Ron Paul’s campaign for the Presidency of the United States, is likely one of the most unusual in the history of politics. He has rallied some of the most dedicated supporters any candidate could ever hope for, and has done so from the position of a total underdog.
He is a candidate who advocates a drastic reigning in of government spending and overreach, and is an advocate for states rights, and personal liberties. Ron Paul cries for reform and a move towards strict constitutional adherence. He is unquestionably the loudest voice on these issues and has based his campaign entirely around them. It would almost seem that he is the perfect candidate for the tastes of the Republican Party. But why then has his campaign failed to gain traction within the primary season? Especially when his platform has engendered such a fervor among his supporters which has probably not been seen since the 1968 election.
In all honesty, that sort of fervor may be part of his problem.
With what has been billed as a nearly squeaky clean record and life story, Congressman Paul’s supporters may be baffled (or just frustrated) that his campaign has failed to gain traction among Republican Voters. In fact, Tea-Party Conservatives, Traditional Republicans, and Neo-Cons take a step away from the Texas Representative as if he has the plague. Ron Paul supporters would probably say that this is because he wants to shake up the establishment and root out corruption, which makes them uncomfortable. But if that were the case, only those in the establishment would reject him. However Ron Paul’s opponents are a pervasive majority of the Republican Party.
Buy why? At first glance this doesn’t make sense. He is a family man. A successful Texan Doctor who delivered children into this world. A strict fiscal conservative and a devout Christian. But still, with all this he has not gained traction.
Most Republicans, I would venture to guess, are mostly in agreement with Dr. Paul on a purely ideological basis. “The Government is too big, it’s too involved in our lives, and we need to become more fiscally conservative” is a rallying cry that most Republicans would support. While there are other items which might be considered part of Ron Paul’s ideology which are not so universally accepted by the Republican Party, much of it is. But despite all of this with Mitt Romney (as much as Ron Paul supporters do not want to hear this) only 101 delegates away from making it a Mathematical Impossibility for Dr. Paul to get the nomination: the Paul Campaign has been a riot, and not a revolution. Despite his overwhelming support in the youth vote, it is important to remember that the youth vote is notoriously fickle, no matter how inspired it may be.
I would propose, that if his positions are not altogether disagreeable to the Republican party, then the failure of the Ron Paul campaign is, at least in part, an issue of: Marketing.
I do not believe that Ron Paul is the right candidate for the Job. This is my own personally formulated opinion which has come as a result of observing Ron Paul for some time. But supposing that he is indeed the right man for the Job — the Man to implement what we Conservatives want to see, as his supporters would posit — then his campaign has been a tragic disaster of Marketing. Simply put, because he has not come across that way to the rest of the Party. His campaign has not won over their hearts and minds, it has in turn alienated itself.
I would group these failings into four categories:
Persuasion, Support, Prime-Time, & Trust
Ron Paul’s campaign has been characterized by a sort of bully pulpit approach. His message has come across as a forceful declaration that the rest of party has gone mad and abandoned the constitution. Many Republicans feel attacked and not persuaded by this sort of language and are put on the defensive — making them bristle instead of weighing his arguments. This of course is a problem in a game that is all about persuading the public. Having been, myself, a Missionary, I learned that you weren’t likely to get very far in persuading someone to listen to you by opening with an attack on what they have believed up until this point. Progress was much more easily accomplished by a persuasive argument and friendly comparison of similarities, followed by an explanation of differences. Starting off by telling someone that their positions are in blatant opposition to the US constitution, does not really make them likely to listen to your argument with an open mind. Even if Paul is right in his interpretation, many are offended by a message that seems to say that the Constitution and its interpretation belongs to the Ron Paul Campaign, and not to the rest of the United States.
It is a widely held belief that Ron Paul supporters are crazy. And, having been involved in debates and discussions with numerous Paul supporters, I can report that this stereotype is unfortunate for the many reasonable and intelligent supporters that he has gathered. But it is also perpetuated by a very vocal number of his supporters that are indeed irrational, belligerent, abrasive, and outright “nuts”. The numerous “normal” supporters of the Paul campaign have also, regrettably, been slow to call these others out, or try to rein them in. Some have even appeared to be defending the more radical of Paul’s supporters by saying that they are a natural outgrowth of the righteous frustration which many feel. But the fact remains: that any campaign must distance themselves or qualify the acceptance of support from such people to prevent being defined by them. Ron Paul’s campaign has sadly embraced or at least tended to defend any who support it, no matter how “scary” they may seem to others. This mistake has only served to perpetuate Paul’s image as a fringe candidate.
Ron Paul is old. That does not disqualify him, nor should it. But the American public is essentially driven by the “Prime Time” image which the candidate portrays. Sadly, Dr. Paul’s aged voice and sometime vacuous expression on camera do not come across well. This, coupled with his forceful, “no-nonsense” approach makes him appear as a serious and substantive statesman, but rather as a cranky old miser (as regrettable and unfair as this may be). Essentially, his problem is not that he is old, but rather that he has not presented himself in an effective way for his age.
I think that many Ron Paul supporters would almost be shocked that this is an issue, and would then cite Dr. Paul’s consistent record and straight arrow personal life as proof of his trust worthiness. But people are not afraid that Ron Paul will lie to them. Nor are they afraid that he will do anything immoral. Instead, because his image has come across as a fringe candidate, they fear that his decisions are unpredictable. People feel that Paul’s positions dance on a knife-edge between solid conservative principle, and radical wildcard behavior. Of all the impressions which may be floating around out there about Ron Paul, this is likely the most unfortunate. But his record of close brushes with fringe and radical characters — ranging from white supremacists, 9⁄11 truthers, and paranoid survivalists — has caused concern in the public mind. This is unfortunate, because Congressman Paul is neither of these.
I would say the root of these aforementioned problems is Tone. The overall vibe which comes from Ron Paul’s campaign, because these issues, is one which many Americans do not feel attracted to join, despite whatever correct points he may make.
Ron Paul may be indeed the man who could save America (although I am not of that opinion) but if that is the case it only accentuates the tragedy of his marketing failure, because that is not the image which has been received by the American People.
I wish to emphasize that these points I have made about Ron Paul’s image do not necessarily reflect who he is, or what sort of candidate he is, but rather how he has come across. It is there that he has failed. I personally hope that the Republican Party will assimilate a number of the points which Ron Paul has made. Despite the ineffective packaging, I hope that its contents will be weighed and evaluated fairly so that the Republican Party can grow and progress. Sadly, I do not believe that Ron Paul is the right vehicle through which the right changes can happen in our country.
It should also be noted that another major reason why Congressman Paul’s campaign has not gained traction, is his foreign policy stance which is rather unpopular in the party. However, I feel that if his overall message was better presented, then other Republicans would be more open to having a discussion on this issue rather than dismissing it along with everything else.
In my own personal opinion I think that to some extent Congressman Paul makes some very good points about our Foreign policy, but I disagree with how far he takes it. However, that discussion begins to exceed the scope of this commentary.