Getting Ron in the White House: What's Your YouTube Question?

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A reader encouraged me to spell out the basics regarding Ron Paul’s candidacy, so let’s take care of that before moving on to the fun stuff.

The problem: Most voters do not want to vote for someone unless they think millions of other people will vote for him (or her!) as well. Now this is not the place to analyze whether this feeling stands up to scrutiny; a game theorist would say it’s quite silly. Even so, we must accept reality, and admit that a lot of people won’t vote for Ron Paul if they think he doesn’t have a shot at winning. They would rather vote for the proverbial lesser of two evils who just might succeed, rather than "wasting their vote" on someone without a prayer.

The solution: Ron Paul absolutely must do very unexpectedly well in the Iowa caucus (the first for the Republican nominee). (Just to clarify here folks, I’m talking about the Iowa caucus vote that will occur January 24; I’m not talking about the Iowa straw poll that happened over the weekend.) We can speculate as to what will qualify as "very unexpectedly well," whether it’s 5, 10, or 15 percent of the vote. But the point is, people need to be shocked into thinking, "Holy cow, that guy could actually win!" when the first caucus vote is over. Now even that won’t be quite enough to break the spell; the talking heads on Fox News will smugly say that the New Hampshire primary is the first "real" vote, and that an excellent Paul showing in the Iowa caucus means nothing.

But my point is, if Paul gets under 1 percent in Iowa next January, then the game is largely over, in terms of winning the presidency this time around. To be sure, his campaign will still have served a great purpose, but at that point most would conclude, "He’s not going to be the next president," and then this prophecy would become self-fulfilling, for the simple reason that most people don’t want to vote for a sure loser.

So, we now understand what’s at stake: Those who would love to see Ron Paul in the White House need to do what they can to ensure that he has an excellent showing in the Iowa caucus in January. If that happens, it makes it possible for Paul to do well in the New Hampshire primary, and by that point most voters will realize that he is a serious contender. At that point the front-runners will have to start attacking his policies (rather than his "snowball’s chance" as Rush Limbaugh put it). And then the fun will really begin, to hear allegedly conservative Republicans explain why a strict construction of the Constitution is a bad idea.

It seems to me that Ron Paul supporters need to capitalize on their strengths. And I can think of nothing better at this stage than to devote their energies to creating great questions for the upcoming CNN Republican debate. As with the Democrats, CNN is soliciting YouTube questions from average Americans. (As of right now, they say the deadline is September 16 to submit a question.)

The CNN/YouTube debate was originally scheduled for September 17, but only Ron Paul, John McCain, and Tommy Thompson had agreed to attend, and thus CNN canceled it. However, because front-runners like Giuliani and Romney cited scheduling conflicts, CNN apparently will try to reschedule the event and force their hands. Since the big boys are afraid of the event, all the more reason to send in your tough question!

It is a cliché that Ron Paul is the "Internet candidate." Well let’s press that advantage to the maximum. Ron Paul fans need to inundate CNN with tough, deep, important, funny, and above all entertaining questions for the candidates. Remember, CNN’s ultimate objective is to grow its audience and have people talk about the debate. So make it easy for them to select your question by making it something that will boost their ratings. To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, you need to help them…help Ron Paul.

Since you’ve listened to my lecture this far, permit me to give some further unsolicited advice. Remember who the audience is. No matter how cleverly you script your query about the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, CNN probably won’t use it. Remember that the biggest question of the Democratic debate was a snowman asking about global warming (!!!).

With that in mind, here are some suggestions: You could dress up with a powdered wig and be in the middle of chopping down a cherry tree. Then you turn to face the camera and say, "I’m George Washington. Ron Paul, you said you want a foreign policy that follows my advice. What exactly did you mean by that? I was a great general, and you seem to be afraid of fighting."

(Some readers might say, "Hey! That seems like a hostile question, but I like Ron Paul!" Exactly, which is why you can’t lob a softball like, "Dr. Paul, my question is: Why are you so awesome?" CNN won’t run a question like that.)

If you happen to look like Mel Gibson (and what a chore that must be), you could dress appropriately and ask, "Dr. Paul, why did you vote against the Patriot Act? Don’t you support America?"

If you are too serious for that type of thing, you could ask something like, "Congressman Paul, as a medical doctor don’t you agree that the federal government needs strong powers to control contagious outbreaks, as the Andrew Speaker case demonstrated so clearly?"

Keep in mind, you don’t even need to address the question to Ron Paul. If you are in the military, you could mention this and then ask Giuliani or McCain, "If you claim to be supportive of the troops, why is it that Ron Paul has raised the most money from military personnel?"

The beauty of YouTube is that even if your question doesn’t get selected, you can still gain some satisfaction from your creative efforts by showing it to other Ron Paul supporters. This could even lead to questions that will obviously not be picked, such as a couple engaging in intercourse and then, right before the finale, the guy jumps out of bed (with a blanket covering him) and demands, "Ron Paul, are you really going to pull out of Iraq?"

In conclusion, let me reiterate what the point of this is: Most Americans aren’t the political junkies that frequent LRC and other websites. Many Fox viewers who would be quite sympathetic to Ron Paul’s message haven’t really heard it. So it’s up to his supporters to quite literally get the message out, before the primaries start next year. And I can’t think of a better method than to get at least one great question into the CNN Republican debate.

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 ConsultingByRPM.com

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