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The caucuses in Iowa and the primary in New Hampshire have made Rep. Ron Paul a credible alternative to Mitt Romney going into the primaries in South Carolina and Florida. The Republican establishment is not happy. Pity.
The conventional wisdom is that a moderate or even a strong conservative will have to move toward the center in order to capture the independents in between conservatives and liberals. That is like two armies going head-on toward each other.
But there is another popular military strategy. It is called flanking the opposing army, and it means attacking from behind in addition to a direct frontal assault. That, in policy terms, is what Ron Paul is doing.
Among all the candidates, including of course the president himself, Paul has the most complete economic policy for a recovery. Put simply, it is to reduce government spending and curtail the policies that continue the recession, such as those of the Federal Reserve. In addition to the best economic policy being offered by any of the Republican candidates, Paul has a set of social policies that appeal to liberals, especially young ones. He is against foreign wars that are not related to domestic defense, and he is for decriminalizing marijuana, to mention a couple.
The latter has received a strong push-back from the Republican establishment. Their thinking is that such a policy will lose Paul the conservative base, and therefore he cannot be nominated.
If a more conventional Republican is nominated and moves toward the middle during the general campaign in order to capture independents, however, it will amount to the same thing, since it involves losing the conservative base on economic issues. Thus it is not a winning strategy. What is worse, the economic recovery will be further delayed.
Paul’s policy mix, by contrast, can capture some of the liberal base while maintaining the conservative base. It is essentially an attack from both ends against the middle.
That looks to me like a winning strategy. It means the Republican voters must choose an economic recovery over intervening in foreign disputes, and continue to give Paul a strong showing in the primaries. If you have not noticed, the voters are already doing this.
One additional task is for the Republican establishment to stop being the stupid party.