At age 75, Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) is the oldest of a crowd of potential Republican presidential challengers, if only by a few years. If elected in 2012, he would be the oldest president in U.S. history; the record-holder, Reagan, assumed office at age 69. The uninformed reader might jump to the incorrect conclusion that Paul, who is old enough to be President Obama’s father, is hopelessly out of touch with the young voters who turned out in 2008 and ignorantly propelled a dangerous radical into the highest office of the land, but as anyone who pays attention to political chatter knows, Paul is wildly popular with the under-thirty crowd.
Paul won a GOP presidential straw poll on April 16 in South Carolina, easily beating Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, who tied for second place. Paul has been winning such polls left and right since the libertarian-rooted Tea Party became a political force in 2009, but his popularity among Republicans continues to be underemphasized by mainstream media outlets, which frequently (and probably intentionally) identify him as a libertarian rather than a Republican.
According to the talking heads, Romney, Huckabee, Palin, and Gingrich are the Republicans worth paying attention to as the 2012 election cycle approaches. Hesitant to take Trump’s candidacy seriously, they laughingly praise his ability to generate publicity, and might or might not remember to mention Paul, Bachmann, Pawlenty, and a handful of others. The fixation on Romney and Huckabee is somewhat understandable, as they hold impressive leads in most of the polls, but might prove to be unjustified as the race heats up.
Paul leads the others in fundraising, having raised about $3 million in the last quarter, with Bachmann following close behind. Romney trails at third, proving that it takes more than an eerie resemblance to Bill Pullman (who played the president in the 1996 sci-fi film Independence Day) to impress donors.
Paul’s financial support, by the way, comes from grass-roots activists—not corporations or wealthy CEOs looking for favors.
With several recent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire under his belt, a new book coming out—entitled Liberty Defined—and plans to participate in the first nationally televised GOP presidential debate on May 5, Paul is making it clear that he is a serious candidate and has no intention of being an irrelevant also-ran. His 2008 campaign, though unsuccessful, laid the foundation for the Tea Party movement that sprang up only months after candidates McCain and Romney dismissed his predictions of a coming financial collapse (which proved to be entirely correct).
Of course, Paul has yet to officially declare his candidacy—but he will. Too old to consider a run in 2016 or beyond, Paul’s only reasons for staying out of the 2012 Republican primary would be: 1) To enable his son, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), to run, or 2) To prepare for an independent campaign, as recently suggested by Jesse Ventura. Either scenario would probably end in disappointment for Paul’s supporters.
That dedicated group of conservative libertarians, though passionate, is anything but naïve. They understand that Paul’s chances of winning the Republican nomination are slim, and don’t care, choosing instead to believe that the principles of liberty—which emerge unscathed from the most heated debates—can save the United States from a bleak future of centralization and socialism, and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.
Regardless of the outcome of Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, the revolution will continue to grow. That is reason enough for America’s Congressman to embark upon what detractors might view as a hopeless quest.
*update – Ron Paul announced his formation of a Presidential Exploratory Committee on April 26th, 2011
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