Why Ron Paul matters more than Newt Gingrich

at 07:41 AM ET, 04/09/2012

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s long, slow fade into political oblivion in this presidential primary race has received lots — and lots — of attention.


Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, cheer as Paul speaks at the University of California at Berkeley, Calif., Thursday, April 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
“People walk up again and again and say, ‘Please stay in, and please fight for conservatism’,” Gingrich told the Post’s Karen Tumulty over the weekend. (Gingrich has never been one to hide his light under a bushel.)

Rumors fly constantly — some cropped up late last week — that conservatives are attempting to broker a deal whereby Gingrich gets out of the race (he’s not going to) and throws his support behind former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. Conservatives are united and reenergized, the logic goes, and Gingrich, who has won a total of one state outside of his home state of Georgia, saves the conservative cause.

There’s only one problem with all of that: There’s virtually no evidence that Gingrich retains any significant constituency within the GOP or will play an influential role in the presidential race as it moves to its general election phase.

In fact, there is a case to be made that Gingrich matters far less in the contest than Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

To wit:

* In the last two major primaries — Illinois and Wisconsin — Paul has finished third, Gingrich fourth.

* As of the end of February, Paul had raised $35 million for his 2012 campaign. Gingrich had raised $20 million.

* Paul’s ideas on domestic policy — distrust of the Federal Reserve, dire warnings about the massive debt being run up by the government — have clearly influenced the rhetoric (and thinking) of the GOP. Gingrich’s most notable contribution — idea-wise — to the race thus far is his call for $2.50 gas. While that might be a smart strategy, it’s more a goal than an idea.

Based on those three points alone, the Paul-ites could argue their man has been a bigger force in the direction of the race that Gingrich. Allies of the former speaker could push back — rightly — that their candidate actually won two states (South Carolina and his home state of Georgia) and, unlike Paul, had a path to victory. True enough.

But, when it comes to the future of the contest, it’s hard to dispute that Paul matters more than Gingrich. As we have written before, Paul has a group of supporters whose ardor for his message is far greater than any other candidate can boast. Not only that, but Paul’s backers are loyal first and foremost to Paul — not to the Republican party. And that’s what makes Paul potentially influential as the race moves forward.

A Paul third-party candidacy would, barring some sort of unforeseen dynamic, likely hand President Obama a second term. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and his campaign team understand the power that Paul could wield and have gone out of their way to befriend him — and avoid alienating his supporters.

At some point between now an August, Paul and his people will want something — a speaking slot at the national convention? Consideration of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as a running mate? — from Romney World.

They may not get it. But Paul is in a much stronger bargaining position than Gingrich to extract promises from Romney because he can do far more damage if he isn’t placated. That’s why — though both men have zero chance of being their party’s standard-bearer — Paul matters more than Gingrich.

Gingrich $4.5 million in debt: Gingrich acknowledged in an interview Sunday that his campaign is on a shoestring budget. In fact, a shoestring might actually be a step up from where he’s at.

During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” the former House speaker said his campaign is nearly $4.5 million in debt — a staggering amount for a presidential candidate to overcome.

Gingrich, indeed, seemed to acknowledge that his campaign is all but finished, reflecting on the financial deficit under which it had to operate.

He said running for president “turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be.”

“I do think there’s a desire for a more idea-oriented Republican Party, but that doesn’t translate necessarily to being able to take on the Romney machine,” Gingrich said, according to AP.

Democrats seek to play up ‘Buffett Rule’: Democrats are preparing to go on the offensive this week on tax fairness, playing up the so-called ”Buffett Rule” and continuing their populist strategy against Romney and the GOP.

In the runup to Tax Day, Senate Democrats and President Obama are teaming up in the effort, which would require the rich to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.

Obama will deliver a speech pushing the idea Tuesday in Florida, while Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senate candidate Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) will take part in a conference call today.

The Obama campaign will attempt to use the issue against Romney, asking him why wealthy Americans should pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than other Americans. Romney, of course, paid less than 14 percent of his investment-heavy income to the IRS over the last two years.

CBC chairman says there’s no GOP ‘war on women’: For the second time in recent days, a politician has stepped on his party’s message when it comes to the GOP’s alleged “war on women.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it would be wrong to accuse Republicans of waging a war on women (as his party’s leaders have).

“Yes, that is wrong. And I have never said it — not one time,” Cleaver said. “I condemn it. If it’s a Democrat, if it’s my cousin, then it’s wrong.”

Cleaver also noted that Republicans have accused Obama of waging a ”war on religion,” which he also said is wrong.

“We’ve got to quit exaggerating our political differences,”Cleaver said.

Last week, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), in remarks back in her home state, said Republicans had not been forceful enough in denouncing Rush Limbaugh for calling a young woman who testified before Congress about her need for birth control, a “slut.”

Fixbits:

Romney and the Republican National Committee have officially filed for a joint fundraising committee, Romney Victory. Inc.

Santorum meets with Rick Perry.

Santorum is off the campaign trail on Monday as he tends to his daughter, Bella, who has been hospitalized again.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), on Twitter, says Obama is “stupid.”

Former Maine governor Angus King (I) leads by more than 30 points in that state’s open Senate race and is over 50 percent in a three-way contest, according to a new poll.

Democratic former Boston mayor Ray Flynn endorses Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Must-reads:

Fund-raising game upended in 2012 race” — Brian C. Mooney, Boston Globe

‘Big’ is bad for politicians this election year as populist sentiment prevails” — Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

Ron Paul’s baby boom” — Alex Isenstadt, Politico

A Friendship Dating to 1976 Resonates in 2012” — Michael Barbaro, New York Times

 
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