Amusing Comparison of the Day (Ron Paul Edition)

I was listening to On Point this morning, and the topic of conversation in the first hour was the candidacy of Ron Paul.  One of the guests was Ben Levine, a Drake University student and an Iowa precinct captain Paul.  In his conversation with the host about Paul, Levine drew the following comparison (this is a paraphrase, as a transcript is not currently available):  back in 1964 no one thought that Barry Goldwater could win the Republican nomination, and yet he did.

Two things immediately jumped to mind:  the 1964 process was substantially different than it is now (that was in the waning days of real conventions) and, more significantly:  yes, Goldwater got the nomination and went on to be trounced in the general election.  On this latter point, I suppose the comparison makes sense as that would likely be the result if Paul were to, by some miracle, win the nomination.

Regardless, in making the case for one’s candidate, comparisons to a candidate who won only 38.47% of the popular vote and only 52 electoral votes is probably not the best move.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Political Theory, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. I agree, though I would also point out that the electoral environment will be a lot different in 2012 than 1964.

  2. yes, Goldwater got the nomination and went on to be trounced in the general election

    It’s not clear how much of this is due to Goldwater’s being the nominee. Given that it was less than a year since JFK had been assassinated, I’m not sure any Republican could have won that year.

  3. Ben Levine says:

    Mr. Taylor,

    This is Ben Levine, the student you are discussing in your short article. I was guided here by Drake’s PR department.

    First, I was well aware of the differences you cite when I made the comparison. All I was speaking to was the sentiment within the GOP party, as well as without it (In Your Guts, You Know He’s Nuts), that Barry Goldwater was too extreme to become the nominee. Remember, all I said was that they are similar on the grounds that both were deemed unfit for the GOP nomination; however, Goldwater won and now Ron Paul is picking up momentum. Once again, I never made any comparison about the convention style or the general election.

    Also, as to the general with Mr. Goldwater, I would like to repeat the fact another commenter pointed out. With JFKs death so close to the election, it is hard to tell what really would have happened. Prior to his death, the race was poised to be much closer than it ended with LBJ.

    Feel free to contact me if you want to have a further conversation on the issue. I just didn’t think it was fair for you to take such a small comment I made and made grand assumptions about what I meant.

  4. @Ben Levine: Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate your elaboration on your comment.

    Mostly, as noted in my post above, I was simply stating what came to mind when I heard your comment. In fairness, I don’t think I made any assumptions as to your meaning (which I assumed was pretty much what you said: Goldwater was considered extreme, and likewise so is Paul).

    JFK assassination or not, I do not think Goldwater was likely to win that election (but that is, of course, a counter-factual that can be neither proven nor dis-proven).

  5. Ben Levine says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Fair enough, Dr. Taylor! And I did question whether or not I should compare Paul to Goldwater due to the landslide victory for LBJ in the general but I figured that since so many GOP members have such an infatuation with Goldwater that it couldn’t hurt.

  6. @Ben Levine:

    I figured that since so many GOP members have such an infatuation with Goldwater that it couldn’t hurt.

    From the perspective of appealing to GOP votes in Iowa (which I understand is your main goal at the moment), you have a legitimate point.

  7. Steve says:

    I happen to think that Ron Paul is the only electable candidate that the GOP has to offer. Hard core republican voters will vote for the GOP nominee regardless of who it is and more swing voters favor Ron Paul than any other candidate. A candidate like Gingrich will have everyone sticking to party lines and I believe the Obama election machine would destroy him