As long as we’re on the subject of Ron Paul: On Thursday, I expressed skepticism about a theory, advanced by Conn Carroll of Hotline’s Blogometer, that Paul would hurt Barack Obama by siphoning off New Hampshire independents; Andrew Sullivan likes both Obama and Paul, and Carroll seemed to be extrapolating from Sullivan’s views a bit too easily. I didn’t get a chance to mention it (mainly because I was traveling over the weekend), but Carroll emailed in a response:
True Sullivan is rarely representative of others thinking, but we are already trying to shrink a pretty idiosyncratic crowd: Ron Paul supporters…
If we want to figure out who a well funded Ron Paul campaign will affect, we have to look at who potential Paul supporters probably are, and then ask ourselves who else is appealing to voters like that. A Paul voter is: 1) anti-war; 2) anti-Washington; 3) does not regularly participate in partisan primaries; and 4) is susceptible to grandiose calls for ‘change’.
That is an Obama voter right there.
As I said before, Carroll may be on to something, but I’m still not entirely convinced. Obama and Paul do have an anti-Washington streak in common, but there’s also a lot of distance between them, both substantively and stylistically. Obama’s attack on Washington is rooted in an optimistic liberalism that hinges on the idea that the government can be made to work well if only someone will straighten out the bickering Beltway partisans and get them to work together. Paul’s attack on Washington is rooted in a pessimistic libertarianism that hinges on the idea that the government can’t ever do anything right, at home or abroad, and at some point the political class forgot this and everything went horribly wrong. How much overlap is there between the groups that are attracted to those two respective messages? I’d say that it’s an open question.