OK, actually that sounds a little ridiculous, doesn't it? I mean, Paul's an affable guy who's right in a stopped-watch kind of a way on a couple of major issues but overall I'd give the darling of the John Birch Society about as much chance of beating President Obama in 2012 as the Pittsburgh Pirates do of winning the World Series in 2012.
That's why it drives me crazy when the cable news networks make it into a major headline that Paul won the presidential straw poll at CPAC this weekend. The whole point of a straw poll is that you can win simply by paying or at least convincing more of your people to show up. To me, if there was anything significant to come out of Saturday's exercise (other than a decent placement for New Mexico's legalize-de-marijuana Gary Johnson), it was the strong No. 2 showing for Mitt Romney, who unlike Paul might actually be nominated by the GOP.
Sure, Romney's got a lot of baggage -- passing Romneycare and even dissing Ronald Reagan as a centrist Senate candidate and governor of Massachusetts -- but so did John McCain in 2008, winning the GOP nod despite his past support for immigration reform, campaign-finance reform, and other sins against conservatism. I think at the end of the day Romney wins because there's a growing sense that if unemployment drops below 8 percent by next year that there's no way any Republican will beat Obama anyway.
Indeed, the GOP field reminds me a lot of the Democrats in 2004 when they turned to a doomed rich guy from Massachusetts. There were promising leaders like Obama and Hillary Clinton, but they needed to be seasoned (OK, lightly, many would argue) in the U.S. Senate.
It's one of those oddities of politics but the GOP has no one for 2012 -- when they probably can't win anyway -- but already have the two most formidable candidates in either party for 2016 when history is on their side. That would be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (barring his state's fiscal collapse) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
In politics, timing is everything.
But even I know that it's not Ron Paul's time. Jeez, people.