It’s time to have a frank conversation about “the one,” and we are not talking about President Barack Obama.
The latest round of polling coming out of the Hawkeye State suggests that Texas Congressman Ron Paul could indeed win the 2012 Iowa caucuses.
In 2008, long-shot candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee scored a surprise win in Iowa, but his candidacy was serious and he was a governor. That year, eventual nominee Sen. John McCain essentially skipped Iowa, finishing fourth and marginalizing Iowa’s political impact.
Should Rep. Ron Paul, who first ran for president in 1988, win Iowa, it may be the last time the state has the honor of being the first state to hold a vote every four years.
We know Iowa GOP caucus-goers are frustrated with the status quo in Washington and are extremely concerned about the future direction of this great nation, but casting a vote this January for candidate Paul is beyond unwise for three reasons.
First, Ron Paul will not defeat President Obama in 2012. The most recent general election polling may suggest that Rep. Paul is within striking distance of Obama, but the president will score an easy victory next November if Paul is indeed his opponent. While conservatives and some establishment Republicans rightly cheer as Paul professes smaller government and fiscal accountability, his outrageous positions on U.S. foreign policy, particularly given the meteoric rise of China and continued saber-rattling by Iran and North Korea on the international scene, will cause most general election voters to double down on Obama before they pull the lever in Paul’s favor. Let us also not forget that should Paul actually be the nominee, his decades-old incendiary (although unbylined) newsletters — once Team Obama highlights them — will likely damage the Republican brand for years to come. Simply put, if Paul is the Republican nominee, President Obama will be assured four more years in the White House, and Americans just cannot afford that.
Second, Ron Paul will not win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, so there is no need to give him momentum. We know the field is large and there are several viable choices to be the Republican Party’s standard-bearer next year, but giving Paul a victory in Iowa can only serve to hinder the eventual Republican nominee’s chances in the general election. In the past, Paul has not demonstrated himself to be a team player, and with our new primary rules, Paul could wreck havoc all the way to the convention in Tampa. This counterproductive behavior was on display in 2008, when he refused to endorse then-nominee McCain and proceeded to hold a protest near the national convention. If Paul accumulates enough delegates in 2012, he could cause some real problems for the eventual nominee and the party at the convention. Regardless of which candidate not named Paul ultimately wins the nomination, every potential GOP voter needs to be unified if Obama is to be defeated in 2012.
Third, voters must not embolden Ron Paul to make a third-party presidential run. Many of Ron Paul’s most ardent supporters display a mania for him that transcends policy and becomes idolatry. There is no need to give Paul’s supporters any reason to think that Paul will fare better in a three-way general election than in a two-candidate race. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News national poll, a third-party bid by Paul would almost certainly doom the eventual Republican nominee’s chances of capturing the White House in 2012, as he would draw many more votes from the Republican nominee than from President Obama. It also doesn’t help that Paul has yet to publicly rule out a third-party run.
Congressman Paul is extremely dangerous and his candidacy for president should not be taken lightly. He cannot be allowed to gain momentum in Iowa, either within the Republican field or in preparation for a third-party general election run. Our country’s future literally hangs in the balance. Helping Paul win a victory in Iowa will not only be a wasted vote, but it will likely challenge the party’s wisdom of permitting the Hawkeye State to hold the first nominating contest in the future.
Ford O’Connell is a Republican strategist and the chairman of CivicForumPAC. Matt Mackowiak is a Washington and Austin-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC.