Oh my: Obama 39, Ron Paul 38

It’s a slow news week and the three Ron Paul fans who read this site get maybe one post about him per year from us that they can truly celebrate. Why not throw them a bone? Think of it as our way of saying “thanks for reading despite having to periodically wade through reminders that Iran is dangerous.”

Besides, apart from Perry, he’s the only guy in the field right now whose numbers are getting better, not worse.

Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul earns 38% of the vote to President Obama’s 39% in the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely U.S. Voters. Fourteen percent (14%) like some other candidate, and eight percent (8%) remain undecided.

Just a month ago, Obama posted a 41% to 37% lead over Paul, who ran second to Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in the recent high-profile Ames Straw Poll in Iowa.

Paul, whose long run afoul of the GOP establishment with his libertarian policy prescriptions, picks up 61% of the Republican vote, while 78% of Democrats fall in behind the president. Voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties prefer the longtime congressman by 10 points – 43% to 33%.

Barely cracking 60 percent within your own party against a liberal as reviled as The One seems like a … poor place to start. I wonder too how many in that group and among independents don’t realize yet that he’d be running to Obama’s left on foreign policy. That’s a less difficult place to be than it was five years ago, but good luck trying to rally the base around it when, not if, prominent conservatives started rending their shirts over it publicly. Meanwhile, though it pains me to say it, Sullivan makes an interesting point:

My fear is simple: Paul, like Bachmann, is comfortable being the only no vote on massively popular legislation. His ideological rigidity would result in a de facto government shutdown wherein almost all legislation would require a two-thirds majority in both houses in order to override Paul’s veto. Like Conor, I find aspects of Paul’s ideology attractive; Paul’s defense of civil liberties, desire to end the drug war, and foreign policy restraint are all sensible.

But imagine the debt-ceiling debacle with Paul or Bachmann in the White House. Imagine the 2008 financial crisis if the government had a president unwilling to act. Or consider more mundane legislation, like passing an annual budget. Paul wouldn’t need to get his nutty domestic policy agenda passed into law in order to wreak havoc; he’d only need to stymie the most basic and routine actions of the US government.

Not an argument that’s going to hurt him in the primary — if anything, driving a ferociously hard bargain on spending would be the great virtue of a Paul presidency — but I’m thinking of those polls that came out after the debt-ceiling deal showing a dip in the tea party’s favorable rating and catastrophic declines in Congress’s approval. My read on that was that the public didn’t care for the endless brinksmanship of the negotiations. If that’s true, President Paul would be crippled pretty quickly.

As I’m writing this, the Journal is out with a new op-ed from Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen insisting that we should expect a third-party candidate this year. Serious question: Why isn’t Paul running as an independent? His candidacy’s always been about advancing his agenda, not his ambition, and he has enough support to do that by going rogue and scrambling the general election. He’s not running for Congress again so he doesn’t have to worry about party retribution. And from all appearances, he doesn’t much care whether Obama or a mainstream Republican is elected president; it’s a stock line among Paul fans that the two parties aren’t significantly different. The only argument against doing it that I can see is that there might be party retribution for his son, who’ll probably run for president himself someday. But if the Pauls wanted to be really cagey about that, Rand could take a middle-ground position where he says he supports dad’s agenda but can’t support the idea of a third-party candidacy since it only raises the likelihood of reelecting Obama. By sitting out the race, he’d stay on the good side of the party establishment and position himself as a more mainstream alternative to his father, which sets him up nicely for his own run down the line. What am I missing here?