Ron Paul's Opponents Gambled and Lost

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The Ron Paul Revolution keeps running. Just when I get complacent and think, "Okay, that’s more than anyone could have expected from him, let’s get ready for President Clinton…" he goes and mentions Austrian economics to Jay Leno on national TV. (And I had thought some young, "cool" Austrian economist would have to do that!)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the site Intrade.com, which is structured like a futures market in commodities, but where the contracts can be on events such as "Ron Paul wins the 2008 GOP Nomination." When I last wrote, his chances were 6.1%, and he had just edged out McCain to be in 4th place. Well guess what? As of this writing, Ron Paul’s chances are up to 8.5%, and he is slightly ahead of Fred Thompson to now be in third place.

Now remember folks, this isn’t some survey. These are actual contracts with real money behind them. So to the extent that you think the futures price of oil represents the "market’s expert opinion" about what oil prices are going to do, you should also believe that the market’s best guess has Ron Paul in third place to win the GOP nomination, and what’s crucially important is the momentum behind him. Forgive me but I just have to include the chart of his progress:

Incidentally, the reason I personally refer to Intrade as the best barometer is that it represents real money and has a separate contract on Ron Paul. In contrast, the more famous Iowa Electronic Market doesn’t have a contract for Paul, so you have to guess at his standing by looking at the "Rest of Field" contract. The results there are comparable to Intrade’s, but it’s not as obvious how much of the "none of the above" results are due to Ron Paul. For those wishing IEM to have a separate Ron Paul contract, you could write a polite email to its Board of Directors explaining why they should reconsider. (From an intermediate associate it is my understanding that they aren’t biased against Ron Paul, but have a desire to keep the list of candidates manageable.)

So what do I mean by the title of my article? Simply this: Ron Paul’s opponents thought they could ignore his message and just dismiss him as a kook. There was no need for them to grapple with his positions, because they were irrelevant. As Rush Limbaugh explained when a caller told him he had the power single-handedly to make Paul — the truest "conservative" running — a contender: "I don’t think Congressman Paul has a snowball’s chance."

I don’t know quite why I do it, but whenever I’m driving during the afternoon I listen to the local talk radio station. (I listen to NPR during rush hour, so I think it keeps me balanced with support for the welfare-warfare state.) Now whenever these guys (especially Sean Hannity) start ranting about the Democrats and how they have no respect for the Constitution, I just have to laugh. You could quite literally take their rants and equally apply them to the foreign policy moves suggested by most of the Republicans.

I actually heard two guys discussing Ron Paul’s views on terrorism, and how he quotes John Quincy Adams, George Washington, and so forth. These guys actually said something like, "That was good advice back then. But when the Founders lived, all they worried about were Muskets of Mass Destruction!" Now plenty of readers might sympathize with that joke, but by the same token you should then understand how modern day liberals think the 2nd Amendment is anachronistic because of AK-47s. You have no right to go through the roof over Democrats’ trampling of the Constitution, if at the same time you think Ron Paul is crazy for wanting a declaration of war before preemptively nuking a country.

The right-wing pundits are going to have a harder time ignoring Ron Paul as he gains in various polls and other measures. And if he actually wins or places 2nd in the first few primaries, even the official debates may have to start giving him as much time as the median candidate. Although some places at least have the courage to flat-out admit that they are stifling Ron Paul support, most other outlets want to at least appear professional and objective.

As I say, the right-wingers who have ignored Ron Paul thus far are really in a fix. They hoped he would just fade away, and so they wouldn’t be put into an uncomfortable position. But if he wins a primary or two, the other candidates will have no choice but to explain why, e.g., we need the IRS, or why the Department of Education is actually a good thing. They’ve certainly made a case for keeping the troops in Iraq, so they can battle Paul on that point. But on virtually all the other ones (except maybe ending the Drug War), Ron Paul out-Ronnies them all on the Reagan scale. I’m genuinely curious: What are they going to say?

Ron Paul’s opponents gambled on him just fading away, and they lost. The next tactic will of course be to paint him as an absolute nutball, and again, not by actually debating his positions, but just by asserting them as self-evidently crazy. Over time that too will prove inadequate. At some point, they will need to explain why the party of limited government couldn’t possibly nominate a man who would actually limit government. What are they going to say?

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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