Rep. Ron Paul sees a path through Super Tuesday, and ultimately to the Republican presidential nomination. It involves the Internet, young voters—and a more polished candidate.
"I think people flat out don't understand what I'm talking about," he told a group of reporters this morning, referring to his economic policy. That's "partially my fault," he said, indicating he needs to do a better job educating people clearly about his ideas. He added, "That's what I work on the most, is trying to refine my message."
But he also lays some blame with the traditional media, which, he believes, gives short shrift to him and his ideas. However, he sees the Internet as a way around that barrier to get what he really needs: Exposure. "Fortunately, in this age, we can do it. There's a thing called the Internet, and there's alternative media," he said. "And believe me, it has helped tremendously." Paul has seen his message traveling farther and faster than his previous White House bids, for the GOP nomination in 2008 and as a Libertarian in 1988.
In his mind, college students are key. "That's where I get a lot of my energy from," he said, appearing at a press breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, "the young people who have not had their minds clouded with a lot of other clichés into thinking of what the government should do and shouldn't do."
With most polls putting the Lone Star congressman double digits behind presumed frontrunners Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney—the latest USA Today/Gallup poll gives Paul 13 percent to Perry's 31 and Romney's 24—Paul understands he's not a shoo-in for the GOP nomination. But he's not considering a third-party run, he said. In fact, believing the country's political mood is shifting more toward his political philosophy—"The successes of this message and the freedom movement is way beyond my expectations," he said—Paul feels more at home in the Republican Party than ever.
For example, he is pleased to see that his long-standing criticisms of the Federal Reserve are increasingly finding voice in the GOP mainstream. Other presidential candidates, like Perry, have started talking about the Fed, and debate moderators are asking candidates—other than him—about it. And House GOP leaders Tuesday evening sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke urging him to avoid any further intervention in the economy. Paul thinks the letter is good for drawing attention to the issue, but "it's too little too late," he said. "This should have been said about 30 years ago or 40 years ago."
Paul thinks the economic policy discussion needs to go deeper, not just on what to do about the recession, but what brought the nation to the doldrums in the first place. "In medicine, I always had to ask, 'You're sick, what caused your disease?' And then I know how to treat it," he said. "But in politics, they never ask—whether it's a foreign policy problem or an economic problem—they never say, 'What caused this?' They just say, 'Well, our theory is that we need to spend more money to get us out of recession.'"
His foreign policy has been the biggest stumbling block for Republicans. At the most recent debate, Paul was booed by the Tea Party audience for suggesting the U.S. foreign policy of nation-building inspired the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Paul supported going after Osama bin Laden after the attack, he said, but not the broader goal of war in Iraq. "After 9/11, I voted for the authority, I voted for the funding to go after those individuals responsible," he said. "But I didn't vote for nation-building. So as soon as they went into nation-building, I did a lot of complaining and wouldn't vote to perpetuate it."
These issues are why Paul says he is running in the first place—he sees the nation headed down a dangerous path, one the Soviet Union followed: going broke. "The direction is to mold the world instead of defending our country," he said. "It's all going to end, whether people believe me or not, it's going to end because we're flat-out broke, just like the Soviet system came down. They were spread too thin, and it's bringing us down."