It is possible that Paul will come in first in a fractured field in the Iowa caucuses: Those caucuses reward intensity of support, which he certainly has. The notion that he will be the Republican nominee is too absurd to spend a moment contemplating.
Somewhat more likely is that he will mount a third-party run in November 2012. But getting on the ballot will be difficult, especially in states that discourage primary-campaign losers from running in general elections. If he were to help the reelection of President Barack Obama by splitting the Republican vote, the party would probably hold it against his son and ally, Rand Paul, who is in his first year as a Republican senator from Kentucky and is widely considered more politically talented than his father. Does the elder Paul want to take that risk?
So over the next few weeks Paul’s ideas will probably get more attention than they have ever received before, or will ever receive again. Most people who examine them will reject them, for good reasons, while giving him credit for sincerity.