One of the top messages Republicans are taking away from the 2012 election is that unless they can find a way to connect with younger and more diverse voters, their political party is destined to continue racking up electoral losses. As party leaders search for solutions, they may want to look at a shining example within their own party – Ron Paul.
The Texas congressman, who has run for president three times, has developed a cult-like following from supporters who tend to be younger or otherwise non-traditional conservatives.
But what's the 77-year-old's secret sauce?
Paul is a member of the Republican Party, but he's fervently libertarian, even when it hinders his national electoral chances. For example, he believes the United States should pull back from the world stage when it comes to its foreign policy and military presence. That's contra to the GOP's recent affair with neo-conservatism, practiced under George W. Bush and the tough anti-Iran talk exhibited in this year's primary. In his 2008 presidential bid, Paul was the only candidate to oppose the Iraq War. But the anti-war sentiment is popular with younger voters who have grown up in the shadow of two foreign wars, one lasting for more than a decade.
End the Fed
Paul's push to end the Federal Reserve and its role in U.S. monetary policy is a cornerstone of his presidential candidacy and political career. He believes by moving away from the gold standard, the country is bound to suffer from the perils of inflation. This is wildly popular with a certain group of voters, particularly Tea Party faithful, who believe the Fed wields too much power from too shadowy a position. Not to mention the fact that many believe the government shouldn't have such a big role in the economy in the first place.
One of the most striking differences between Paul and the majority of his fellow Republicans is how his consistency on states' rights issues has helped him remain conservative on social issues without alienating voters. An obstetrician by trade, Paul is pro-life and has said he believes life begins at conception. But he doesn't believe the federal government has a right to weigh in on the legality of abortion – he sees it as a states' rights issue. Ditto for gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana. That allows voters who want the government out of their business to support him, as well as more traditional conservatives.
But more than any single issue, voters who support Paul have said it's his consistency of positions and fervency for his beliefs that make him such a powerful force. In a world of capitulating politicians, seemingly willing to say different things in front of different audiences, Paul is a refreshing force. Paul declined to run for re-election for the House seat he's held since 1997, but he's going on a farewell tour of college campuses and even just this week his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, has said he's mulling over a potential presidential run in 2016.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.