ARLINGTON, VA – Presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) may not score high in the national polls, but he's quickly becoming the retro-con version of Howard Dean. Smart, practical, and well-spoken, Rep. Paul has taken the conservative netroots by storm.
Of course, Paul and Gov. Dean have a lot in common, including careers as practicing physicians – and the kind of no-holds-barred independence that ruffles the feathers of their repsective party establishments. Their positions in opposing unfettered "free trade" and the Iraq war, while crusading for fiscal discipline, put them squarely at odds with the general consensus of their parties during each of their respective election cycles. But the Brandwagon believes something bigger is at work.
Beyond Paul and Dean's policy positions, quick wits, and prominent embrace of new media, their "genuine" public personas that cast them with the legitimacy needed to acquire younger and more independently-minded voters – in addition to their party's extremes.
So what? Presidential elections are decided in the middle, not on the fringes. True. And we're not saying that Rep. Paul has any chance of winning the Republican nomination. However, in the age of YouTube, high-traffic blogs, podcasts, and mobile messaging, the sincerity of Paul's approach has the potential to affect how the public perceives the each party's front-runners.
If the general election will be won in "the center," both parties would be well-advised to consider how to appeal more strongly to those with a strong "independent" streak. Fair trade, fiscal discipline, and an exit strategy to the war in Iraq – mixed with a more sincere, "unscripted" approach to campaigning – might help candidates in either party catch the crest of the wave.