Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney edges out President Obama by five points in a three-way race between Romney, Obama and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), according to a new poll released by the Republican firm Rasmussen Reports.
A telephone poll taken of 1,000 likely voters on May 6-7 reveals Republican-possibly-turning-independent candidate Paul would garner 13%, giving Republican nominee Mitt Romney a 44%-39% advantage over Democrat incumbent Barack Obama.
Congressman Paul has repeatedly expressed his desire to work within the Republican Party, but slaves to ratings and the 24 hour news cycle have continued to ponder this hypothetical scenario.
There are two important considerations here:
- Why does Paul’s third party candidacy give Romney and edge over Obama?
- Why should Paul continue to work within a party that seems to be completely disinterested in his political philosophy?
Paul’s popularity among young voters would likely be the final nail in Obama’s electoral coffin. In 2008, Barack Obama inspired my generation to turn out and vote – and we did. Two out of every three voters between 18 and 29 cast their vote for Barack Obama.
Four years later, the unemployment rate among recent high school and college graduates is higher than the national average and our economic future looks bleak.
Say what you will about mainstream Republicans’ views on Paul’s philosophy, but young voters, who don’t seem to ally with either party, are flocking to his message of liberty. On university campuses across the U.S., Paul draws thousands of young voters, many of whom have never voted. The phenomenon is very similar to Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Young voters are idealistic and hopeful and wary of an intrusive and burdensome federal government. Socially, they tend to be more accepting, or at least more “hands off,” when it comes to government interference in personal lives.
Recent polls show Obama’s youth support slipping, with Romney steadily gaining. Throwing Paul into a three-way race would likely take many of those young voters off the table for both Obama and Romney. Increasingly, voters are not aligning with either major political party, and Paul’s campaign is making a concerted effort to attract young voters.
The results of a three-way race in 2012 would look similar to the three-way race between incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush, Democratic challenger Bill Clinton, and independent Ross Perot in 1992, where Perot garnered about 19% of the popular vote but won zero electoral votes and carried no states. Some analysts have argued that Perot’s bid contributed to Clinton upset unseating of incumbent Republican Bush.
I don’t believe Paul would abandon the Republican Party to mount a third party candidacy. Reports of Paul supporters winning positions within state Republican Parties in Alaska, Nevada, Iowa, Maine and beyond seem to indicate the Paul movement is committed to changing the GOP from within.
Our winner-take-all system rarely allows for successful third party candidacies, especially at the national level. It appears that Paul and many of his supporters understand this.
One other serious consideration for Paul supporters is what is the future might hold for Ron Paul’s agenda-sharing elected Republicans like his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Michigan Congressman Justin Amash. If Paul were to abandon the Republican Party, would it jeopardize their future electoral hopes?
A final, lesser, consideration is: Where is Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson – a former Republican governor of New Mexico – in all this? PPP Polling released a poll last month that indicates Johnson would receive just 6% of the vote in a three-way race and hand the election to Barack Obama 47%-42% over Mitt Romney.
Why the difference? Is Paul better known? Would Johnson supporters flock to an arguably more credible third party run by Paul? Is mobilizing the young voters energized by Ron Paul’s run the only hope for Gary Johnson for making a dent in this election as a third party candidate?
What is certain that in any three-way race scenario, Ron Paul’s support is rooted in his appeal to young voters. And, any Ron Paul third party run would threaten Barack Obama’s re-election plans based on commanding the youth vote.