The Revolution retrenches

In case you missed it, Ron Paul has announced 1) he will not run for president on a third-party ticket; 2) he's slimming down the current campaign effort.

You might have missed it because the announcement came in an email to supporters issued late Friday.  This might be the first strategically intelligent thing his campaign has done — announce "bad news" after everyone's gone home for the weekend, and it gets buried in the Saturday morning papers, the least-read day of the week.

The stated reason — and a completely valid one — is that Paul needs to shift his focus to the primary race for his House seat on March 4.  He has a hawkish challenger and doesn't take it for granted that incumbency will assure a primary win.  (If he does win, reelection is all but assured — Democrats aren't even trying to compete in the district this year.)

But the real reason is one I alluded to last week — the money is drying up, quickly.  Q1 fundraising so far is approaching $6 million.  The two Democrats have each raised at least that much money just since "Super Tuesday."  The Ron Paul Revolution has been a remarkable phenomenon in grassroots, bottom-up, spontaneous organizing.  But it's running up against a limited number of people who have a limited amount of money to shell out.

In any event, the Congressman has now answered the question I raised both last week and last month: What's the best way to build a movement that will outlast one person?  Clearly he's decided the best way to do it is within the Republican party.  No doubt this disappoints some of his supporters, but with a 15% polling threshold to get into the autumn presidential debates, it's hard to fault Paul for the choice he's made.  The system is simply rigged against third-party candidates unless they can drop millions of their own fortune into a campaign like Ross Perot or Michael Bloomberg.  (Fantasize all you want about a big-bucks running mate, but really, if you were Jim Rogers, would you dump a significant part of your lifetime savings into an effort with a strictly limited prospect of success?  Didn't think so.)

And for all his billions, Perot didn't build a movement that outlasted him.  Just eight years after he came on the scene, the Reform Party's lone accomplishment was to give Pat Buchanan bit-player status in the Florida hanging-chad drama.

In contrast, the Ron Paul Revolution has the seeds of something with staying power.  Its day simply hasn't arrived yet — and as I wrote last fall, that might actually be a good thing.