In case undecideds had forgotten that Paul’s a year older than John McCain, here he is inexplicably reminding them of that fact.
Points for candor?
Ron Paul questioned Wednesday whether he would be able to endure a protracted fight for the Republican presidential nomination, wondering to reporters if he would be able to “hold up” through a long primary battle.
“I’m not looking forward to anything being long and protracted. So I hope it ends rather quickly and we do real well in the beginning of the year,” Paul said while campaigning in New Hampshire, according to CNN. “The organization is fantastic. The question is: am I going to hold up if I keep doing all this.”
Paul’s chance to make serious waves in the campaign may be predicated on a long primary process in which he can tap into his substantial war chest and organizational prowess. Unlike the insurgent Gingrich, who has had little time to build a ground game or collect donations since catapulting to the top of the GOP race, Paul has steadily built his financial reserves.
It’d be fun to game out what would happen if Paul shocked Gingrich in Iowa and then rode the momentum to an upset in New Hampshire. The odds of that are very small but not quite zero; the odds of the rest of the field giving up after the early primaries, no matter how well Paul does, really are zero because both Gingrich and Romney know that the Republican establishment will rally behind one of them in a panic to stop Paul. But which one? Presumably it’d be Mitt because he’s best prepared financially and organizationally to carry on a long war with Paul and polls better head to head against Obama than Newt does, but maybe it would depend on how they fare in South Carolina and Florida. If mainstream Republican voters started lining up behind Gingrich as the anti-Paul, why would the party risk alienating them by pushing Romney instead? The real risk is that is the late scramble among conservative leaders and outside groups to push Gingrich or Romney over Paul would hopelessly alienate the Paul supporters, and they’d either vote third-party or stay home in November. (Supposedly, Gary Johnson’s set to switch to the Libertarian Party tomorrow.) Then again, many of them are no doubt planning to do that anyway.
I’m curious now to see if Paul’s allusion to his age will become an issue in the last week before the caucuses if he’s leading or close to the top. It’d be a risky attack, but remember that the fuel for Gingrich’s lift-off is conservatives’ belief that he’d dominate Obama in the debates. The base rightly expects a long, brutal campaign and they want a warrior who’s equal to the task, and here’s Ron Paul telling them that endurance is an issue. If a long primary is too taxing, what would a presidential term be like? Exit question one: Can anyone imagine Rand Paul saying something this damaging to his own candidacy? He’s simply a better retail politician, the occasional ad lib about the possible unconstitutionality of the Civil Rights Act notwithstanding. Exit question two: Would there be any unintended consequences of a protest vote for Paul in Iowa, even if he’s guaranteed not to win the nomination? Think carefully.