Jacob Heilbrunn

Good Morning America: Ron Paul Runs for the Presidency

 On Good Morning America, Ron Paul just announced his candidacy for the presidency. It's further proof that every good little boy or girl can dream about being presidential timber. But it's hard not to admire Paul's tenacity and sheer grit. My old colleague at the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Malcolm, a veteran newsman if there ever was one, who also worked for George W. Bush in Texas and is buddies with Karl Rove, has a perceptive post about Paul.

He points out that Paul not only exemplifies what he preaches—thrift, austerity—but also has had a big impact on the GOP. As well as on the Obama administration. Paul's bete noire—the burgeoning deficit—has become Exhibit A for what's wrong with the federal government. Scorn Paul at your peril, in other words. As Malcolm puts it,

 

Like a fiscal conservative who walks the walk, Paul ended 2008's bid with not one penny of campaign debt. In fact, flying commercial and staying in Super 8's, Paul had a $5-million surplus, which he put toward sowing the seeds of something called the tea party.

Perhaps you've heard of it. Ron's son Rand got elected senator that way. As did the new 2011 Republican majority in the House.

The libertarian-like movement speaks to a broad-based unhappiness with and suspicion of too-big government, too much spending, too much debt, too much war. Bureaucracies and businesses saturated with cronies who take care of each other at the expense of those folks paying the bills.

Paul wants out of those wars. Forget the American empire. Use the money back home. Cut the federal government. Follow the Constitution. Get out of people's lives. Paul's plans don't have a snowball's chance in a Galveston August of becoming reality. But despite all the tea party media mocking of two years ago, it was this movement that drove last fall's midterm election debate—and victories. And the ongoing budget, deficit and debt limit arguments.

 

Now many Republicans will argue that Paul is a spoiler. But with a rather weak field, the GOP's chances of toppling Obama are looking pretty iffy, at least right now. This election could be like 1964, when the Republicans lost big, but found their way back to conservatism. It could be one of those elections that's more about ideology than about actually winning. If so, the field will be wide open for Paul. The blunt fact is that his brand of libertarianism will appeal to many Republicans who are tired of foreign wars and a soaring debt. When it comes to social conservatives, Paul will, however, not be an appealing voice--he favors legalizing drugs, among other things. But Paul is the ultimate Tea Party candidate. As Malcolm and others have noted, he is, in fact, the godfather of the Tea Party.

But the potions that Paul is preparing are a lot stronger than mere tea. He's whipping up a cocktail of positions that could leave heads reeling in the GOP. Is a Pauline conversion about to take place? 2012 may be the battleground for the soul of the GOP.