Strategic Voting for Republicans

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Let’s get this out in the open right away: I am not a fan of President Bush, and I strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq. Even so, I believe the typical Republican voter should pay heed to this article, because chances are you’re overlooking some important considerations about presidential candidate Ron Paul. To anticipate my conclusion: You should vote for Ron Paul in your state’s primary, and then vote for the Republican nominee (probably Giuliani) in the general election against the Democratic nominee (probably Clinton).

Let’s face it, the single biggest objection to Ron Paul’s candidacy is simple but blunt: "He can’t win." Nobody wants to vote for a sure loser, and Republicans certainly don’t want to throw away their vote on a purist and thus allow Hillary to win.

But I’m not asking you to write in Ron Paul in the general election. No, I’m just asking this: If you believe that Ron Paul best represents the conservative ideals of limited government and Constitutional rule, then vote for him in your state’s primary. You don’t have to worry about strategic considerations too much. Chances are, Rudy Giuliani will still receive the nomination, despite your vote for Paul. That’s fine. You can still vote for Giuliani (or whoever the nominee is) in the general election, when all good Republicans join forces to oppose a Clinton or Obama presidency. You have absolutely nothing to lose by my strategy. You’re not "wasting" your vote on a dreamer, because you can still vote for the "serious" candidate in the general election.

My plea is so simple that you think there must be some trick involved. I understand your apprehension; let’s go through this slowly to make sure there’s no skullduggery afoot. Typically, most voters don’t actually vote for the person they think will do the best job, because they’re worried about strategic considerations. For example, a lot of people admitted to me that they loved Harry Browne’s platform when he ran on the Libertarian ticket, but they didn’t want to risk a Democratic victory and so they voted for the lesser of two evils (i.e. the Republican).

You don’t have to worry about this type of thing with Ron Paul. He is running on the Republican ticket. If he were to pull off the unlikely feat of winning enough primaries to secure the Republican nomination, then he wouldn’t draw your vote away from the Republican candidate — he would be the Republican candidate. The purpose of the primaries is for the party to select the candidate to represent it in the general election. So if you, as a registered Republican, think Ron Paul best upholds your principles, then say so in the process designed to elicit your opinion. There will be plenty of time for you and other Republicans to put aside your differences and band together against the common foe, come November 2008.

Again, let me bend over backwards to make sure I’m not losing you. You might be worried about a convoluted scenario where my recommendation could backfire. For example, suppose that Ron Paul Republicans foolishly vote their conscience in the primaries, and as a consequence Romney ends up winning the nomination, even though a majority of Republicans would’ve preferred Rudy if Ron Paul hadn’t been in the race. Then the Mormon loses to Hillary in the general election, while Giuliani at least stood a chance. Curse that spoiler Ron Paul for messing things up!

In fact, I think this type of worry has it exactly backward. I know it seems ridiculous — I too thought it was unrealistic optimism when I first read James Ostrowski’s analysis — but if you think it through, you’ll realize it’s true: Ron Paul is the one Republican candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Put aside your own feelings about the liberal media and its coverage of the war. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of Americans are furious with the Republicans over Iraq. The one Republican who can beat Hillary on this issue is Ron Paul. And even though you might have gone through the roof over his comments about us being "over there," at least he’s been consistent — as opposed to some "antiwar" politicians who supported the invasion back when it was popular.

In case you’re not following too closely, here’s another secret: Ron Paul is cool. If you think he’s a nerdy Ross Perot type, you must not have seen him on the Colbert Report. I personally realized that Ron Paul actually had a chance of winning when I saw this amazing moment during an appearance on the Bill Maher show. Move the pointer to 7:00 minutes into this clip and watch. Yes, you saw right. Ben Affleck is dutifully clapping (while looking pensive) because Ron Paul’s candidacy is now "deep" and cool. As a movie star with a camera on him, Affleck felt compelled to clap for Paul’s remarks about foreign policy, just as surely as if some Greenpeace activist had called for planting trees. You’re telling me that if the Republicans pick Ron Paul as their candidate, he might not just make mincemeat of Hillary Clinton in the general election?

If you think Ron Paul is the best candidate based on the merits, then there is absolutely no risk in my recommendation. If you truly believe in the stated Republican ideals of lower taxes, lower spending, and Constitutional governance, then vote for Ron Paul in your state’s primary. Chances are, Giuliani will get the nomination anyway, and then you can vote for him and pray that he beats Hillary.

On the other hand, Ron Paul just might secure the nomination, if you and enough other Republicans actually do what the primaries intend you to do. And in that wonderful scenario, the country could see what a true fiscal conservative can do to turn this country around.

Bob Murphy [send him mail] has a Ph.D. in economics from New York University, and is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. He has a personal website at

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