Whatever happened to Ron Paul?

Image: Ron Paul
Rep. Ron Paul at a House Financial Services Committee hearing.Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images file
/ Source: msnbc.com

The excitement of Rep. Ron Paul’s unorthodox presidential campaign has faded since last fall. The chances were always slim that Paul would get to go to the White House to collect President Bush’s endorsement, as Sen. John McCain did Wednesday.

But Paul scored a victory Tuesday night, crushing challenger Chris Peden in the Republican primary in his Texas congressional district.

Paul’s victory in his heavily Republican district means the 33-year House veteran will be around for at least another two years to voice his dismay both at America’s overseas entanglements and at Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s policies.

Despite McCain having clinched the nomination, Paul said Wednesday he’ll continue his Republican presidential bid.

“I’m still involved, nothing has changed,” he said in an interview just off the House floor Wednesday afternoon. “For the last several weeks, I’ve concentrated on Texas. Even though I was concentrating on my district, I had some pretty big rallies (outside his district). I was at the University of Texas and we had 5,000 people show up.”

Paul said he planned to continue travelling around the country spreading his limited government creed.

Will he speak at the convention?
The Texan said he hadn’t spoken to McCain recently, but would like to address the Republican national convention this summer “if somebody wanted me to. It would be nice. I always assumed it would be unlikely. They might not want to me to.” He said he had 40 or 50 delegates pledged to him.

Paul also said he’d probably not place a phone call to McCain to congratulate him on clinching the Republican nomination.

“I just never call anybody. I’m just not good calling up people” he explained.

He can not support McCain because “I don’t consider his positions to be part of the traditional Republican conservative platform.”

The 33-year House veteran said he can’t simply go back to the gadfly role that he had before launching his presidential bid. “I can’t revert to it. It’ll never be the same again. Life has changed,” he said. “Off and on for the 30 years, I’ve been in and out of office, I’ve asked the same questions and made the same points and there was no attention paid to it. But the last two times I’ve quizzed Bernanke, I got national coverage, I get phone calls, people from the trading pits in Chicago react to it. They cheer me on. ”

So, he concluded, “life will never be the same again. Even if I pretend I’m going to do the same thing, the message is out of the box. It’s out there and that’s exactly a goal we’ve always had: to get people to pay attention to a strictly limited government approach.”

What lasting impact for Paul campaign?
But what will be the lasting impact of Paul’s candidacy?

For some of Paul's foot soldiers, his bid for the nomination has changed their careers.

Paul Dorr, a political consultant based in Ocheyedan, Iowa, was the field director for Paul’s campaign in that state.

Before working for Paul, Dorr had been making his living helping voters defeat school bond measures in local elections throughout the Midwest.

Dorr said Wednesday that through his work on the Paul campaign he met people across the nation who want his help in defeating ballot measures and curbing the growth of local governments. “Personally it’s been beneficial to me,” Dorr said.

He may branch out from working only on school bond issues to opposing ballot measures to fund new jails and courthouses.

Effect of credit crunch
Dorr said that with the sub-prime crisis and the distress in credit markets, people across the country are now worried about the long-term indebtedness of their towns, counties, and school districts.

“The housing bubble gave a false sense of prosperity for so long,” Dorr said. As a result, local governments have been spending freely and “borrowing against perceived wealth.”

Paul’s campaign, he said, has “opened people’s consciousness” to the idea that “our fiat money system is destroying the middle class.”

The credit crisis coincided nicely with Paul’s campaign and its emphasis on excess borrowing and the depreciation of the dollar. Dorr said people are deciding that “maybe it’s time to start starving local government a bit more.”

And Dorr will be there to help them.

One of the idealistic young people who worked for the Paul campaign, Iowa State University student Jacob Bofferding, said he’ll carry on Paul’s crusade by working on the state legislative campaign of Eric Cooper, the faculty advisor for the Ron Paul student group which Bofferding led at Iowa State. Cooper is running for state representative as a Libertarian.

Bofferding said it is unlikely that he’ll work on a national campaign this year “unless I really fall in love with the Libertarian Party nominee.” 

Not keen on McCain or Obama
Bofferding is fairly sure he will vote for the Libertarian party nominee. “I would rather sell my soul than compromise my values by voting for McCain or Obama,” said Bofferding.

“McCain openly talks about staying in Iraq for 100 years, with the burden, of course, being on the American taxpayer,” Bofferding complained.

And Democrat Barack Obama is no better, in Bofferding’s view. “Obama still votes for war funding and champions bills like the Global Poverty Act that mandate billions more of foreign aid to be run through the United Nations,” he said.

Bofferding said his many hours of volunteer labor for Paul's campaign have, “made me permanently cynical, as I'm doomed to never approve of the drones and demagogues we're sending to Washington. I'm also able to take a much more critical approaching to daily economic news, such as the many rash moves made by the Federal Reserve.”

He added, “I would consider a career in politics if I even thought it possible for an honest man to break through the Establishment. The way Paul was treated by his own party and the media makes that unlikely. John McCain snickered at Paul on stage at every debate, and Mitt Romney even said in an interview ‘Ron Paul deserves to be laughed at.’"

He added, "Conditions in this country will have to improve before the American people accept an intellectual campaign similar to Paul's, versus the personality cult of Obama.”

Bofferding sounds pessimistic, although he seems to wish he weren’t: “I hate to say that spreading the message of liberty is a waste of time, but it certainly does not sound like a fun job to me considering the war-hungry, government-dependent attitudes of Americans.”