Adding some credence to the notion that increasing amounts of non-major-party identified voters are leaning libertarian, Ron Paul would beat Obama handily among them, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling:
Ron Paul is the most popular out of the whole group with independents. They see him favorably by a 35/25 margin. The only other White House hopeful on positive ground with them is Romney at a +2 spread and they're very negative on the rest: -5 for Huckabee, -16 for Gingrich and Palin, and -17 for Obama. All five of the possible GOP contenders lead Obama with independents, but Paul does so by the widest margin at 46-28.
This leads the pollsters on their blog to offer Paul some candid, pollster-to-pol advice:
If his goal is really to be President rather than to influence the national dialogue then he should probably keep on trying to win the GOP nomination, as improbable as that might be. But if he wants to guarantee himself a major role in the 2012 contest he should run as a third party candidate instead. Polling at 5-10% nationally in the general election would get his views a much wider airing than just trudging along through the Republican nomination process and hoping to get 10-15% in each primary.
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While a more Paulite GOP would be a wonderful thing, in the current historical moment that we are existing in now in this world in which we live in, I think they are right on when it comes to how Ron Paul can make the biggest electoral splash.
However, slowly working toward a more Paulite GOP would likely in the long term, given our inescapable two-party realities, establish a more significant legacy for his ideas.
See Reason's Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie on the "libertarian moment" from Reason's December 2008 issue. And see my book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement to see what a long way, baby, libertarianish ideas have come.