Time to take Ron Paul seriously?

Though often dismissed, the Texas libertarian polls third in a new national poll — ahead of Michele Bachmann — and is raking in money like a top-tier candidate

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)
(Image credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

What does Rep. Ron Paul have to do to be taken seriously? The libertarian Texan placed a solid third in Gallup's new poll of Republican presidential hopefuls, trailing Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, but handily beating media magnets Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman. Paul also ranked a close second in Iowa's much-covered Ames Straw Poll earlier this month, and followed that up by raising a hefty $1.8 million in a 24-hour "money bomb" last weekend. Is it time to start treating Paul like a top-tier presidential candidate?

Yes. Ron Paul is for real: That "guy most media gatekeepers assume too unelectable to be worth covering"? says Will Wilkinson at The Economist. He's only losing to President Obama by 2 points in the latest Gallup poll. That probably says as much about Obama's weakness as Paul's strength, but Paul's clearly a more credible "anybody-but-Obama" candidate than Bachmann, who loses to Obama by 4 points. Clearly, it's time to start paying attention to this "anti-war Republican who also wants to abolish the Federal Reserve and the cherished institutions of the American social-insurance state."

"An 'anybody' better than Bachmann"

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No. Ron Paul is still a fringe player. It doesn't take a "bipartisan [media] conspiracy" to bury a candidate who's currently "in 6th place in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls," says Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune. It would be exciting if this crank with "revolutionary ideas" became "a serious, plausible candidate" — and covering a Ron Paul presidency would be "the story of a lifetime." But sadly, I have to call 'em like I see 'em. Paul's supporters are passionate about their candidate, but, for mainstream America, he's still not a "genuine phenomenon."

"Fear non-factor"

Regardless, Paul may like flying under the radar: Paul is a more plausible and influential candidate than most people give him credit for, says Kathie Obradovich in The Des Moines Register. But "Paul has managed to turn media neglect into an asset." For one thing, it allows him to escape "the same scrutiny that other top-tier candidates have faced." That may help him — but it's a disservice to voters and other candidates.

"'Invisible' Ron Paul still has 'em talking"

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