Could Ron Paul Have Won?

As we speak the heavyweights of the Republican Party are meeting to discuss how to recover from the debacle (for the Republicans that is) that was to 2008 election.  Their goal will be to figure out how they can win national elections again.  I wonder if they will even consider the advice of Ron Paul.  Certainly, they would do well to do so, because I think that absent the newsletter scandal and a couple of other skeletons in his closet Ron Paul could have won the election for the Republicans.

Obama did not win the election.  The Republicans lost it.  Their entire election strategy consisted of trying to scare people away from voting for Obama.  Why didn’t they present a plan or vision of their own that was more comprehensive than the fatuous “Country First” slogan?  Because they did have a plan and it was one that they knew voters did not want.

What voters wanted

There were three major things concerning voters: the economy, the war, and corruption.

1) The economy.  The corporatist or steroidal mercantilist policies of the Republican party is collapsing.  Most people don’t understand why, but recognize that they are being squeezed by rising prices and by falling income.  They want someone to fix it.

2) The war.  Most people think the war was mismanaged. Badly.  They are not pacifists, unfortunately.  Rather, they want someone who isn’t going to reclessly plunge into wars, to try to incite them unecessarily.

3) Corruption:  Everybody has heard of the “Bridge to Nowhere” and the “Abramof Scandal”.  They remember “Heckuva Job Brownie”‘s contribution to the Katrina devastation.  They rightly perceive the last 8 years to have been remarkably filled with cronyism and government giveaways to people with pull.  They want that to stop.

What the Republicans Offered:

1) The economy:  More cronyism!  But with lip service to free markets!  And McCain saying that one moment he didn’t know what he was doing, then grandstanding to get the bailout passed and failing, then complaining about the Democrats and ….

In the end, the Republican message was that the problems were caused by Democrats and that the Republicans would somehow do a good job.  Hardly reassuring, especially coming from a political party that had controlled both and arguably all three branches of the federal government for much of the past decade.

2) The war:  More war.  Against Russia! Iran! China even!  When a presidential candidate gets up and announces that the U.S. will send the sons of voters to places they never heard of to fight in a long-running war that they were unaware of, they are not reassured.

3) Corruption:  Nothing other than platitudes about opposition to earmarks.  Oh and desperate attempts to point to Democrats who are corrupt.  Look over there! No not at us, over there!

What Ron Paul Offered:

1)  The economy:  I recently read an editorial in a financial magazine that said something to the effect that only two schools of economics had come out of the crisis looking good, the Austrians and the Marxists. Whereas the Marxists have long been discredited economically (Lenin’s attempts to do away with trade in the early days of the Bolshevik revolution and the debacle that resulted stand in mute testimony of how wrong they are), the Austrians have not.  Many of their predictions – about how Bretton Woods would collapse, the coming of the Great Depression, the current financial crisis have come true, precisely as they predicted.  Ron Paul is closely identified with the Austrian school.  He understands the theories.  He can speak about them authoritatively.  Long before any other national Republican politician, Ron Paul had been warning of the current financial crisis. his policy prescriptions, emphasizing reducing spending and cutting taxes, reducing the financial burdens p;laced on people by government would probably have resonated with a substantial portion of the electorate.  His specific, concrete policy statements, far less unfeasible than those of his competitors would have given voters something positive to consider.

2) The war:  Ron Paul’s position of bringing troops home from overseas and cutting military spending would have made him many powerful enemies.  However, as the consistent anti-war Republican, he would have been in a very favorable position to Obama who is quite the interventionist when it comes to causes that are politically attractive.  Ron Paul could credibly promise to end the mismanagement of the war.

3) Corruption:  Ron Paul’s vision of the Federal Government would be a far less corrupt one.  How many parasites can be supported by a government that sticks to a few enumerated powers?  When the farmer stops pouring slop into the trough, the pigs stop lining up to eat.

A positive message rather than a negative one

Ron Paul had a positive message, a set of policy proposals that were a road map as to how he wanted to proceed forward.  McCain has no such thing.  All he could hope for was that enough people didn’t want Obama to propel him into victory.

Of course, people who found the status quo unacceptable held their noses and voted for Obama.  An outsider like Ron Paul who credibly promoted limited government and free markets, whose consistently stood his ground even when it placed him in opposition to his party, would have given many people who hated the status quo but didn’t like Obama’s proposals, a reason to vote Republican.

I don’t think Ron Paul himself could have won the election – the newsletter scandal would have sunk him – however, someone credibly advancing his agenda could have.  And, if they want to be anything more than a regional party limited to the band connecting Northern Louisiana to Kentucky, they would do well to consider that fact.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.
  • Brad Warbiany


  • Nick

    Is Flake legitimately that guy? I know the guys at Reason like him and that makes me like him, but does he have other Libertarian bonafieds besides his Cuba stance?

    Somewhat funny, IMO, the only reason I’m skeptical is because Republicans seem to like him as well. He certainly won’t be worse I suppose.


  • Akston

    The quality that drew me to Ron Paul’s campaign was his consistent advocacy of liberty, much like the vision which fueled the founding of America. That consistency is the product of an underlying philosophy, something the McCain campaign seemed to be completely missing. I saw many short-term tactics used, but almost no strategy driven by underlying philosophy.

    Perhaps the only two constants were a continuation of the neo-conservative foreign policy of preemption, and that “we” must win instead of “them”. These were the only constants as I traversed electoral process on the way to my Republican State Assembly.

    Was Ron Paul’s newsletter scandal the real culprit? Senator McCain certainly had his skeletons as well. Why did the Republicans find McCain’s philosophically bankrupt campaign preferable to Paul’s?

    My current theory:

    In national politics, the voting audience is so large that no affirmative and specific set of positions is likely to win the day. There are too many segments likely to oppose one small piece of a platform and vote against the candidate on that single issue.

    I’d maintain that the winning combination is for a candidate to appear to passionately support a consistent vision which is he assiduously avoids being specific about. Obama’s campaign of “Change” was a stellar example. Against the backdrop of an administration and congress with approvals in the teens, “change” sounds refreshing, optimistic, passionate, and nicely general. Few quarters successfully posed the question: “Change to what?”

    This lack of specificity allows each voter to fill in the blank with his own version and assume the candidate agrees.

    Even the healthiest strategy which affirms a positive and specific direction to follow can end up losing to strategies that take the easy road of focusing on the perceived undesirables of the opponents,: “We’re not them!”, “They’re scary and will put everyone in danger!”, “They’re elitists!”, They’re stupid!”, “They’re unpatriotic”, “They’re evil”.

    What are we? Not them.

    In my case, matching my philosophy will win my vote. When one doesn’t have a philosophy, accepting comfortable bromides, and opposing unpleasant specifics has to suffice.

  • RobbBond

    I think circumstances proved to be the undoing of the Paul campaign. The natural nemesis for Paul was the current administration of George Bush. He rightly pointed out the various flaws in the Bush policies of governing. The problem was that Bush was the leader of the very party that Paul chose to run in. His constant criticism of Bush (rightly or wrongly) grated on the nerves of most Republicans who were at least nominally still loyal to Bush. I really think the Paul campaign would have been in a far stronger position had their main nemesis been a Democrat in the White House. This is why I believe that Paul (or another libertarian style Republican) could be in a strong position to make a run in 2012. This coming Socialist state could be the perfect ingredient to galvanize a libertarian-Republican movement.

  • Art

    Actually Karl Rove agreed with you on some of this. He said that the Republicans lost because they did not articulate coffee table issues. He said that the issues that were part of the McCain platform were not important to most Americans. Paul would likely agree with this. I saw some interesting info on the bailout at:

  • RobbBond

    Yeah, you know I see a lot of doom and gloom from pro-limited government types with the incoming Socialist regime, but actually this could be an exciting time because libertarianism will be the antithesis of what has been offered for the past 8 years and definitely what will be offered for the next four. With the economic hardships that look to bedevil us for the next few years, libertarianism could be in a strong position to make the case against increasing government intrusions. The key will be packaging. In our current two-party system, I feel the best way to go about this is through the Republican party with Paul types (or others). Speaking of which, how old is Paul? Are there any other younger politicians with his same ideas/principles which could be looked to to lead the inevitable call for limited government?

  • nicolas

    The thing that really turned me on about Paul was how his voting record reflected the principles he espoused in such a minute way. Voting not to give Reagan and Rosa Parks medals at taxpayer’s expense, for example. Even though he could have voted yea, and gone unnoticed in that regard, he chose to abide by his principles. Without that kind of record, I don’t see myself supporting someone who simply speaks the same way as Ron Paul. If there is another national politician that has a similar record, I would love to know who they are so we can begin to throw our support in their direction.

  • Jono

    Okay, Obama was always going to win, he is really an untested media sensation, very articulate, almost like a motivational coach. And somehow he created the perception that he was the anti-Bush.

    But as for judging Ron Paul, lets not waste words or look for the finer details whilst we overlook the main issue.

    The Republican Party is stacked with the most extreme supporters, a bunch of social conservatives forming a cheer squad with a 5 second attention span more suited to the short speeches of Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani.

    Ron Paul, although a bit too old and past his prime, makes a very sound candidate.

    He couldn’t get past the primaries, couldn’t muster a significant vote, and he was deeply resented by the party faithful and media hacks who didnt invite him to participate in the debates.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Democrats are stacked with celebrities and mindless zombie Obama followers who went into full tear-shedding mode this week.

    But the Republican Party, those who determine who the candidate will be, need to be infiltrated by “Ron Paul Republicans” or at least sober minded, liberty lovers.

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  • trumpetbob15


    I watched the first few primary debates and I have to disagree. Ron Paul made quite a few mistakes, but the main one I saw was to focus too much on opposition to the Iraq War. Every chance he got to speak, he mentioned foreign policy. That isn’t the way to win, primary or otherwise. Sure, the Ron Paul Republicans would be a good thing, but focusing on the areas where conservative Republicans and Ron Paul Republicans agree would be a better strategy. There is still common ground in the Republican Party; liberty minded folks just need to find it and use that to branch out into areas of disagreement.

  • sherrie

    a principled person should not have to give up or pretend not to have those principles when trying to get a point across. ron paul is brilliant especially when it comes to economics. one of the main issues he wanted all to realize is that you cannot deal with the economic issues of this country without addressing our foreign policy and he has been proven right. early on none of the other candidates even thought it necessary to discuss the economy much. by election day connecting the two still didn’t seem to be understood by obama or mccain. i think this is only because both mccain and obama are truly working for corporate america as opposed to working for the people. the never ending war will continue to be never ending no matter which one of these two made it in to the white house because it all comes down to money and greed. someone with the integrity of a ron paul was not allowed to appear viable for the presidency even though he would have been the best person for the job.

  • Rob Stewart

    I agree with Jono to a certain extent. And trust me I love Ron Paul’s message voted for him in the primaries, and wrote him in on Election Day. But I believe his ultimate fall was the Iraq war. Don’t get me wrong now, what he was saying was 100% correct but the way it came out offended a lot of people. Not me, but enough that the media trounced him after that. Take Obama on the other hand. He mentioned frequently that he voted against the war, but he never used to harshness of tone about it that Paul did. He said we made the wrong decisions.

    I think his campaign could have went a lot better if he would have mentioned that he voted against the war, and will do everything to bring our troops home. He should have denounced the truther idiots sooner and get away from that bunch completely, they will not get you elected.

    He should have just hammered on what he’s best at the economy. Still though it’s almost impossible for someone like Paul to win because Obama and McCain had massive backing. Paul had us, we were small but loud. We all know he was the right guy for the job, but the massive want to be spoon-fed crap, and that my friends is unfortunately how you win the presidency. And Paul isn’t that kind of man.

    I’d love to see him run for Governor or the Senate now though; he might have a good shot. And in the end he did start a movement it’s up to us to continue it.

  • Aaron

    I firmly believe that Ron Paul could fix this country and would have beaten Obama.

    It wasn’t ALLOWED to be heard, however.

    From Dec 26, 2007 to Super Tuesday his name was mentioned on the prime time channels a grand total of 5 times versus 1000 for McCain.

    He was under a media blackout.

    Exhibit A:,8599,1694094,00.html

    Cover Story of Time magazine. Why is it Ron Paul isn’t in the picture or mentioned in the story once?

    No one talked about him and if they did it was derisive. This was universal on every major outlet and talk show.

    Even Rush Limbaugh avoided him like the plague.

    What people fail to believe is that the system is rigged. Regardless of who wins, nothing changes.

    Government will continue its overspending.
    The US will continue to put its nose in other countries business.
    Our Congress is bought and paid for by lobbyists.

    So now that people have been brought to such an emotional height, in 3 years there may finally be a window of realization what a scam it is.

    Or not.

    Either way, many of us have been show the emperor has no clothes.

  • Rocketman

    The republican leaders who are now meeting will rather do anything than follow the advice of Paul because, let’s face it, there is nothing in it for them. They might give lip service to it but that will be all. Paul advocates less government and more individual freedom. They will keep pulling out the same old tired neo-con ideas and trying to repackage them until and unless a third party like the LIBERTARIANS become a major party and start cutting into their votes numbers. I have no hope for them and I have not hope long term for this country.

  • RobbBond

    I’m not sure you’re right about that, Rocketman. You may see the same tired neo-con ideas in the short-term, but I’ve seen a lot of fed-up Republicans who are desperate to see a rise in non-Rino candidates within their ranks. Now, their social positions might be the same, but I think more and more are realizing (especially within the current economic climate) that limited government and sound fiscal policy are the ways to achieve the majority once again and should be stressed long-term. Believe me, if they trot out a candidate like McCain against Obama this next time, they are going to get their clocks cleaned. I think most of them realize that. I’m not saying Ron Paul will be nominated (let’s be honest, he’s probably burned too many bridges), but I think the atmosphere in four years time will be perfect for the rise of a Paul-esque figure who can clearly contrast his ideas with Obama’s overreaching Socialist agenda.

  • Aaron

    Imagine if Obomba had tried to use that he is just like Gorge Bush shit on Ron Paul. He would of looked like an idiot.

  • Persnickety Curmudgeon

    Greetings from a fellow Curmudgeon

    OK so now we’ve rejected Democratic Tax-and-Spend, Republican Borrow-and-Spend in favor of Liberal TAX-AND-BORROW-AND-SPEND. It’s probablt too late but someday we’ll all realize that the problem with government is that IT IS THE

    Rememeber no matter who is in office – anything they do is about the votes.

  • Bob D

    “I think that absent the newsletter scandal and a couple of other skeletons in his closet Ron Paul could have won the election for the Republicans.”

    If you really believe that (and I don’t think you do, the rest of you article demonstrates an intelligent mind) you need a reality check.

    Obama’s skeletons didn’t effect him. The media and AIPAC has shut Ron Paul out for more than 30 years, what makes you think he could have overcome that? Who was the last presidential candidate who did? Eisenhower?