Right but in the Wrong Way

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Sometimes a person has made himself such an outsider that even when people agree with him, they won’t support him. That may the problem Ron Paul has to overcome. Polling data released today from Public Policy Polling shows Ron Paul in the single digits as people’s preference for a Republican Presidential Nominee. Yet, when it comes to whether they agree with him or not, he does much better.

In fact, the best outcome for Paul is if he runs independently. From there his numbers at least make it up to 13%. He’d pull votes from both major parties, but as of right now would not impact the outcome of the election. That, of course, could change.

What is interesting about Ron Paul’s supporters is that they span the political spectrum. Republicans make up 44%, independents 41% and he even gets 15% of his support from Democrats. Ideologically, nearly half his supporters (49%) are self-identified conservatives, 37% are moderates, and 14% claim to be liberals. His message seems to be one that resonates across party and ideological lines to a higher degree than leading candidates from either major party. So why then are his numbers so low?

It speaks volumes about the partisan divide in the country. A leading contender needs to be a balance between making sense and blaming the other side. We’re drifting away from a population that wants a middle ground. Even going back to Ronald Reagan, his policies were not particularly supported all across the political spectrum but he gained wide popular support because Carter was so bad and the people wanted someone who agreed with them on that.

Sure, Ron Paul thinks Obama is doing a bad job – but he also thinks that the majority of Republicans in Congress are doing a bad job. It is safe to say from all polling data that the people are really unhappy with Congress. That measures the actions of Congress which are different than the attempted actions of the Republican minority. Congress may have a horrible approval rating, but within the Republican Party there is support for its members of Congress standing up against those on the left. That Ron Paul doesn’t really stand with those Republicans means he doesn’t get the support of those who support them.

The heart of why Ron Paul’s numbers are so low can be traced to his failure to connect with angry voters in the Party who see honor in a stalwart and aggressive opposition to the Democrats. This recent polling data shows that among Ron Paul’s supporters 61% disapprove of the actions of the Republicans in Congress. He’s the candidate of those who have given up on both parties. That makes him not the voice calling for a brighter future, but the cry of those who wish to tear it all down.


Saying “stop” isn’t enough.

If revolution were around the corner, Ron Paul would be a superstar and polling high. He isn’t. For all the turmoil and partisanship, most people still believe that the system isn’t broken; it just needs better leadership. The candidate who makes them believe that he can steer the ship to calmer seas is the one who wins the contest, not the one who says the ship itself is broken. The left makes the claim that the Tea Partiers are pre-revolutionaries plotting the downfall of the nation. If that were true, they’d be lining up behind Ron Paul. They’re not.

If Ron Paul wants a chance to win the Presidency and have the opportunity to put his ideas into practice, he needs to see the writing on the wall. He needs to see that the passengers on the Ship of State want a Captain who will calm their fears and then fix what is wrong. Ron Paul is more like an engineer trying to convince the passengers that the engines need an overhaul and all the crew is to blame for their bad condition. While they may agree with him, they still want a Captain to make that decision, supervise the work and to believe the crew is competent (under the right leadership) to make the repairs. Ron Paul needs to stop blaming the entire crew and all the officers. He needs to make it clear he knows there is a problem, knows how to fix it and can work with the crew (including those who messed things up) to fix things and sail on to sunny skies.

In plain words, he needs to stop bashing the whole system and getting into the details of what is wrong. He needs to win the confidence of the public that, if elected, he could work with the system that exists (even the Democrats) and make things better. Doing that would make him look more like a leader, get the debate out of the weeds, get it back on major issues and put him on the side of those who are trying to stop the Democrats rather than being against everyone. That is what will win the nomination. The fact that his ideas can have broad appeal is what would be valuable in the general election. But to get there, Ron Paul needs to start running a primary campaign and stop running a general election campaign.

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