Carrying a torch for Ron Paul

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In 2008, Barack Obama inspired young people around the nation with his message, charisma and historical narrative.  And now the torch has been passed.

In 2011, young people are stampeding to the candidacy of… Ron Paul???

At an Occupy Wall Street event, I was besieged by a group of Paul supporters, who were badgering me for “not covering Paul enough.”  The kids were probably 16, and looked like they were 12.  I was tempted to ask, “Don’t you guys have school tomorrow?”  But having a teenager myself, I knew better and merely polled them on why they supported a Republican who is really a Libertarian.

Their answer: “He stands up for what he believes in.” That is true.

Ron Paul is 76 years old.  He’s a Congressmember from Texas with some kooky ideas for a Republican: He basically is an isolationist who objected to the the U.S. approach to killing Osama bin Laden.  He wants to eliminate foreign aide and bring troops home from just about everywhere abroad.  He opposes sanctions against Iran, likening them to an act of war.

And I believe he will finish first in the Iowa caucuses.  The reasons: For one, those young people give him a solid 17 percent base in the vote.  Paul’s ground game is strong.

But furthermore, the median age for the caucus voter in Iowa is 60.  And I know a few (including some of my brothers) who are still living in the 1960s and think it’s cool that a politician supports legalizing heroin.

However extreme, Paul does heed a core Republican tenet: He opposes almost all government spending.  And in an extremely conservative state, that resonates.

Many do not take Iowa seriously. Mike Huckabee won in 2008.  Mitt Romney finished second. Neither won the nomination.

Paul is not without scandal:  Some recent racist, anti-semitic and gay-bashing articles were linked to his own newsletters. Paul denies knowing anything about it.

Here’s the punchline to the Paul candidacy: He can’t win the nomination.

But Paul’s support could keep him hanging around until June and perhaps delivering significant support to a candidate at the convention.

The GOP’s worst fear: Paul runs on a third party line.  And all those kooky views could change the course of a presidential election.