Ron Paul won just 3 percent of the votes in the Tea Party Patriots' "tele-forum and straw poll" Sunday, a pretty poor showing for a guy routinely called "the godfather of the Tea Party." The straw poll was not a little poll on a blog post: four candidates* spent 10 minutes on a conference call answering questions, and then 23,000 Tea Partiers voted. Not only did Paul lose to Newt Gingrich, who got 31 percent, and Michele Bachmann, who got 28 percent -- but he came in behind Mitt Romney, who earned 20 percent. Worse, 64 percent of the patriots said they were "unenthusiastic" about voting for Paul -- only Jon Huntsman performed worse.
Here's how the Associated Press' Jay Root described Paul when he announced he was running for president in May:
Paul, a native of Pittsburgh, is both a spiritual father and actual father in the tea party movement. His son, tea party darling Rand Paul, won a Senate seat in Kentucky last year... As far back as 2007... Ron Paul was hosting a 'Tea Party Fundraiser' aboard a shrimp boat near Galveston.
In October, Paul said the difference between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party was that the protesters of the former are "Scared to death they won't get their handouts," while the latter are "sick and tired of paying for it," NBC News reported. "I’m on the side of sick and tired of paying for it," Paul explained. But the Tea Party doesn't want him on their side. While the Tea Party has an image of libertarian political novices spurred to action against government spending -- and not all that interested in social issues -- polls show that's not true.
In October 2010, a Public Religion Research Institute study found that more than half of Tea Partiers say America is a "Christian nation" -- more than the 40 percent of evangelicals who think that. They're social conservatives on same sex marriage. Another poll last year found that 88 percent of supporters of the Tea Party support Arizona's tough immigration crackdown. This fall, 60 percent of Tea Party Republicans said the best way to ensure peace was through "military strength" -- compared to 47 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of voters over all, the Pew Research Center found. The survey found that 81 percent of Tea Party Republicans want military spending to stay the same or increase.
Those positions are at odds with Paul's. He thinks government should get out of the marriage business altogether. He wants to cut military spending and engage Iran. In the primary debates, Paul has said that if the U.S. tries to build a fence along the border with Mexico, it might be not so much about keeping illegal immigrants out, but keeping Americans in.
And yet weirdly, conservative bloggers are not going after Paul for his policy, but for some old newsletters that said racist stuff, as the Village Voice's Roy Edroso observes. Last time Paul ran for president, Jamie Kirchick chronicled problematic lines from the newsletters, like "Order was only restored in [the L.A. riots] when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks." He brought the issue up again in the Weekly Standard this week. Angry conservative blog posts followed. William Teach of Right Wing News says Paul got a campaign donation from a white supremacist, and unsteady in his politically correct shoes, warns, "Good luck explaining that away during a General Election with an opponent who is half black." Saying Paul could never stand up to the scrutiny of being a serious candidate, Dan Riehl, who has an extensive archive on the "race card," writes, "If he does want to be taken seriously, it's time for him to answer for this garbage."
Clarification: Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman weren't on the conference call.