First, based on a recent Public Policy poll, Congressman Ron Paul is the most competitive GOP candidate when it comes to the independent voter category. Public Policy Polling writes:
“Paul as the strongest of the Republican candidates with independents has become more the rule than the exception in our recent polling across the country.”
Other polls have revealed a similar trend. Paul not only outperforms the other GOP candidates when matched up against Obama in the independent voter category, he often beats President Obama.
By some accounts, Independents are the largest and fastest growing segment of the national electorate and are arguably the most coveted group of voters by Republican and Democratic candidates alike. Independents are usually viewed as more pragmatic, more moderate, and more nonpartisan than Republicans and Democrats. If this is indeed the case, then one could make the following arguments. First, based on current poll numbers, Paul’s campaign would prove competitive against President Obama in the general election. With his advantage in the all-important independent voter category, his ability to attract a small, but not insignificant number of anti-war, anti-Patriot Act, anti-Wall St bailout, anti-drug war Democrats, and his mass appeal to libertarian-leaning Republicans, Paul could be the ideal Republican to challenge President Obama. Second, ‘extremist’, ‘kook’, and ‘fringe’ labels no longer apply; instead, his statistical advantage with independent voters serves as evidence that his campaign is particularly popular with ‘mainstream’, ‘moderate’, and ‘pragmatic’ voters.
Second, Congressman Ron Paul is attracting the youth vote. At this stage, President Obama, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and the other Republican candidates are not. Obama attracted and energized young voters in 2008, but 2012 may be Ron Paul’s year when it comes to catalyzing America’s younger voters. Both major parties often view the youth vote as a difference maker come election time, so Paul’s ability to inspire this portion of the electorate is especially significant.
Third, Congressman Ron Paul receives the most military donations. This is particularly relevant because these donors are the men and women who have made or who are currently making the tremendous sacrifice of serving their country during a time of war. As reflected in the third quarter numbers, Paul’s campaign receives more military donations than President Obama and more military donations than the rest of the GOP candidates combined. In fact, the top three donors to his presidential campaign are employees of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Paul’s consistent advantage in this often overlooked category could make his anti-war/non-interventionist foreign policy more credible in voters’ eyes.
To be clear, these three credentials of Ron Paul’s campaign do not guarantee a strong showing in the Republican presidential primaries, nor do they guarantee a competitive bid in the unlikely scenario that Paul decides to run as an Independent at some point. However, they do seem to be indicative of a serious campaign that is able to appeal to important segments of the electorate, across the partisan spectrum.
Four years ago, Paul attracted a small, but passionate following. Four years later, his influence has waxed, not waned. Four years later, he has become more of a contender, not less of a contender. Four years later, his movement has grown, not shrunk. If the trend line holds, expect Paul and his politics to play a major role in the 2012 election, win or lose, Republican or Independent.