If someone were visiting from outer space and got wind of the Republican primary and caucus results, he might be a tad bewildered by the coverage.
“This is clearly a two-man race now,” he'd say, waving a tentacle significantly. “There's only one candidate capable of a respectable showing on two separate occasions when everyone else but Mitt Romney struggled. Both times, he drew strong, passionate support, and landed in the top tier — a feat no one beside the front-runner could pull off. It's a two-man race now.”
We earthlings would try to explain. “Ah,” we’d say, “but — gee, look, uh, this — you’re talking about Ron Paul.”
“Why is the Mainstream Media not giving the man his due?” the alien would say, sounding a bit more like a Paul supporter every second. “Especially when polls indicate that if he ran as a third-party candidate, he'd pull in about 20 percent of the vote and change the game entirely.”
On Wednesday Paul’s campaign suggested that if you discovered that you were running for the Republican nomination and were neither Ron Paul nor Mitt Romney, the only polite thing to do would be to drop out. Paul is, they point out, the last best non-Romney hope, the only candidate whose results in both New Hampshire and Iowa were nothing to sneeze at, unless you sneeze at pretty decent polling results.
“Besides,” the alien says, “ever since Rick Perry showed up at debates and wandered around saying that he’d like to beat up Ben Bernanke, Paul started to sound like a rational choice.”
There's something about Paul, the contrarian libertarian with fans so devoted you worry they might have tattoos of his wrinkled visage in critical areas. Paul has been fighting the good fight for years, voting no on every unconstitutional bill that crosses his path, after lovingly tucking a few earmarks into it.
He brings out the youth. He brings out the People Who Leave Irate Online Comments. He brings out the People Who Believe Cannibal Giants Left Their Bones In The Earth. But nobody’s perfect. Rick Perry doesn’t bring out anybody at all. If you’re angry at President Obama, he’s your guy. If you were angry at George W. Bush, he was also your guy. If you’re angry in general, he’s probably your guy — unless you’ve been intrigued by Newt Gingrich’s recent behavior. You wouldn’t expect Occupants of Wall Street to support any of the other possible Republicans. Thanks to this wildly diverse base of support, he has placed respectable seconds in states where anyone besides Mitt Romney faltered.
“Please, drop out,” he says. “I am doing better than any of you, and I am Ron Paul. Clearly, the voter does not want what you are selling.”
It is difficult to argue with that sort of iron-plated logic.
Besides, after all these years of arguing that Ron Paul is going to be stuck forever with about 25 percent of the vote, now’s the time to disprove that old chestnut.
What does the field have to lose?
Rick Perry is slipping below the threshold of debate eligibility. Possibly voters are just trying to be nice to him. “I’d vote for you,” they murmur, “but then you’d have to show up at another debate.” Jon Huntsman has less support than Stephen Colbert, who is actually trying to be a joke candidate. That leaves Rick “Santorum” Santorum and Gingrich, a man who just compared super PACs to praying mantises and whom Rush Limbaugh is urging to tone down his rhetoric.
Why not abandon ship now?
Ron Paul may be the actual best hope. His demographics are the thing that demographers swoon over late at night. Young people! People from across party lines! Conservatives! Moderates! Those hip, smoking youngsters!
Why can't it work?
Well, someone points out, “He's Ron Paul.”
But besides that.