Jim Babka, who if I recall correctly was once upon a time one of those Libertarian Party activists who turned my campaign contributions into about bupkiss, takes to the pages of Positive Liberty to advance the thesis that Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate who can win in November of next year. Commenter AMW presents the more compelling argument:
Alternative Hypothesis: Every politician represents a basket of goods to the voters, and while most voters can find at least one good in Dr. Paul’s basket that they approve strongly of, few can find enough to justify voting for him. The left may be anti-war, but I’m guessing they’ll prefer the candidate who advocates univeral [sic] healthcare, more spending on schools and a tough stance on the drug war, even if she’ll only make marginal changes to the Iraq strategy. And the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers at Red State et al. would sooner trade in their AM talk-shows for NPR than give a “surrender monkey” like Paul the satisfaction of their vote, minimal government advocate or no.
I think the other thing that supporters of Paul are missing here is that not only are presidential candidates “baskets of goods,” they’re also strategic actors. The amount of daylight between the loophole-ridden Democratic withdrawal promises (arguably, every single American solider in Iraq is already engaged in one of counterterrorism actions, support of Iraqi forces, humanitarian projects, or stabilization operations—things that the leading Democrats all promise will continue) and the positions of the leading GOP contenders is already small, and given the progress—or lack thereof—in Iraq, any GOP—or Democratic—contender who secures the nomination can either take the tack of “the Iraqis are in control, so it’s time to bring troops home” or “the Iraqis have spent the last 9–12 months squabbling while the surge was giving them time to figure stuff out, and there’s no progress, so it’s time to bring troops home.”
2008 will be fought on energy policy, health care, trade, border security and immigration, and the foreign policy crisis of the week—which, dollars to donuts, won’t be Iraq by the time Labor Day 2008 rolls around. I have no doubt that whoever the eventual Republican nominee is will be far better positioned to capture the median voter on those issues than Paul is—America isn’t buying the Great Libertarian Offer, even when served with a side dose of Buchananite populism.