorts for moderates, hipsters, anti-war liberals, right-wing populists, etc. (The only people he need not be a Rorschach test for is hard core, non-cosmo libertarians who, shall we say, aren’t exactly a huge voting block.) What has always baffled me about the race and anti-Semitic charges is that they are totally unnecessary. All that it is necessary to do to make Ron Paul unelectable is to point out what strict adherence to the Constitution would really mean. No Social Security, no Medicare, no Medicaid, no unemployment insurance, no cancer research, etc. etc. etc. I support getting rid of all these things, but I have sense enough to know this is a 2% belief. Paul can say, as he does, that he wouldn’t get rid of those things overnight, but just not slavishly endorsing Social Security, etc. will lose him huge chunks of voters. If the Powers That Be really wanted to torpedo Paul all they would have to do is relentlessly focus on all the things he wants to cut, which is why the first resort to the racism and anti-Semitism charges is so baffling. It’s like they would prefer that as the first line go to smear. Is this just intellectual laziness? Is this by design?