Rep. Ron Paul To Test Waters For Presidential Run
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
The presidential campaign of 2012 is slowly taking shape. President Obama officially announced his candidacy earlier this month, and a large, if shapeless, Republican field is bidding for attention.
T: Hi, Mara.
MARA LIASSON: Hi, Melissa.
BLOCK: And Ron Paul appears to be running. Again, he got a lot of devoted followers on the Internet last time during the 2008 bid, not so many votes in the primary. So this time around, is he a significant addition to the Republican field or more of an asterisk?
LIASSON: The GOP is in a real libertarian moment right now, and Paul has always been all about the debt and the deficit and taxes and spending. You could call him the godfather of the Tea Party.
BLOCK: What about Haley Barbour? Let's talk about him for a bit. Big fundraiser, a political insider, and he was traveling the early primary states, seeming to do everything that a serious candidate needed to do. Why did he drop out?
LIASSON: He had been a lobbyist for tobacco and drug companies and foreign governments, and perhaps more damaging, he had made a series of racially insensitive comments. And it's possible he felt that the issue of race, particularly auditioning for a run against the country's first African-American president, would have been a distraction.
BLOCK: What do you think Haley Barbour's exit does to the rest of the field? Whom does it hurt? Whom does it help?
LIASSON: Well, Barbour was only registering in single digits in the polls, so it's not as if he had a lot of voter support that's now up for grabs, but he is an extremely important figure in the Republican establishment. He has a huge Rolodex of funders formed during his years as RNC chair and as a top lobbyist. Everyone will want Barbour's endorsement and access to his network, and help from him as a strategist.
NORRIS: So Barbour's absence also gives Mitt Romney, who is the putative frontrunner, if there is such a thing at this point, a clearer path to tying up Republican establishment support if Daniels doesn't get in.
BLOCK: He has yet to lift a finger at all to lay any groundwork, which has mystified Republicans who point to the fact that he consistently runs at the top of the polls in key states, and nationally, Huckabee is the only candidate with a defined base of support, a real constituency among evangelicals, particularly in Iowa, which he won in 2008, and in South Carolina.
BLOCK: Yeah. Mara, let's talk about the controversial budget proposal that was put out by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan. It's been dominating the political debate for a while now. What effect is that having on the GOP and the potential 2012 candidates?
LIASSON: He isn't running. He's turned down several invitations to speak at these big Republican dinners in South Carolina and Iowa, where just showing up would create buzz about his future. But Ryan seems happy to lead the Republicans' fiscal fight from right here in Washington.
BLOCK: OK, Mara, thanks.
LIASSON: Thank you, Melissa.
BLOCK: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
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