* No, not Ron Paul, the 75-year-old congressman from Texas and grandfather of the tea party ... Ron Paul's ideas.
Donald Trump hit it right on the head at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference: "Ron Paul cannot get elected, I'm sorry to tell you. Sorry," The Donald said to boos from Pauliacs.
"And you know what else? I like Ron Paul. I think he's a good guy. But honestly he has just zero chance of getting elected. You have to win an election."
Exactly right. You know who else can't get elected? Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (not running); former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (not running), and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (running, but not for long). Oh, and Donald: you, too.
All five, though, share one trait: They're each brilliant. Yet unlike the others, only Mr. Paul's ideas will drive the 2012 campaign.
It has happened before — repeatedly, in fact — and will again this time around.
It goes back to 1992, when Pat Buchanan challenged George W. Bush in the GOP primary. Buchanan lost, but two years later his ideas drove the 1994 Republican Revolution that was embodied in the Contract with America and helped the GOP win the House and Senate.
Skipping ahead to 2004, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich ran in the Democratic primary on universal health care, anti-war, anti-torture and a more liberal platform than the rest of the field.
Mr. Kucinich lost, but two years later, running on many of his same stances, Democrats took control of Congress and in 2008 Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards all ran on his slate of issues — particularly universal health care. In short, there's no question that Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign positions looked a lot more like Mr. Kucinich's 2004 stances than candidate John F. Kerry's 2004 stances.
Fast-forward again, this time to 2012. Mr. Paul, the clear outlier in the 2008 GOP field, again is pushing for limited government, establishing a gold standard, auditing the Federal Reserve, ending U.S. interventionism and enacting massive budget cuts across the federal government. All of his speeches point to the Constitution as America's guide.
But this time, voters have caught up with him. In 2010, most of those ideas, with the exception of foreign policy, drove the tea party revolution. And now, there is no doubt that the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 will look a lot more like Ron Paul 2008 than Sen. John McCain 2008.
With the possible exception of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, no one wowed the conservatives at CPAC this year as much as Mr. Paul did. He did so with passages such as these:
• "We don't need to just change the political parties, we need to change our philosophy about what this country is all about."
• "Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country and giving it to the rich people of a poor country."
• "Congress has a responsibility to protect the value of the currency and that means that we have the moral and the legal authority to put checks on the Federal Reserve system."
• "The best way to get people to act more like us if we're doing a good job, is for us to have a sound economy, a sound dollar, treat people decently, have a foreign policy that makes common sense, treat people like we want to be treated."
And this simple question: "Would you consider opting out of the whole system under one condition? You pay 10 percent of your income, but you take care of yourself, don't ask the government for anything."
Simple, pure, American. Unfortunately, as Mr. Trump said, Mr. Paul is unelectable. Not just because he's 75 and doesn't look anything like the presidents of the past 60 years, but because for all his brilliant ideas, he's still a man without a party.
So a note to all those Republican candidates out there: To win this year, co-opt Mr. Paul's ideas and run on them. And that points most to one ticket: Palin-Rubio. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is a hard core tea partyer and has solid support from the conservative base. Mr. Rubio crushed the Republican-In-Name-Only Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and, as a state lawmaker, pushed an overhaul of the tax system.
Neither Mrs. Palin nor Mr. Rubio would be moving far from their philosophies to incorporate Mr. Paul's fundamentals. They'd lock down the GOP base, the tea party (and it wouldn't hurt to have a Hispanic, popular in Florida, on the ticket).
So keep a sharp eye out for the Paul Candidate. Sure, Mr. Paul himself will be back, pitching his own ideas, but the electable candidate who taps into those ideas, resonating across the country, will be the one who wins the nomination.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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