Does the GOP have a chance in 2008?

Anything is possible. But as I have written repeatedly over the last eighteen months, this is a Democratic year. The odds are that Hillary Clinton will be the forty-fourth president of the United States.

A month ago, I offered a recipe for a long shot victory.

Here is another thought:

An independent Ron Paul candidacy paves the way for a GOP upset.

Ron Paul's surprisingly impressive recent five-million-dollar campaign contribution haul has some pundits wondering if he has a chance in the Republican primary. Short Answer: not in this lifetime. He may finish in double-digits in a state or two in which so-called independent voters make up a statistically significant segment of the voting, but, even in those places, Dr. Ron Paul will never finish in the money. Why? His position on Iraq makes him completely unacceptable to the Republican faithful. In terms of the GOP caucus, the Paul candidacy is deader than a doornail.

However, one thing is absolutely certain. He has a noteworthy following. Of course, the money talks. But even before this announcement the power of his popular appeal has been conspicuous on places like C-SPAN, where his followers are relentlessly dedicated and unwavering. In fact, they remind me of Howard Stearn fans or, even better, the "truthers" in their persistence and their palpable certainty that they know something we don't.

So what?

Ron Paul is NOT going to win the Republican nomination. He is actually much more popular among Democrats--but he is not going to win that nomination either. Of course, the Democrats would score the coup of the century, if they could garner Paul's endorsement for their eventual nominee. But I don't think that will ever happen.

However, what might happen is that Ron Paul, rejected by Republicans and disdainful of Democrats, might choose to run for president as an independent libertarian candidate. Of course, Paul has done this before--but back then no one outside of his congressional district had ever heard of him.

If Paul were to run this time, his candidacy would be a major media event. And he would garner a lot of votes--not from traditional Republican voters-- but a lot of votes, nevertheless.

Who would vote for Ron Paul? The frustrated, cynical, disgruntled, ill-informed and numerous outliers of American political culture. The one-time Nader voters. The non-voters. The guys and gals with sock caps and questionable hygiene who hang out in non-franchised coffee shops and bemoan the closing vise of a corrupt government and mindlessly manipulative and corrosive society. The most virulent anti-war radicals. The anti-globalization crowd.

None of these folks are going to vote for the party of George Bush in 2008. Of course, many of them will sit out the election--but some of them, maybe enough of them to make a difference could possibly vote for a change--Hillary Clinton.

If these folks had a fashionable alternative, they would likely choose it. Ron Paul could very possibly siphon off the counter-cultural voters who might actually participate in the next election and make a difference.

Moreover, if Ron Paul is in the race, Hillary Clinton will not be able to tack back to the middle after gaining the nomination. She will spend a lot of time courting fringe voters who might have otherwise come to her by default. Most importantly, if Hillary is forced to remain stridently opposed to the war, she will lose a significant slice of Americans who are confused and depressed--but not quite ready to jump off the bridge.

Most of the commentators who continue to believe that Hillary is easily beatable in November fail to anticipate how moderate she aims to be in the general election. Hillary Clinton does not intend to run for president as an agent of radical change. Rather, she is prepared to court the American public in well-tailored suits, perfectly coifed hair, standing next to her ex-President husband, and promising a return to competent and steady leadership. This is a winning strategy.

However, if Dr. Paul is in the race hammering Mrs. Clinton as "more of the same," she will face a serious decision. She will try to have it both ways for as long as she can--but, eventually, she will necessarily pick mainstream, Middle America over the coffeehouse crowd. When Mrs. Clinton abandons the fringe voters, and Ron Paul picks them up, the GOP candidate will emerge in a suddenly much more competitive race.

Run, Ron, Run.