As we head into primary season, the Republican race has been whittled down to three: Mitt Romney, bankster candidate with deep pockets of corporate cash, for whom the base has shown little enthusiasm; Newt Gingrich, serial adulterer and consummate Washington insider who is smart, and, most importantly, is not Romney; and the elderly and sometimes rambling libertarian doctor from Texas, Ron Paul.
The elites have ordained Mitt Romney as the most electable of the candidates, or even, the only one who can beat Obama. This tired argument is trotted out every time the party nominates a candidate who is anathema to the base. We saw it with Dole and again with McCain. Both of whom, interestingly enough, failed to win the elections despite their purported electability. The main reason, then, that this argument is a fundamentally foolish one, is that no one knows who will be the next President. In the end, only one candidate will prove to be electable, which is to say, elected.
But this is not to say that we cannot attempt to analyze how electable a candidate might be. The usual tactic is to assume that, since conservatives can be expected to vote for anyone not named Obama, the dullest, safest, moderate will attract votes from independents and moderates. There are two problems with this approach. For starters, it's unclear what is to be gained by nominating someone who doesn't share the same values as his supporters. If merely defeating Obama is the goal, the Republicans may as well run Hillary Clinton for president. I don't think they would be satisfied with the effects of any subsequent electoral victory.
The second problem is that it ignores the most important sector of the electorate: the non-voter. Obama won for a variety of reasons, but his campaign was undoubtedly helped by the many first time voters who came out to support him in his historic election. Neither Romney nor Gingrich is likely to exhibit such pull, but Ron Paul will draw in libertarians, young voters, disenchanted democrats who appreciate his stance on civil liberties and foreign policy, as well as independents who vote for candidates who are different from the usual fare--think Ross Perot.
Now, it's possible that those on the right who dislike Paul's positions on foreign policy will stay home. But it's less likely that life long Republicans will vote for Obama, so depending on the number of independents he would bring in, this may well be a wash. In any event, such a boycott would be instructive. Republicans are supposed to care about reducing the size of government. Lo and behold, a candidate offers to cut 1 trillion dollars per year, and to balance the budget during his first term. Alas, he is insufficiently enthusiastic about continuing our wars and starting some more--which, incidentally, costs a lot of money. That Republicans have not flocked to Paul reveals that the War Party cares far more about committing acts of aggression against other nations than it does about reducing the deficit.
Ron Paul now trails Gingrich by a single point in Iowa. I cannot claim to know who will be elected, but it seems clear that Americans will at least have the chance to nominate Paul, after which we can see what he can do against Barack Obama.