Was going to put this in the comments to my 1964 post but it got long enough to add as a new post. Caveat: it should be read in the spirit of someone very much sympathetic to Paul and many of his policy preferences (especially on foreign policy).
The only scenario for Ron Paul becoming President – which I touched on in the previous post – would be him somehow getting the nomination and then something going absolutely wrong in the country/world such that the public votes him in out of desperation as a vote for change. FDR was mainstream in 1932 but almost anyone the Democrats ran against Hoover was going to win and have the opportunity to reshape American politics during the crisis. Paul would need a similar atmosphere in order to prevail against a still personally popular President Obama.
Absent that, I just don’t see Paul’s philosophy and policy views appealing to a plurality of the country. And while I’ve previously discussed the utter importance of macrovariables, I just don’t see those things (as currently constituted) overcoming the problems that would confront a real outlier like Paul. Obama will have millions and millions of dollars to throw at Paul, and the liberal press will have a field day with his views/past associations once he is seen as a real threat to their views rather than a curiosity (and a curiosity that could derail real Republican threats to their guy). Together the administration and the media will be able to scare moderate voters away from Paul and into the warm comfort of the status quo.
Moreover, even in the scenario where Paul gets the nomination, don’t the powers that be in Washington Republicanland run a 3rd party challenge that throws the election to Obama no matter what? Can we really imagine that neocons and the liberal Republicans wouldn’t try to mount such a campaign? Rudy or Bloomberg, for example? Heck, guys like David Brooks have been quite positive about Obama anyway, so it wouldn’t take that much to push “moderates” like him into his court as the “prudential” and “conservative” alternative to the “dangerous” “radicalism” and “isolationism” of Paul.
I just see a Paul Presidency as a libertarian fantasy. But I’d love to be proven wrong given the current possibility of a Newt Romney presidency or Obama the Sequel (with bonus Supreme Court nominees). But count me as someone who wishes that Paul had pushed his supporters and political oxygen towards someone like Huntsman (who isn’t perfect either).
Of course, Daniels was the real opportunity for liberty-loving Republicans. So sad…
UPDATE: By the way, since strategic voting isn’t really possible in large-scale elections, don’t feel bad about voting expressively for Paul or any other candidate who “can’t win”
since you won’t be the marginal voter anyway.