Post-Iowa Advice for the Paul Campaign

Sioux Center, Iowa.  I was one of 120,000 who voted in the Iowa caucuses this week.  My vote went to Ron Paul, a man I have admired since becoming aware of him in 1976.  That year, he was the newest member of Congress and he sent a letter in support of Governor Reagan to Iowa Republican state convention delegates during the tight Ford vs. Reagan contest.  A couple months later, Representative Paul was chairman of the 100-strong, all-Reagan delegation of Texas at the national convention.  Reagan still fell slightly short in his anti-establishment presidential campaign.  Unfortunately, by the time he was nominated four years later, Reagan had made his peace with the establishment.

The morning after the Iowa caucuses—wanting to be useful in some tiny way—I thought of some advice I wanted to give to the Ron Paul campaign.  After the obligatory but sincere “Congratulations on RP’s strong showing in Iowa” and “I commend the campaign on how it’s being run,” I suggested:

Push the excellent foreign policy video through the web.  Edit it down or put something shorter-but-similar together for TV in NH and SC.  This is a real weakness for RP which needs to be addressed.  “Soft on defense” is his Achilles heel for millions of otherwise-friendly conservatives.  Keep emphasizing active-duty military personnel contributions.  Have military veterans campaign with him on the stump and appear in ads.  It’s a big problem that has to be addressed more head-on.  Go on the offensive.  Turn a weakness into a strength.  RP’s willingness to call attention to Gingrich’s draft-dodging is a step in the right direction.  Call a spade a spade.  It’s easy to be a hero with someone else’s life.  (Assuming the reported facts surrounding Gingrich’s deferments are correct; you have to make sure you really have the goods before leveling the accusation.)

Make the connection between liberty and God explicit.  RP is obviously enamored with liberty.  But why?  How do you connect with moralists, with traditional conservatives, who equate libertarianism with libertinism?  I now live in Sioux County, Iowa . . . the most Republican county in the state and perhaps the nation (80-85% vote for GOP).  Full of serious-minded conservative-populist-Christian Republicans.  People who don’t like the federal government and embrace home schooling and Christian schools.  They should have a natural affinity for RP, yet last night, at my caucus, RP was overwhelmed by a Santorum tidal wave.  Romney was a poor second (half the amount of Santorum, who scored about 45% of the total vote), and RP was a distant third (his 79 votes was still a huge increase from 2008, when he reportedly received 3 votes in Sioux Center).

When RP spoke in town last week, he included a line near the end of his speech about how our rights come from our Creator.  That’s a big point for moralistic Christians.  It’s not a throw-away line that should be buried in a speech.  It should be front and center.  God created us with free will.  He limits government because He does not want government to usurp His role in our lives.  Even when bad choices are made, if they don’t harm others they need to be legal.  (This does not apply to abortion, which does harm others.)  Someday each of us will answer to God for the choices we make.  RP needs to connect the dots.  What does his “obsession” with liberty have to do with moral-minded and community-minded conservatives ?  In Sioux Center, he missed an opportunity to defend DOMA.  These issues matter to the Religious Right—and deservedly so.  I know RP doesn’t like to pander but sometimes you ought to lead with your strongest suit if you want to take the trick (to use a bridge analogy).

Take on Santorum’s support for No Child Left Behind, deficit spending, Arlen Specter and Christine Todd Whitman, CAFTA, crony capitalism, legalized bribery, etc.  Be specific.  Shine light on Santorum’s record as it was shined on Gingrich’s, in terms of TV advertising, but perhaps with a lighter touch.

Avoid interviews with obviously hostile media personalities—Bob Schieffer, Chris Wallace, etc.  What good can come from talking with such jerks?  Every question is a trap laid for RP.  Focus more on local reporters, who are more apt to be respectful and fair, and on national journalists who are less vested in the status quo.

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