Ron Paul, Herman Cain & The Tea Parties

A few quick thoughts in response to some (predictable) complaints about my column.

I wrote, “Ron Paul, the libertarian Harold Stassen, is in for another go, presumably on the mistaken assumption that America has turned into Tea Party Nation. (If only!).” I should have been clear that I think he thinks he’s the candidate of the tea parties and he thinks that the electorate — both in the primary and the general — has moved toward him. I don’t think the former is true, and I don’t think the latter is true enough to do him much good.

Indeed, I’ve never thought much of all the talk about how Ron Paul is the “Godfather of the tea parties.” I’ve given major speeches at three tea party rallies (including the Cincinnati Tax Day tea party rally last year which was the biggest audience I’ve ever spoken to), and attended a couple tea party related events in the D.C. as a spectator. I  bring that up just to say that I’ve met a lot of tea party folks at the leadership level all the way down. Obviously, Ron Paul has many fans and adherents in those circles. But I never got the sense that, generally speaking, the tea partiers were definitive Ron Paul followers or fans. Among other things, I think the folks I’ve met were generally more in favor of the military, the war on terror, and mainstream conservative foreign policy than anything that could be described as Paul-ism. Moreover, both in e-mail and in person, the enthusiasm for Herman Cain and to a lesser extent Michele Bachmann and, before her, Sarah Palin, was greater than anything I’ve seen for Paul.

Now, yes, my impressions are anecdotal. I didn’t run a scientific poll of tea partiers I’ve met around the country. Nor have I applied a regression analysis to my e-mail. And, yes, I am sure I will hear from many Ron Paul fans and self-described tea partiers who will insist that because they and their friends are Ron Paul supporters that I am wrong (I have ample experience with Paulista e-mail deluges, can’t you tell?).

As for Herman Cain, I’m also catching a lot of grief for not discussing him. For the record, what I’ve seen of Cain I like. I certainly respect the guy, though I was less impressed with what I saw of his debate performance than Frank Luntz’s focus group was. And I am far from convinced he’s the right candidate at the right time.

I didn’t mention him, or Michele Bachmann (who, I’d predict, will do better than Cain in the primaries if she enters the race), because they didn’t fit directly into the thesis of the column, particularly given space constraints. I can tell from the comments and e-mail that Cain’s fans are already trying to make support for him into some kind of litmus test. I’m not buying any of that. But I look forward to seeing how he does in the weeks and months ahead.

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