Let us set aside for a moment the many crazy things that Ron Paul says and the ways in which they might damage the GOP brand. We've given people passes for saying crazy things before. I mean, I'm not thrilled to have the guy up there on national television representing the GOP in any form or fashion, but on the merits as far as his support, he deserves to be there no matter what sort of crankery he decides to subject the public to. The problem with Ron Paul's continued participation in the debates is that, having used the GOP as a free publicity vehicle, he will not commit to refusing a third party run:
NASHUA, N.H. -- Ron Paul inched further away on Friday from any unequivocal promise not to run under a third-party banner if he fails to win the GOP presidential nomination.
In a brief interview with The Huffington Post on Friday, Paul acknowledged he will have a decision to make if he loses the GOP bid come August.
In his conversation with HuffPost, Paul noted that he had won nearly as many delegates in Iowa as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum had, and that he was likely to pick up a good share here in New Hampshire and -- having hauled in $13 million last quarter -- in other contests to come.
With many delegates in a bloc heading into the convention in Tampa, didn't that mean he would remain committed to the GOP and not run an independent candidacy in the fall, even if he did not secure the nomination?
"I'll decide that later," Paul said while he was waiting for his son Rand Paul, a GOP senator from Kentucky, to finish an interview with the press.
Look, the reason that Ron Paul has gotten about a zillion free hours of media coverage over the last few months during the debates is that he is ostensibly running for the Republican party nomination. For the last 150 years, the eventual President of the United States has come from either the Republican or Democrat party, and so when the candidates from those parties have a debate, it is a media-worthy event. Ron Paul knows this, which I suspect is the only reason he is bothering to run as a Republican. I don't know how much media time Ron Paul would have gotten this year running around as a third party candidate, but he wouldn't have been given nearly as much nor as open a platform as he has gotten from his participation in the 93 debates that have been held thus far. That is to say nothing of the fact that his insurgent campaign against other Republicans in the various early primaries and caucuses is the only reason anyone would pay attention to him even apart from the debates.
Having thus used the GOP's brand and standing to hoard a metric ton of attention for himself, the very least he could do, even if he could not bring himself to promise to support the eventual GOP nominee, would be to promise not to run against the GOP's nominee under the banner of some other party - a concern which is not idle in this case given that Paul ran for President on a third party ticket in 1988. His failure to make this promise clearly and unequivocally should have long ago gotten him disinvited from any public forum featuring GOP candidates. Until he can make this promise, he is not a Republican candidate for President - he is a candidate for President who is acting as a parasite on the Republican party.