What Could Have Been: If Ron Paul Ran Against Barack Obama (He Might Have Won)

By now, everything that can be said or written about the election 2012 has been said and written . . . except for what might have happened if Ron Paul had been the Republican nominee.

I think he could have won. Here is why:

Something that wasn’t talked much about leading up to the Republican nomination of Mitt Romney instead of Ron Paul was Paul’s appeal across ideological lines. I voted for Obama but would have strongly considered voting for Paul. My girlfriend, the archetype of academic liberalism, would have enthusiastically voted for him, based on what she knew about him during the primaries. Why?

Because he tells the truth as he sees it. I voted for Obama even though I want him to do more about military expansionism and erosion of civil rights. These two issues are central to Paul’s platform, along with eliminating the Federal Reserve, which I see as the source of the county’s financial woes. While I strongly disagree with Paul on points like cutting the federal budget as drastically as he would, and I’m not as libertarian as his view on the role of the federal government, I largely agree with what I heard come from him throughout the campaign. He was a lone voice of truth on Bullshit Mountain, using John Stewart’s hilarious summary of the Republican/FOX disinformation campaign.

Yet, the Republicans considered basically everyone else except Paul and John Huntsman, and Huntsman was the candidate the Obama campaign feared most. I mean, apparently they would sooner have a Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, or that twit from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, as their nominee than the guy who actually had a chance.

When Romney said 47% of voters would never vote for him, he was right. He ended up with 47% of the popular vote, and needed to peal off another 3% to make the election competitive. Peel off 5% and he’s on the way to a convincing victory. That means he takes one in ten of Obama’s votes to win. But he really had no shot at getting those votes. Paul, however, had a shot.

The 47% who voted for Romney would have voted for Paul, because, to use Romney’s logic, they were going to vote for the Republican nominee no matter who it was. Only around 5% of voters are truly “swing voters” who go either way from election to election. Because politics in Washington has become so partisan and so polarized, most voters are already in one camp or the other. For example, I have voted for Republicans, but would not even consider it now because a vote for any Republican, in my mind, is a vote for the entire party, which has driven right off the deep end, and I can’t support that. But put Ron Paul on the ballot and now you give me the opportunity to vote for a Republican who can talk some sense into other Republicans. You peel away a vote from Obama. At the very least, you change Obama’s tune and force him to confront his support of policies that he didn’t support when he ran for President in 2008.

But no, even though Paul came in second in the primaries and was the best alternative to Romney except, perhaps, Huntsman, he was treated like the ugly girl in the wedding party. He was even harassed by TSA agents while trying to fly home during the Republican convention because, Paul claimed, he would not endorse Mitt Romney.

So we are left to wonder what might have been. One thing we know for sure: the Republican establishment hated Paul because he took no marching orders, and, according to a plethora of analysis and reporting, the nomination was outright stolen from Paul.

Oh, what might have been.

The Horse Race That Wasn't: Obama Won the Election Weeks Ago

Boy, the news media sure made it sound like Romney and Obama were neck and neck all the way to the finish. The results show how wrong they were.

Yes, it was pretty close as far as elections go. President Obama had a few scary moments when it looked like momentum was shifting toward Romney. When I texted my girlfriend on election night and told her Obama won, she wrote back “but Romney has been leading all day.”

It was never really close. Like most people, she was snookered by the media.

The media needs a horse race. It needs drama. It needs close elections to keep viewers tuned in. It needed you to believe, up until the last moment, either candidate could win.

When Romney won the first debate in early October, a collective cheer went up in newsrooms. Not because the media supported Romney over Obama, but because until that point Romney had been sliding down and looking like he had no chance of winning. Obama was up by 5-10 points in state polls where it mattered most: Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin. People like myself were starting to tune out media coverage of the presidential race.

When people tune out, media has less to sell advertisers. Less advertising means less money. Simple economics.

After Romney won the debate he rose in the polls. The race tightened. Breathless headlines proclaimed he still had a shot. It not only attracted people to media to get coverage of the race, it made Republicans happy. Otherwise the last few weeks before the election would have been dominated by headlines declaring Obama unbeatable, and all the drama would have been over.

But drill down into the numbers and you’d know that the additional people who proclaimed support for Romney were not swing voters: they were disaffected Republicans. Romney gave them a glimmer hope. They were never going to vote for Obama, and wanted a good reason to vote for Romney after watching him flail all summer.

The math of the winning the presidency never changed. Obama was still clearly leading the electoral college map.

I knew before that debate that Romney would win it. He had to. Otherwise, game over. I knew he would win because the winners and losers are picked by the media, and the media needed Romney to win.

Of course, Obama helped by getting rocked back on his heels by the outright lies and spin that Romney brought out for the debate. The president’s exasperation was visible. I thought he made the Al Gore mistake of 2000 when he reacted to Bush’s distortions that made himself appear more moderate.

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The headlines following that debate could have easily been, “The Incredible Quick-Change Artist Mitt Romney.” They could have focused on Romney’s sudden conversion from “Severe Conservative” to “Moderate Mitt.” Trust me, if Obama was down in the polls at that point, the headlines would have focused more on Mitt’s turnabout than Obama’s listlessness.

Statisticians like Nate Silver at 538 Blog were not fooled. While Obama’s odds of winning fluctuated down after being declared the loser of the first debate, Silver, like most nonpartisan election experts, knew it would take a miracle for Romney to win. It was possible, yes, but highly improbable. Obama led the electoral college race, and most voters in swing states had already made up their minds.

Bottom line: Don’t believe the hype.