GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul is as likely to win the White House as pigs growing wings, but would make a good advocate for a strong third political party, according to national political experts and pollsters on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.
"Pigs could theoretically fly if they sprout wings, and Ron Paul could theoretically be elected president if the nature of the GOP changes substantially, but I doubt either happens," says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
"A solid majority of Republicans oppose Paul's libertarian views both on some social issues and defense and foreign affairs. I'm open to just about anything, but this would be 'just about anything,'" he tells Whispers.
Though many experts see Paul winning the Iowa caucuses next week and possibly finishing second in the New Hampshire primary a week later, few see a way for him to eventually grab the nomination to run against President Obama.
While the public is irate over the economy and unemployment, they say, voters aren't ready yet to vote in big numbers for the gadfly candidate.
Pollster John Zogby agrees that there is little chance Paul can win it all. But he notes that the Texas congressman is at his peak going into the caucuses.
"He has his base in the party and is likely to do well in Iowa and other states. As in 2008, he will stay on until the end," Zogby tells us. "His support is larger this year because he has been able to add a core—and corps—of young people to his libertarian base. In this regard, he represents a growing number of those hopeful first-time voters from four years ago who have become jaded with the president, Congress, three years of slow economy, and anxiety about not being able to get a start in life."
But, he said, while Paul represents the "rage" of new voters, his base is not in the GOP, but maybe a third party.
"The likelier scenario is a third party run by Ron Paul with a substantial number of young people supporting this bid. It won't be enough for him to win the White House, but it could be a powerful rejection of both the Democrats and Republicans that can become a transformational reality," says Zogby, who weekly writes a presidential report card for Washington Whispers. "Why? Because this is a group that Obama needs as part of his grand coalition and because it is a chunk of an age cohort that is not likely to find either party very cool."
Many other Republican leaders believe that Paul's off-message positions on drugs and foreign aid will prompt GOP voters to reject him. One senior Capitol Hill aide even suggested that leaders would work to defeat Paul if he starts to do well after New Hampshire.
"The party would completely implode. Beyond anything you can imagine. I just don't think we'd let it happen," said the senior aide.