Over the past half century, the presidential nominating process has slowly evolved to serve two purposes for candidates — to vet their potential electability…and sell stuff. The possibility of Donald Trump using the season finale of The Apprentice to make a big presidential announcement highlights this phenomenon.
But in this practice, Trump is in good company. John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage was probably the first modern-day example of a candidate and a product mutually benefiting from each other’s existence. There was also Bill Clinton’s and Al Gore’s Putting People First, which was published in September 1992, just before their election. John McCain entered the 2000 presidential field with the release of Faith of My Fathers in August 1999. President Obama famously sold The Audacity of Hope during his historic run. And Ron Paul is on the precipice of announcing his 2012 bid on the heels of publishing Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom.
But there is something about Trump, JFK, Clinton/Gore, McCain and Obama simultaneously selling products and a potential presidency that does not necessarily reek of opportunism — namely, they are (or were) all arguably viable candidates. Ron Paul, on the other hand, is not.
In a recently published op-ed and accompanying report, I explored which Paul, Ron or Rand, had a better chance of winning the GOP nomination, with a focus on finding what I called disqualifiers — a piece or collection of information that could predict, with reasonable certainty, that one candidate was not viable. I (admittedly) became fond of Ron Paul while researching for an article I was writing on the origins of the Tea Party, so when I tackled this question I wanted the answer to be void of emotion-riddled, opinion-based arguments. To accomplish this I turned to an impartial mediator — the 2008 presidential primary data.
What I discovered was a pattern for Republican and Democrat nominees. Since the adoption of the modern presidential primary process in 1972, all nominees that previously participated unsuccessfully in the presidential primary cycle have won at least one state contest during their unsuccessful bids — with most winning many. McCain, Gore, Dole, Bush Sr., Reagan, and Nixon all had unsuccessful bids before winning the nomination — and they all had prevailed in at least one state contest over the course of those unsuccessful attempts. In contrast, Ron Paul did not win one state in his 2008 campaign — a clear indication that winning the 2012 nomination is far from likely.
And his prospects become much clearer when you look take a closer look at his 2008 bid. Paul not only failed to win a state, he failed to win even one county in his own Texas congressional district — ending up third in every contest. But it gets worse. After looking further at all of the states that held presidential primaries, I found, to my surprise, that Ron Paul did not win a single county throughout the entire United States. There are approximately 2,400 counties in the 38 states that held presidential primaries (as opposed to caucuses). Paul did not win one county — not one. The counties that he did win, 18 out of the over 600 not participating in primaries, were in states that held caucuses — a process that favors candidates with enthusiastic activists like the Paulites.
I’m sure this is a hard fact to swallow for Paul supporters, and most will likely think it is still possible for him to be victorious in November 2012. But these numbers irrefutably indicate the viability of a Ron Paul 2012 campaign — and that is, he has no chance of winning the Republican nomination.