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Ron Paul’s problem

After Congressman Ron Paul essentially suspended campaigning yesterday, I defaulted to the theory that it was probably a pre-consession prior to the May 22nd primary in Kentucky, where his son Rand is apparently some sort of BFD. Embarrassing Rand is probably not high on Ron Paul’s list of things to do. It would make Thanksgiving at the Paul household really awkward.

Ron Paul: Asylum Warden?

Add to that the embarrassing state Republican conventions recently in several states, in which unruly Ron Paul delegates took over the place, to the embarrassment of Mitt Romney’s supporters. Romney’s son Josh was even boo’ed off the stage by Paul delegates at the Arizona Republican State Convention last Saturday.

Now Politico has revealed a Paul campaign memo which bolsters the point: Ron Paul’s move to ratchet the campaign down a few notches is clearly designed to be a signal to his supporters that he wants his folks to be positive and constructive as Republicans head to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Ron Paul has an itty bitty problem: his supporters may well be in no mood to be constructive.

Paul has nobody to blame but himself if the Paulistas show up in Tampa ready to tear the place up. A successful insurgency campaign always gathers few supporters aside from the insurgents, and Paul’s move toward Republican unity may well be one his followers choose not to follow.

There may not be much tension or drama at the Democratic National Convention, set to re-nominate a sitting President, but hang onto your hats in Tampa – the Republicans may still be in for a bumpy ride. And it will be a serious test for Ron Paul to see if he can control the inmates, in the asylum he himself created.

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The Texans in the Presidential race

As useless as the Iowa Caucuses seem some years, this election’s contest at least clarified some things.

First, it demonstrates the extent to which Republicans remain divided. It is the rare Iowa Caucus in which nobody breaks 30 percent. The Republicans would have to go back to 1996, when Bob Dole was the top vote-getter with 26 percent. The Democrats (under different caucus rules) failed to break 30 percent back in 1976, when only “uncommitted” got 37% as a “not Jimmy Carter” vote.

Second, the Iowa results are likely to rid Republican primary voters in subsequent states of the yapping chihuahuas at the bottom of the vote heap. This year’s version features Michelle Bachmann, and Texas’ very own Rick Perry.

Rick Perry. Ain’t his mamma proud?

Ironically, Bachmann and Perry each had their turns at the top of the heap in Iowa, and both blew it. But the extent of Perry’s failure is the more spectacular fall from grace. He’s a longstanding major state governor. He spent millions. Turns out, he wasted millions, and squandered everything.

Perry, who has long bragged of his organizational ability, turned out to have an Iowa organization which accomplished exactly nothing. By the eve of the caucus, the last poll out showed Perry at 10.1 percent of likely caucus-goers. Typically, if a candidate out-performs his polling in a caucus system, that difference can either be attributed to late-surging enthusiasm (as was the case with Santorum) or superior organization. Perry’s Iowa results – 10.3 percent – almost exactly mirrored the pre-caucus polling.

So, as the Governor of Texas returns home to “reassess his campaign,” he undoubtedly does so because you can’t fix a campaign in which the problem is the not-ready-for-primetime-gaffe-prone candidate. There’s nobody to fire. There aren’t budgets to adjust. There will be no more money to raise. It’s just him.

As he exits the Presidential race, Perry may have also created a problem for himself back home in Texas. It’s bad enough that he embarrassed himself and his state when company was invited to the house. Add to that who Perry lost to – fellow Texan Ron Paul.

If the National Republican establishment sees Paul as a big problem, the Texas Republican establishment sees Paul as a buffoon. The big business guys who have kept Republicans in Texas propped up for years want nothing to do with Paul and his ilk, and never have. It will be interesting to see what happens, now that Rick Perry has demonstrated that in a head-to-head knife fight against a back-bencher just-barely-even-a-member-of-Congresss fringe candidate like Paul, Perry with nearly unlimited resources can’t even get half the votes Paul can. That undeniable fact will not sit well with the owner’s box back in Austin.

The biggest irony of all, is that Republicans like Rick Perry created Republicans like Ron Paul in the first place. Paul’s fans are genuine, and carry an intensity more closely resembling a religion than a political campaign. That’s because what Ron Paul says sounds to them like a tiny island of truth in the middle of a sea of lies. It’s what passes for courage, when other Republicans, Rick Perry among them, only vomit meaningless platitudes designed to hoodwink voters into supporting them.

Without a doubt, Ron Paul is nothing more than a fringe candidate. Ron Paul’s voters are the canaries in the Republican mine shaft, screaming at the top of their lungs at the Republican establishment, “we are not stupid, and we see through your shallow crap!”

With the Iowa Caucus in the rear-view mirror, Ron Paul is the Republican establishment’s biggest problem. Rick Perry’s biggest problem, meanwhile, is Rick Perry.

So now, the Republican primary process for President grinds on, with a new Iowa-declared top tier of three, two of whom aren’t real.

Santorum, who should get the biggest boost coming out of Iowa, seems to be just another flavor-of-the-week, whose week happened to peak when people were casting votes. He may not have the resources to carry that momentum forward, and he, like others before him, may not be able to fade the heat of new frontrunner scrutiny. And Ron Paul is, tragically for Ron Paul, Ron Paul. He’ll always have a very high base of support, and a very low ceiling of support. He cannot be made to go away, his supporters cannot be made to settle down, and he also cannot lead the Republicans to the promised land.

Chalk it up to more reasons I’m glad I’m not a Republican.

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Ron Paul grows up

A perfectly-timed communication can be a game-changer. This may be one of those times. Take a look at the new Ron Paul ad attacking Newt Gingrich, if you haven’t already seen it as it virally screams across the interwebz this afternoon:

This ad is a brilliant attack, not over-done, credible, and may be perfectly timed to coincide with the probability that Gingrich, the Republican poll leader-of-the-week, may be wearing thin on Republican primary voters as his record is closely scrutinized, as the record of anybody in the lead would be.

But it’s the fact that it’s a Ron Paul ad that makes it most interesting. Clearly Paul wants to be the next in batting order for leader-of-the-week, and this ad may not only shorten Gingrich’s week, but also signal to voters that Paul is ready to be a grown-up and play with the big dogs.

It will be interesting to see how the tracking polls change trajectory for each man in the next few days. Stay tuned – we may be nearing the end of Gingrich’s 15 minutes of fame, if favor of yet another Republican hopeful’s play to be the Republican alternative to Mitt Romney.

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