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Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Republican Party forbade Ron Paul from pursuing a third party run

Ron_paul_profile_2 In this post taking count of the third party presidential vote, Reason magazine's David Weigel repeats a now common criticism of Ron Paul:

Bob Barr's complaint from Ron Paul's presser rings true: The way to keep attention on libertarian political arguments was to consolidate behind one candidate. For all of Paul's flaws, his totals in Montana and Louisiana indicate that he probably could have run a Nader 2000-style campaign and gotten about Nader's 2.8 million votes.

Here's Justin Raimondo making the complaint more forcefully:

I was an early and vocal supporter of Ron Paul, and yet he stopped campaigning precisely when he should have started–or, at any rate, re-started. His refusal to go all the way, and launch a third party bid has got to be one of the grandest missed opportunities of all time. To have predicted the banking meltdown, so loudly and insistently, and then have it occur just as the presidential campaign reached a crescendo–Paul could easily have garnered 10 percent of the vote, at a minimum, elbowing aside McCain as the authentic defender of what is left of our economic liberty.

What's the problem with all this? Ron Paul gained what popularity he did by taking advantage of the national stage afforded by the Republican primary debates, but Paul's spokesman Jesse Benton revealed yesterday that a third party run as the Libertarian or Constitution Party candidate was never a possibility. The Republican Party had made that a condition of entering their primary race:

Ron Paul could not have run Libertarian if he wanted to. In order to be on the GOP Primary Ballot in at least 11 states, including Texas, Ron had to pledge that he would not seek the presidency on another ticket if he failed to secure the GOP nomination. Not running third party was the price of admission.

It's not difficult to see why this information wasn't made public before the press conference at which Ron Paul made his presidential endorsements: of course the GOP would prefer it never to see the light of day, and until that point Paul could coyly respond to inquiries that he had "no plans" to mount a third party run while not completely ruling it out, keeping the media interested and the major parties on their toes.

Since the now-infamous press conference was followed by the stupid Barr reaction, the nasty fallout, and Paul's ultimate endorsement of Chuck Baldwin, all of which had disastrous effects on the unity of the Ron Paul movement, disclosing this nugget of information could have quelled some of the harmful (and as it turns out, baseless) criticisms of Paul.

Then again, who am I to know? Maybe the GOP also had a non-disclosure agreement which gagged the Paul campaign from talking until after the November 4th election. I wouldn't be surprised, would you? 

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 6, 2008 | Permalink


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It would be interesting to know the exact nature of the commitment not to run. One would think that if he had decided to renege on the deal that there would be little the Republicans could do to stop him. It would be odd if they actually had the authority to block him from registering as a third party candidate. So I wonder if the commitment was a non-binding one that could be used to embarrass someone who decided to run anyway or if it actually had more teeth than that.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-11-06 5:10:11 PM

I think your link where Jesse Benton revealed the GOP forbade him to run based on their rules is incorrect.

It should refer to this article:


Posted by: Gavin | 2008-11-06 5:22:33 PM

Wow... you fixed that pretty fast.

Posted by: Gavin | 2008-11-06 5:23:47 PM

Thanks Gavin, I'm just that good.

FC, my understanding is that the Republican Party of Texas could make it impossible for Ron Paul to get the party nomination for his 14th district seat.

I suppose that wouldn't matter if Paul would be entering the White House in January, but I don't think that would be a good enough contingency plan for Paul to break the pledge.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-11-06 5:40:41 PM

Nice article.

Posted by: red | 2008-11-06 5:52:39 PM


That explanation makes sense, except it means that the party had no leverage against Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson, none of whom hold or were running for any other office. It also means they had no leverage against John McCain, whose Senate term is not over until 2010. In fact, Ron Paul is the only one they really had levarage over with this policy, which might well have been the point.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-11-06 5:58:20 PM

It may not have been a GOP directive, but rather various forms of "Sore Loser Laws" on the books within the "at least 11" states you mentioned.

These laws can differ from place to place, but they generally disallow someone from seeking the same office via other means if they lose during a primary election for that office.

Posted by: Anonymous | 2008-11-07 3:33:22 AM

This may be why Bob Barr offered Ron Paul the VP spot. Barr knew that may serve as a loophole in the "Sore Loser Laws" because running for Vice President differs from running for President. Many criticized Barr for holding a separate press conference to make his offer, but it's likely that Barr originally intended to make this announcement during the course of Paul's press conference before he found out what all the press conference would entail and chose not to participate.

Posted by: Anonymous | 2008-11-07 3:37:19 AM

I thought about the "sore loser" laws as well, and checked into it today. According to Ballot Access News, only four states have them; and there are ways to get around them in any case. Paul's son (Ron Paul Jr.) or his wife Carol Paul could have gone on the ballots in those states.

Though I suspect "Anonymous" is right, and the VP offer was a serious one, not an "insult."

Posted by: George Dance | 2008-11-07 8:31:32 AM

Perhaps they should have allowed Ron Paul to attend the very recent Republican closed door meeting to bring life support to the party. BUT of course they were stupid and did not invite Ron Paul...did they not learn from this election?


Posted by: Robert Pedersen | 2008-11-07 1:02:57 PM

This just demonstrates how honorable Dr. Paul is. Even when the demands by the GOP were outrageous, when he agreed to them, he kept his word. This demonstrates that he is a man of true character, regardless of how unscrupulous the GOP is.

Posted by: Bill Hartwell | 2008-11-07 1:50:38 PM

Honor, Character? That would have been if Paul said no to the deal and ran as an independent from the get go. What is Paul's loyalty, to the USA or party politics? All dust in the wind now.

Posted by: Doug | 2008-11-08 12:26:16 AM

Doug, He never would have had the exposure and debate time he did if he had run third party in the first place. With the exception of 2 years he has been a Republican his entire political career. Politics is about compromises even for a principled candidate like Ron Paul.
Ron Paul didn't leave the GOP. The party left him.

Posted by: chaz | 2008-11-10 10:12:37 AM

I heard a long time ago that although Texas election law allowed Ron Paul to run for both president and congress at the same time, that the Texas Republican party could have removed his name from the congressional race if he had run for president under the banner of another party. Sorry, but I don't recall who told me that anymore but I seem to recall they were someone who should know what they were talking about. If so, we are unlikely to see Paul heading a third party ticket until he is willing to give up his congressional seat.

Posted by: June | 2008-11-13 10:42:43 AM

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