What is Ron Paul up to?
This is a question a lot of the fans of the Republican Congressman from Texas have been asking themselves for the last few weeks. The overall strategy of the Ron Paul for President campaign has been difficult to discern in many ways.
For instance, why does it seem like Ron Paul is attacking every other candidate in the race from Perry to Gingrich to Santorum to Huntsman but using kid gloves on the strongest candidate - Romney? Why does Paul not seem to be bothered at the prospects of a third place finish in Iowa or a likely second in New Hampshire?
I believe the Ron Paul campaign is moving in much the way that the campaign team originally planned when developing its strategy probably some time in early Spring. To understand the campaign strategy I believe it is important to understand how unconventional Dr. Paul's plan is compared to the traditional Republican presidential campaign. It is also important to recall the nature of the 2008 campaigns for the Democratic and to a lesser extent Republican parties.
Reason to Run for President Ron Paul is not your typical Republican candidate running for president. In fact, I'm not sure any candidate of any prominence recently has run not be president as much as a way to promote a message. Presidential campaigns are a way to bringing new ideas to the party's grassroots. This is probably a clumsy way of accomplishing this goal, but for someone as far out of the mainstream of his party and leadership as Paul is, it is really the only way to express his views on foreign and monetary policies.
This singular motive completely changes your strategy for waging a presidential campaign and, I think, explains the unusual nature of the Paul campaign. It fundamentally alters how you approach debates, advertisements, and campaigning within states. It is also completely different from the traditional Republican campaigns where one looks to score some early decisive wins, show an ability to raise money, and then finish off your rivals on Super Tuesday.
It's about Ideas, not the Office If your goal is to change the way the party and the country look at issues then your focus is on more than the short term goals of a presidential campaign. Clearly, it would be best for your promotion to win the nomination but a realistic view of the electorate - especially the Republican electorate - would show that Paul's ideas are out of the mainstream. They are growing in prominence (just look at his showing at the Iowa Caucuses from 2008 to 2012 with over 100% growth) but they are at most a large minority within the party probably no more than 25%.
Assets in Place Despite what many inside the media perceived, Ron Paul had massive assets coming into the campaign. To outsiders, Paul was seen to have a few rabid fans and a large donor base who were small contributors. What they missed was the Campaign for Liberty.
Launched in 2008, the Campaign for Liberty was a way to keep Ron Paul supporters from 2008 engaged with the Congressman's activities and help promote his views within Congress. This was best exemplified with the push and eventual passage of the Federal Reserve Audit in both the House and Senate. But more importantly, the Campaign for Liberty provided the superstructure for converts to Paul's crusade to network with each other and plan... for 2012.
Although not affiliated with any official Ron Paul campaign, the Campaign for Liberty was the resting home for all of Paul's campaign apparatus which he would need in a 2012 bid for president. Not surprisingly, a strong emphasis was placed on building up the Iowa and New Hampshire Campaign for Liberty teams and successfully getting friendly people put in place within the local and state GOPs. For instance, unofficially, the Paul camp had achieved securing over half of the county GOP chairs or leaders and many on the state's central committee in Iowa.
Most important to realize is that the Campaign for Liberty is a truly national organization with its reach in every state. This means that Paul has de facto campaign bases in each and every state making him competitive on a national scale - not just early primary and caucus states.
An Unorthodox Approach Because of his unique assets and his even more unusual goals, Rep. Ron Paul, I believe, is engaged in a very unorthodox presidential campaign. He recognizes that although his message is very popular and growing within a section of the electorate - it is by no means a majority position. His plan then is to wage a long drawn out process that relies more on looking towards delegate acquisition than on outright victory - perhaps even winning a single state.
Clearly, winning all the delegates in a state is a goal and will very likely be accomplished in many of the caucus states where Paul's organization and zealous supporters will have the most impact. Winner-take-all primary states are the least desirable for a campaign like Paul's where they feel their message will be viewed in a hostile manner by a majority of the GOP base who receive much of their information from the establishment and its mouthpieces like Levin, Savage, Hannity, and Limbaugh.
The established portions of the party will resist Paul's forces and will probably succeed in many of the caucus states, especially as it becomes more obvious what Rep. Paul is up to. Overall, the primary focus is gaining delegates to gain prominence going into the convention.
The Not-Romney Candidate What is becoming increasingly clear, is that the Paul campaign is looking to become what has been termed the "Not-Romney" candidate. Tea Partiers, and the Republican base is definitely disappointed with Romney as their nominee. National polls have shown him to struggle breaking above 30%. Romney represents the liberal East Coast establishment candidate similar to John McCain (who although from Arizona was the epitome of a big government squishy Republican).
The Paul campaign recognized early on that the only candidate that would compete long term was Romney. Therefore, they looked to eliminate the 'chaff' in order to become the de facto 'Not-Romney' candidate. The sooner they can take down the other candidates, the better as it allows them to accumulate a larger share of the delegates.
The Other Not-Romney Candidates A quick look at the other candidates trying to make the race a two man race shows how Paul's strategy has been working perfectly. Cain is out. Bachmann is out. Huntsman looks increasingly like a one state wonder who will drop out soon. Perry is limping into NH polling at 1% and around 5% in SC. His future is dim. Gingrich can potentially last a few more weeks but with little funding his earned media will dwindle and he will possibly last a few more states through Florida but he is not on the ballot in his home state and has no funding to compete in a national super Tuesday contest.
That brings us to Santorum who has no funding or organization and will attempt to use his social conservative credentials to sell himself in the South. He will be target number one from the Paul campaign as he is the one who could potentially carve into their delegate count on Super Tuesday if he is still viable - especially if his funding picks up and he is able to run more television spots in Florida and beyond.
I believe the Paul campaign is looking to make the race a two man race as soon as possible. This is probably their schedule:
SC: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, Perry LA/WV/FL: Romney, Gingrich, Santorum WI/NV: Romney, Gingrich/Santorum NV/ME: Romney, Gingrich/Santorum
Since the other candidates by this point will have lost nearly every contest to Romney their funding and ambition will have dried up and they will be unable to push on to Super Tuesday. Only Paul will remain as the alternative. Obviously, they will endorse Romney to get a plum cabinet spot and Paul will be all that's left.
From there, Paul and his forces will be an enormous thorn in the side of Romney unless he cuts Paul a deal. Whether that is a prime speaking spot at the convention, a VP slot for Rand, a cabinet position, or some other combination. Romney is a man who deals and will want to save his resources and shift his campaign's focus against Obama as soon as possible. This strategy, although not a 'winning one' is one that will have a lasting legacy and impact within the Republican party.