Congressman Ron Paul has been the most continuous and consistent advocate for Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.
He has been the most continuous advocate of these views since at least the 1980s, long before the meltdown of 2008. He even broke for a time from the Republican Party over its lack of fiscal discipline during the Reagan administration.
He has been the most consistent because he has based his views on constitutional principles rather than pragmatic or utilitarian consequences. Paul argues that the problem with spending derives from a government operating outside its constitutional bounds. In contrast, many conservatives argue for reigning in spending because we can no longer afford it. This seems to imply that they would have no objections to such spending if we COULD afford it. They joined the calls for limited government and reduced spending only after 2008. In addition, Paul remains one of the few candidates drawing attention to the role of the Federal Reserve in manipulating the economy.
Paul also advocates limited constitutional government in international affairs. Just as government intervention at home has disrupted our market economy, so government intervention abroad has disrupted our relations with other nations. Two undeclared wars in Iraq and an invasion-turned-nation-building in Afghanistan, he argues, have discredited us abroad. Do we really need 600 bases in 135 countries? Moreover, the financial cost is bankrupting us.
Here are some highlight from the last Republican debate:
Unfortunately, Paul sometimes sails of the edge of the earth. It is one thing to to audit the Federal Reserve and reign in its influence; it is another thing to abolish it and return to the gold standard. One of the first acts of the Washington administration under the new Constitution of 1787 was to create the Bank of the United States, a precursor to today's Federal Reserve. Even those who politically opposed the intuition like James Madison rechartered it fifteen years later. All modern commercial republics have maintained a central banking system.
In addition, he needs to articulate his foreign policy positions with a little more nuance. Warnings that American intervention abroad can make enemies too often comes across as "blaming America first."
And his healthy skepticism of government and it's lack of transparency has sometimes lent support to conspiracy theorists. Paul's support for an independent investigation in the 9/11 attacks has been embraced by "Truthers" behind the most obscene claim imaginable: that the attacks came as an "inside job." As historian Richard Hofstadter once suggested, for some of us history HAS conspiracies; for others, history IS a conspiracy. That is the problem with the "Truthers." Paul needs to disassociate himself from the "Truthers."
One of Paul's biggest challenges, however, remains his, shall we call it, "presence." He lacks the rhetorical skills of Obama and of the other Republicans. Paul awkward speaking style, unusual gesticulations, and sometimes ill-fitting suits reduce the strength of his message.
Paul has never been accused of putting style over substance.
And in our contemporary media era, this might be a fatal flaw.