Since Drudge had the link, this shouldn't be new, but it's still intriguing:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of likely voters finds Obama with 42% support and Paul with 41% of the vote. Eleven percent (11%) prefer some other candidate, and six percent (6%) are undecided.
I don't want to oversell this; the chance that Paul becomes president is still slim. But this is still big news for at least two reasons. First, as Gary North points out:
Ron Paul's notoriety is based on his policy recommendations, not charisma. His ideas are mobilizing an audience, and his main ideas are these: (1) strict Constitutionalism and (2) end the FED. No other candidate has ever gained public attention on this pair of ideas.
On one hand, Paul is the most replaceable of the candidates, because anyone who shares his ideas could run his campaign. On the other hand, the paucity of Paulians in the beltway make him the only political figure who can defend the Constitution and demand and end to the Fed without looking like a cheap panderer. In this sense, his thirty-plus year record of limited government and sound money makes him indispensable.
Second, the Republican establishment isn't going to be able to pretend that Paul is unelectable anymore. When you're polling even with the current president and large numbers of people still don't know who you are, you have to be considered a viable candidate.
Now, I fully expect the Republicans to do anything they can to avoid allowing Paul win the nomination, but their task is not an easy one. The game may be rigged, but it has to appear to be fair. In addition, the GOP can't afford to lose all of the Paul people. Sure, some of them, like me, have never voted Republican in a major election, but many more of them are former GOP loyalists.
There is a growing backlash against government growth led by the tea partiers. I'm very receptive to criticisms that the tea party movement is hypocritical for not paying attention to the deficit until Bush left office. But this doesn't alter the fact that the State has gotten too big, and shows no indications of being able to live within its means. I'm not at all optimistic that anything can be done to stop the Leviathan, but I'm cautiously hopeful that enough of the tea party will be principled enough to push the GOP fiscally rightward.
On a related note, Politico came out with an interesting story about the tea party movement:
Tea party activists are divided roughly into two camps, according to a new POLITICO/TargetPoint poll: one that’s libertarian-minded and largely indifferent to hot-button values issues and another that’s culturally conservative and equally concerned about social and fiscal issues.
The results, however, suggest a distinct fault line that runs through the tea party activist base, characterized by two wings led by the politicians who ranked highest when respondents were asked who “best exemplifies the goals of the tea party movement” — former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a former GOP presidential candidate.
The tea parties have been a very mixed blessing for Republicans. They've certainly provided an outlet for the growing anti-Obama, anti-Government rhetoric. But this fault line will not necessarily repair easily.
The Democrats have managed to piece together electoral success with a contingent of disparate special interests. The Republic ideology has been, at times, more coherent, but in addition to the divide between fiscal conservatives--who can be appeased by tax cuts--and the social conservatives--who will gladly give obeisance for a nasty word about abortion now and again--the foreign policy issue is threatening to split the party.
This has not been Paul's doing entirely--the disastrous wars were the real impetus--but he's added fuel to the fire. There will always be a Palin wing that supports the military blindly for the "freedoms" it allegedly provides us; but there will also be those who wonder, if the State is truly the enemy, why we are to trust its employees if they wear the right uniforms. If the Post Office is inefficient, and a drain on free citizens, why is an empire deemed compatible with limited government?
There is a moral and an economic side to non-interventionism. As much as I'd like to think that the barbarity of bombing Afghani weddings would cause Americans to cease warring on everyone, the economic crisis may drive the point home more effectively. It makes no sense to lavish billions of dollars attempting to build a pair of countries in the Middle East when our own country is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. If enough of the Palin people figure this out, the tea party just might be a force to be reckoned with.