Ron Paul and the Four Horsemen
by James Ostrowski by James Ostrowski
And then there were five.
With Fred Thompson in the race, there are five contenders for the Republican nomination: Rudy, Fred, McCain, Romney, all pro-war, and Ron Paul. The rest are vanity candidates or are looking to be Vice-President (go figure).
What separates these five is that they are national candidates. Why not Huckabee, who is enjoying a boost from Iowa? Because he’s not a national candidate. If this man cannot project power into the neighboring state of Texas and has to "cut and run" and make a phony excuse that’s he busy, he’s not a national candidate. He cleverly focused his scarce resources in Iowa, an ideal state for his message. Lightning will not strike again for him.
I think it’s too early to write off McCain. He’s still in double digits nationally and he’s a tough old bird with a compelling personal story and lingering media support.
Why is Ron Paul a contender at only three percent? Polls tell us something real but not all that is real. Ron consistently surpasses that number in straw polls and online polls. Both measure a critical factor in the primaries and caucuses that "scientific" polls miss: intensity of support. He draws the largest crowds of any Republican. He is the only Republican candidate who generates actual enthusiasm. Much of the poll strength of the other four is based on name recognition and money. Their significance will fade over time as Ron’s name recognition and treasury grow and their treasuries empty.
So, it’s Ron versus the four horsemen of the Iraq apocalypse. The war is not a political liability for Ron in his pursuit of the nomination. While most Republicans continue inexplicably to support the war, 69 percent of Americans do not. Close to forty percent of Republicans either oppose Bush’s handling of the war or are undecided. In those states with open or "modified" primaries, Ron should pick up votes from Independents and Democrats.
Further, the notion that Ron cannot win the votes of pro-war voters assumes they are all single-issue voters. Surely, many will vote for Ron because they like the bulk of his remaining views. With the compressed primary calendar, there should be several pro-war candidates splitting the vote in the early critical primaries. Thus, Ron Paul’s antiwar stance is not an obstacle to his nomination.
It is difficult to think of any other major policy issue about which they can outflank or outthink Ron Paul in a debate: taxes, inflation, immigration, spending, health care? Ron is master of them all and has the record to back up his rhetoric.
The most significant thing about this five-way race is the lack of enthusiasm for any candidate other than Ron Paul. The four horsemen do not attract enthusiastic crowds or much positive media and their poll numbers have been flat for many months. That being the case, they will have to work hard and spend lavishly on targeted states to generate momentum. Most of the money will be spent attacking the other three and they will not be short of material. The four horsemen have lots of question marks in their lengthy and undistinguished records and many policy anomalies and flip-flops to explain.
With their images overexposed and with the public under-enthused, the big four will have to pay dearly for additional support. Consider that Romney spent millions in Iowa while Ron Paul spent perhaps $150,000. It will come down to a war of attrition with the four horsemen struggling to keep their expensive "standing armies" in the field against Ron’s lean, mean and ubiquitous guerilla army.
Finally, Ron Paul’s secret weapon, Hillary Clinton, has all but wrapped up the nomination. Obama has run out of steam and Edwards is going nowhere. The prospect of another President Clinton will focus the minds of Republican primary voters. They need to realize that only a Republican who represents a sharp break from the Gingrich-Bush-era legacy of sleaze, corruption, bloated spending and belligerence can beat Hillary in November 2008.
Ron Paul, the Dave Wottle of presidential politics, is in position to score the biggest upset in American political history.
September 4, 2007
James Ostrowski is an attorney in Buffalo, New York and author of Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics, Including "What’s Wrong With Buffalo." See his website.