In modern politics right now, the more liberal media outlets are focusing most, if not all of their attention on the Republican primaries. The respective pundits hit all the high points, the Newt vs Mitt phenomenon, the Mitt vs Mitt phenomenon, and even the icky colorful Santorum Surge. These same media outlets have also mentioned that Ron Paul has largely been left out of the mainstream discussion, in part because he is not seen as a viable candidate. Yes, folks, MSNBC does cover Ron Paul, despite what your conservative friends have said.
But the coverage for Ron Paul has dropped off over the past few weeks because the primary results, while initially very strong for Paul, dwindled in comparison to the changes in the numbers for other candidates. Still, you know Paul has a strong backing by his supporters. You'll know them as the internet forumites who end their rants with "Ron Paul 2012." Sometimes they include an exclamation point. Sometimes, not.
So the support is there, right? He has a following. His supporters do not constitute a small group of people. In fact, they are quite large and in addition to that, they are extremely vocal, especially on the internet. Even one of my friends on Facebook supports old man Paul and scoffed at the notion of my perception of him as a crackpot. Sadly, he and I are no longer friends, but I can guarantee you this. Come election time, my former friend will most certainly still support Ron Paul.
With the primaries in full swing, it seems Paul has garnered more than a few delegates. When it comes time to pick a Republican nominee, what will Paul do with his amassed delegates? Will he run as an Independent? Will he run at all? Again, Ron Paul has been lost in terms of being on the media's mind, whether on Fox News or elsewhere. The voice of the Republican establishment knows Paul is a threat to them...but very few are actually asking the more important question. Will Ron Paul's presence in the 2012 Presidential election affect the outcome? Will he be to the eventual nominee what Ralph Nader was to Al Gore? Will he split the vote?
As I've already discussed, Paul supporters have lots of energy. Sadly, though, there is another group of Ron Paul supporters who pose a threat, but not to the Republican nominee. No. They pose a threat to Barack Obama. They are the liberals who want pot legalized. A woman I dated in Arkansas was one of these confused liberals. If any liberal actually goes through Ron Paul's voting record, they'll come to realize he is not very liberal at all and he would do away with many of the things these pothead liberals support. The thing is, they are angry about marijuana and they are also angry about the wars we have been fighting. Anger apparently leads to confusion, but the anger is strong enough for these liberal voters to cast their vote for Ron Paul. It isn't even a protest vote, a vote of no confidence in Barack Obama. It is a self-legitimized vote of support rooted in only a few issues, disregarding the rest of what Ron Paul stands for. These voters will split the Democratic vote, but by how much? I'm not sure I have the answer to that, but they could be a threat as well.
I'm not sure the numbers are there on the Left to negate the Paul supporters on the Right, refuting the notion that Paul supporters are negligible in the grand scheme of things. They will most certainly have an impact on the 2012 election, but because they are largely libertarian conservatives, Paul will eat into the support for the Republican nominee more than Barack Obama. Perhaps a vote for Ron Paul ends up being a vote for Barack Obama. I don't see Ron Paul supporters as rank and file conservatives, people who will vote for anyone with an (R) next to their name, justified in the sentiment that any Republican is better than any damn Democrat.