In the Republican presidential primary, everyone but Rick Santorum seems destined to have his or her moment. Now is Ron Paul’s. Paul is polling well in Iowa and respectably in New Hampshire. Sharp attack ads against Newt Gingrich helped the media remember he is still running and deflated Gingrich’s balloon.
And Paul is getting some of the adoration from certain pundits that he enjoyed last time. Andrew Sullivan recently endorsed Paul for the Republican nomination. Glenn Greenwald of Salon defends Paul against perceived slights from the media.
The liberal counter-argument tends to be that while Paul is good on foreign policy and civil liberties, he is wildly wrong on economic issues. As Patrick Caldwell of The American Prospect wrote, “While his foreign policy and defense of civil liberties might appeal to the progressive heart, Paul jumps off a cliff when it comes to the economy.” It’s certainly true that Paul’s economic views are extremist and strange. But, unfortunately, Paul isn’t a progressive on much of anything else either.
Here are three crucial myths about Paul:
He has any chance whatsoever of winning the Republican nomination. Paul’s chances of winning the nomination are 7.7 percent, according to InTrade, and significantly better than Jon Huntsman’s, according to Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan cites the polling numbers as his reason for endorsing Paul over Huntsman. “The constant refrain on Fox News that this man has ‘zero chance’ [emphasis in original] of being the nominee is a propagandistic lie,” writes Sullivan. “Nationally, Paul is third in the polls at 9.7 percent.” It appears that Sullivan, who himself endorsed the Iraq War, is unaware of the foreign policy views of the majority of Republican voters. Paul sparks enthusiasm among his supporters and can perform impressively in events with a small sample size where turning out supporters can skew results. That’s why he wins straw polls and may do well in caucus states.
But there is a ceiling on his support. There are too many Republicans who disagree strongly with his views on Iran, Israel and military spending. No one has ever gone negative on Paul because no one has had to. As John Nichols explains, the minute the Republican establishment seriously fears he could win, they will coalesce around his opponents and aggressively attack his more unpopular and quirky ideas, as well as exhuming any skeletons in his closet. Case in point, Sean Hannity recently asked on his Fox News show whether Paul “has been given a pass” on his racist newsletters. Indeed, he has, for instance by Hannity himself who neglected to raise the subject when he hosted Paul on his radio show. If Paul has a chance, that will change.