The Ron Paul for President Movement is Dead

Why the Former Congressman and Libertarian is Out of Favor

Ron Paul
Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has said he does not plan to run for president in 2016, a statement that leaves some room for him to decide later. John W. Adkisson / Getty Images News

Ron Paul did not run for president in the 2016 election despite encouragement from the former congressman and popular Libertarian's most strident supporters to wade into the unusual campaign, which featured billionaire Donald Trump. Paul dabbled in the race for a short time and didn't fully close the door on a campaign in the early going.

Paul's decision was surprising in one sense. He had finished strong in several of the early party primaries in 2012, and there was speculation that the presumptive nominee that year, Mitt Romney, wouldn't be able to win the nomination before the Republican National Convention because Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were securing too many delegates and would block his nomination.

Paul has run for president or sought the nomination three times, and he has a devoted following of fans who like him question the fiscal policies of the United States and the need for the Federal Reserve. The former congressman from Texas is popular among libertarians and young voters. After deciding not to run in 2016, Paul lamented the nominations of Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, saying: "I think the people are left with very poor choices and no real contest."

What Ron Paul Said About Running for President in 2016

Paul told his supporters in 2013 that he did not intend to run for president in 2016. In an Ask Me Anything discussion on Reddit, Paul was asked whether he had plans to run for president and his response was this:

"No I do not. I do not have any plans like that. I am going to pursue what I have been doing since the 1970s which is to promote the cause of liberty - the format and the technique will be different. But I have done the same thing for many years, but I have no plans to run for office at this time."

While it certainly didn't sound like Paul was going to run for president in 2016, those kinds of statements - particularly the "I don't have any plans like that" part - leave plenty of wiggle room for a change of heart later. Politicians are fond of leaving their options open in the future.

Efforts to Draft Paul in 2016

A number of supporters encouraged Paul to run for president in 2016.

Writing in Maclean’s Magazine in March 2013, libertarian theorist, economist and professor Walter Block wrote:

"What we’ve got to do, in my view, is DRAFT Ron to run for president in 2016 ... So, Ron, unless you seek the presidency of the US in 2016, you’ll have me to contend with. Ron in 16! Ron in 16!"

But a petition to gather 100,000 signatures in support of a Paul candidacy by June 2014 had fallen well short of its goal. The petition, offered by the website ronpaul2016.com, had collected fewer than 5,000 signatures, or less than 5 percent of its goal. 

Another Paul Actually Did Run

Ron Paul supporters disappointed that their libertarian hero didn't run for president in 2016 might found a champion in his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who sought the Republican presidential nomination. That the elder Paul's campaign infrastructure was still somewhat intact when Rand Paul entered the race was seen as given him a slight advantage.

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Rand Paul entered the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in April 2015, delivering a message similar to that of his father's: "The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped."

But Paul, like his more well funded counterparts in the Republican Party including Jeb Bush, could not overcome the unexpected populist rise of Trump. He dropped out of the race in February 2016, and some political analysts described it as the death of the "Ron Paul movement."

Wrote Scott Greer, an editor at The Daily Caller:

"If 2016 presidential preferences are any indication, America is not at all experiencing a political libertarian moment. More accurately, our country is having an anti-establishment populist moment — and Rand was ill-equipped to feed off that national feeling. Ron Paul was the prime adversary of the establishment during his two presidential campaigns and his son was thought to carry that fervor into 2016. But Trump and Bernie Sanders seemed to have sucked up all of that discontent this election cycle, leaving Paul as one of the many also-rans of the GOP race."