I spoke recently with a senior Democrat strategist who offered up a quite logical and incredibly frightening scenario for those who are desperate to vote Barack Obama out of office in 2012.
His theory goes like this: That the Obama White House and the Obama re-election team are going to work overtime behind the scenes to push enough of Texas Republican Ron Paul's "libertarian" buttons to eventually have him declare as a third-party candidate.
This strategist believes that as unemployment continues to remain above 9%, as the president's poll numbers continue to slide, and as more and more of the American people are finally awakening to the self-destructive ways of Washington, that a "libertarian" third-party candidate running in 2012 may be the only thing that could save Obama in 2012.
If you are one of the tens of millions of Americans who feel that for the good of the nation Obama must be defeated in 2012, then there is real reason to fear a Paul third-party candidacy. While he would not be able to win, he very easily could ensure a second Obama term should he run.
Ron Paul is Ross Perot without the baggage. He is a very decent and thoughtful man who cares deeply about his nation.
More than that, he has a very strong following and for that reason alone his experienced voice must be heard and respected.
One obvious way for team Obama to push the Ron Paul buttons is to entice the Republican leadership to compromise further and further away from Paul's core beliefs.
One could certainly argue — as Ron Paul himself is now doing — that with the debt-ceiling "solution," the Republican establishment has signed onto and in fact endorsed a deal that is unsustainable and a clear threat to the financial security of the American people.
One of the reasons Paul does have such a loyal and growing following — and why his fellow Republican candidates need to beat a path to his door and engage him in serious discussions before it's too late — is because he offers up common-sense solutions in easy to understand language.
In a recent op-ed for The Hill newspaper, Paul argued, "Our revenues currently stand at approximately $2.2 trillion a year and are likely to remain stagnant as the recession continues. Our outlays are $3.7 trillion and projected to grow every year. Yet we only have to go back to 2004 for federal outlays of $2.2 trillion, and the government was far from small that year.
"If we simply returned to that year's spending levels ... we would have a balanced budget right now ... . In Washington terms, a simple freeze in spending would be a much bigger 'cut' than any plan being discussed."
Agree with him or not, he is putting his name on the line and offering up practical solutions to our coming financial meltdown. Beyond that, if you do happen to be one of his GOP competitors for the Republican presidential nomination for 2012, it also does not really matter whether you agree with him.
What matters is if you take Ron Paul seriously, understand that his voice is connecting with millions of Americans, and truly believe that he might — regardless of who ultimately pushes his buttons — become so frustrated with the nonaction of both parties as to make an independent run for the White House.
If you are a fellow Republican candidate or one of their supporters and just don't see this as a credible threat, then I would simply suggest you look back at recent history and do some very basic electoral math.
Who would have won the election in 1992 had Ross Perot stayed out of the race? Who would have won the state of Florida in 2000 had Ralph Nader stayed out of the race? How many relatively few votes does it take to move one state's electoral votes from one candidate to another?
In 1992, Perot got almost 19% of the popular vote. In 2000, Nader got about 2.75% of the popular vote. Both, in my opinion, changed the course of history. Should Ron Paul decide to run as a third-party candidate, I have no doubt his vote total would fall between the numbers of Perot and Nader.
Such an effort, however noble, would be disastrous for the republic should it create a path of victory for Obama.
Ron Paul: Treat him with the respect he has earned.