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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Gospel of Paul

(Editor's note: This week, I'll check in on the candidates by giving each of them one column. To see the latest standings, schedule, and polls, see Sunday's column here.
For the "State of the Newton," click here.
We'll continue now with the state of the Paul Campaign.
)

Ron Paul
Estimated delegate count: CNN-27 (4th), RCP-20 (4th), Wikipedia-37 (4th)
Official delegate count: 9 (3rd place)


Happy is your Grace that can translate the stubbornness of fortune into so quiet and so sweet a style.


Here's the best part about Ron Paul: despite his losses, he's a winner. It's not about the numbers or his momentum. It's not about his polls or his place in the standings. It's not that he's right or wrong, radical or libertarian. It's not that he's wise or crazy, quirky or moody. While the perception and evaluation of Ron Paul might differ from person to person, ideology to ideology, there is one thing, I feel, that everyone can agree on when it comes to the short, elderly Congressman from Texas. He means what he says, he says what he means, he's ideologically clear and consistent, and his quixotic conviction has led to a stubbornness for which we no longer criticize him.

Think about it. Four major candidates have dropped out of the race, and almost all of them came after people wondered what took them so long. Moreover, after New Hampshire, many thought Newt Gingrich should drop out, and after South Carolina, many thought Rick Santorum should do the same (and now they're back to Gingrich). That makes six of eight major candidates that, at one point, heard calls to leave the race.

However, this entire time, there's been relatively little clamor for Ron Paul to follow the path of Cain, Perry, et al. Ron Paul, on some level, has won America's respect. He hasn't won its support--aside, of course, from the passionate 15 percent of Republicans who would walk on coals for him--but he has won its respect. We're fine with Ron Paul being on the national stage. We weren't four years ago. We said he was wasting airtime and debate questions, all in a pointless run for the White House. Nothing has really changed about Paul in the last four years, except our admiration for the septuagenarian that just won't quit. In a pool of candidates that includes a President who reverses promises and positions, a waffling former governor, a conniving former Speaker, and a former Senator who seems to have to moderate countless extreme right-wing quotes from years past, we more than just tolerate another Ron Paul candidacy, we respect it.

Still, that doesn't translate into votes. The main perception of Paul--that his almost religious interpretation of a 225-year-old document will not only cut off America from the world, but the states off from each other, while our infrastructure, schools, and social programs crumble around us--is too crystallized for 80 percent of Republicans (and 95 percent of the country) to actually vote for him. Maine was the state for Ron Paul to win, but he came up just short. Looking around, I'm not sure what other state is in play for the Texas Congressman. On Sunday, when looking at the Republican Primary schedule, I identified the Super Tuesday states of Idaho and North Dakota as Paul possibilities, and I'll add Alaska to that list, too. All three are caucus states, and their light delegations will probably be ignored by the other three candidates.

Regardless, the Paul campaign has never been about winning the nomination. At this point, actually, he's Santorum and Gingrich's best friend. For every delegate Paul wins, it's one less that Romney can. Paul continues to show that, although he can't win, he's good for a chunk of every state's vote and continues to shape the debate. For Ron Paul, polls and horse race coverage do not matter. What matters is making a difference. That was always his mission, and he continues to accomplish it.


So if you move those goal posts forward, if you do realize that Ron Paul's purpose is not to be the nominee but rather to make people think about his issues, then not only has his sweet stubbornness won our respect, but his stubbornness has ultimately made him a winner.

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