There has been increasing speculation that Ron Paul will bolt the Republican Party and run for president as either an independent or a third party candidate. This weekend, George Will got into the act and Paul was less than Shermanesque about such a candidacy himself on Meet the Press. Polls show Paul could take a Ross Perot-sized share of the vote.

Although Bob Barr and Pat Buchanan can tell you that such early polls don’t always predict how well a third party candidate will do in the heat of the two-man race, there are good reasons to think Paul can appeal to a wider audience than the Republican nominating electorate and to doubt that he’ll be able to endorse the eventual nominee.

Nobody close to the situation who I have ever talked to thinks such a campaign will happen. Paul had to fight hard to secure the Libertarian nomination in 1988 and the campaign was far less consequential than his fourth-place finish in the Republican primaries twenty years later. He has been elected to Congress 11 times as a Republican and GOP voters seem poised to give him a top-tier showing in Iowa and New Hampshire.

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