Ron Paul Third Party Run Impossible – GOP Forbade It

November 5th, 2008 9:48 am  |  by  |  Published in Activism, ballot access, Election, Liberty, Maven Commentary, Politics, Ron Paul  |  13 Responses

I recently published my criticism of Ron Paul’s decision to not run as a Third Party or Independent candidate for President once he lost his bid for the GOP nomination. I suggested that he made a poor choice by not doing so because he had the momentum to truly make a mark on this election. I must retract my criticism on this point because, as it turns out, Ron Paul didn’t really have an option.

Ron Paul had no choice in the matter. The GOP primary ballot access laws in several states force candidates to pledge to not run on another party’s ticket if they should not win the Republican nomination. In an email sent to us (included below) by Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s spokesman and campaign communications manager, clarified this fact:


I enjoy your writing very much and check your website regularly. As a fan, I do have clear one point up with you.

Ron Paul could not have run Libertarian if he wanted to. In order to be on the GOP Primary Ballot in at least 11 states, including Texas, Ron had to pledge that he would not seek the presidency on another ticket if he failed to secure the GOP nomination. Not running third party was the price of admission.

We are certainly open to fair criticism of Dr. Paul. But criticizing him for not running third party is not fair criticism. I hope this clears things up.


Jesse Benton

I replied to Jesse thanking him for the clarification and expressed a wish that Ron Paul had mentioned this fact when asked about a third party run by the media. I was not aware of such rules and I expect many others who have been critical of Paul for “choosing” not to run on another party’s ticket were not aware of such rules.

So in the end, once Ron Paul was on the ballot in one of these “GOP hostage” states he gave up his ability to run outside the Republican Party.

Hopefully, this information will temper the criticism of Ron Paul on this point. Thanks to Jesse Benton for granting me permission to post his email.


  1. ChrisK says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 10:00 am (#)

    How unfortunate.

    Dr. Paul received almost 19,000 votes without running a third party campaign: 9000+ in Montana and 9000+ in Louisiana, plus however many write-in votes which will never be counted.

    By comparison, Nader received about 679,000 votes, an average of 14,760 per state (Nader was on 46 ballots).

    9,000 votes for each state on which Dr. Paul was on the ballot without campaigning is pretty remarkable.

    Gary Johnson 2012!

  2. Ron Paul Third Party Run Impossible - GOP Forbade It | Ron Paul War Room says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 10:47 am (#)

    [...] Sphere: Related Content [...]

  3. savewizard-dotcom says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 11:22 am (#)

    I believe the truth is what Ron Paul stated, since he is a man of honor. The reason why he wasn’t running is because as an independent he wouldn’t have a fair platform, and that is what Ron Paul believed, it was his choice to fore go the option of being able to run 3rd party based on previously established rules that he agreed to, so why should he blame the rules, when the reason he agreed to those rules were his belief that as a 3rd party candidate he would not have a voice in mainstream media, so therefore when asked when he wouldn’t run 3rd party, his reasoning did not change from day one, and as a person of great integrity, don’t you think that the better option was to declare his original reasoning, which he still believed in as why the 3rd party run wasn’t an option rather than blaming the rules, when the rules weren’t the true reasoning of why the run wasn’t happening?

  4. Marc Gallagher says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 11:49 am (#)

    I’m not suggesting he should not have given any of those other reasons for not running, I’m just saying he should have clarified that the rules exist (in addition) to the original reasons. That way, those of us that have trouble accepting those other reasons have a more concrete understanding.

    In any case, there’s no changing history now, but we can learn from it and move onward in the quest for liberty.


  5. svf says:

    November 6th, 2008 at 9:17 am (#)

    Greetings, been reading and enjoying your site for quite a while and although this particular matter is all “water under the bridge” at this point, I did want take issue with Mr. Benton’s assumptions above…

    I believe he’s referring to the so-called “sore loser laws.” Ballot access authority Richard Winger mulled over the very question (back in January) of whether or not these laws might prevent Ron Paul from mounting a 3rd party or Independent campaign if unsuccessful in the GOP primaries and came to the conclusion that in most, and perhaps all, states:

    Sore Loser Laws Don’t Generally Apply to Presidential Candidates …

    If Paul fails to win the Republican presidential nomination, he could then seek the Libertarian nomination (which he would be virtually certain to obtain) and run in November as the Libertarian nominee. John Anderson established the precedent in most states that “sore loser” laws do not apply to presidential candidates. John Anderson ran in two-thirds of the 1980 Republican presidential primaries, and he also won a place on the November 1980 ballots as an independent candidate in all 50 states. In some of the states in which Anderson happened not to run in the 1980 Republican presidential primary, there is still a precedent that “sore loser” laws don’t apply to president, because others set such precedents. These include Lyndon LaRouche (who ran in Democratic primaries and then as an independent in 1984, 1988 and 1992) and David Duke (who ran in Democratic presidential primaries in 1988 and then ran in November 1988 as the Populist Party nominee).

    Only four states maintain that their “sore loser” laws apply to president: South Dakota, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas. After LaRouche won in court against Ohio in 1992, Ohio amended its “sore loser” law in 1993 to specifically apply to presidential candidates. No precedents have been set in Mississippi or South Dakota. In Texas, unfortunately, in 1996 the Constitution Party filed a lawsuit against Texas to get a ruling that the “sore loser” law doesn’t apply to president. The federal judge who got the case, James Nowlin, refused to enjoin Texas’ interpretation that the “sore loser” law does apply to president…

    Since the overwhelming majority of states permit “sore loser” presidential candidates, it is likely that a court in the future would not uphold Texas’ interpretation.

    And, if it did, the Texas Libertarian electors could always say that they are pledged to Ron Paul, Jr., the Congressman’s son. Then, if they were actually elected, they could vote for Ron Paul, Sr., notwithstanding their ruse.

    Furthermore, the ease with which Ron Paul supporters managed to get his name on the ballot without even obtaining the candidate’s consent as the Constitution Party nominee in Montana and the (previously non-existent) Louisiana Taxpayer’s Party in Louisiana should call into question Benton’s assertion that “Ron Paul could not have run Libertarian if he wanted to”.

    The fact is he COULD have run as the LP and/or CP nominee, or even Independent with the nomination of various smaller parties in the vast majority of states (a la Nader) without too much trouble, and likely would have been able to challenge or evade the shaky “sore loser” laws in the “11 states” Benton alludes to (while only mentioning Texas by name). Thus Ron Paul could have likely attained 48-49 (maybe even 50) state ballot access, something none of the third parties managed to do in 2008.

    So I do not agree that a Ron Paul third party run was “impossible”, only that it would have been challenging and required a good deal of determination on Ron Paul and his campaign’s part.

    At the end of the day, I believe it was the determination that was lacking (for a host of other reasons), not the ability to get on ballots.

    Cheers to you and keep up the great work.

  6. Marc Gallagher says:

    November 6th, 2008 at 10:29 am (#)


    Great comment… I appreciate it. Indeed, “impossible” was too strong of a word. It does seem that it was the determination that was lacking and his allegiance to the GOP certainly didn’t help. It is difficult for him to “rebuild the GOP within”, as he has stated is one of his goals, if he is no longer within the GOP.


  7. GregInIowa says:

    November 6th, 2008 at 2:13 pm (#)

    “Impossible” is NOT too strong of a word, assuming he is a man of honor. Men with integrity do not take a pledge not to do something, then turn around and do it anyway.

    Men with integrity uphold their promises, pledges and oaths. This should help us to consider exactly how many members of Congress have personal integrity. It can be examined easily in relation to their oath to support the Constitution and the fact that most of them regularly ignore and violate it.

    It would be inconsistant for Dr. Paul to honorably abide by the Constitution while in office and be a promise and pledge breaker when it comes to ballot access. For him, I imagine, it is not an issue of what he could theoretically “get away with” in terms of a third party run. Only unprincipled men think in those terms. Rather, if he pledged not to run third party in order to be on some primary ballots, I am sure that was the end of the consideration of the matter.

    The time to decide to run third was before the GOP primaries, a fact he alluded to in his common answer regarding the practicality of a third party run and its potential effects. He chose to go another route, a route that may not have yielded a primary win, but still has yielded the greatest attention for the cause of the Constitution in decades.

    Dr. Paul has lit the fire, and has further provided us a vehicle to work with in the Campaign for Liberty. It will be our fault if we do not turn this momentum into something that can help to bring the message of liberty and constitutional government to our fellow citizens to consider. For while gatherings of our little groups of likeminded liberty lovers may make us all feel less isolated, it is not enough. The rest of the population must be reached with info regarding what the blessings of liberty are, and what they look like in light of good governance if there will be any chance of seeing anyone like Dr. Paul elected to the Presidency. The same thing goes for any significant number being elected to Congress as well.

    As much as I do not like to admit it, a third party run would not likely have helped as much in moving thiungs forward at this point in history. And he could not have won in any event – like it or not. The American people are simply not ready to elect a limited government Constitutionalist…yet.

    Bottom line is if we do not, as supporters of constitutional government, come together and work to change the reality of gross public ignorance, through some organization like Campaign for Liberty, it is likely that the American people never will be ready to elect a sound presidential candidate. Further, it is more likely that they will turn to a tyrannical despot posing as their saviour at a time of desparate national need.

    They need to know and understand what “needs to be” and no political party, third parties included, can accomplish that educationally. Nor can a factionally allied entity. We all need to work together now, or we will all regret our failure to do so.

  8. blakmira says:

    November 7th, 2008 at 3:26 pm (#)

    Great response, Greg in Iowa! I never doubted Ron Paul’s decision to run major party and not switch over after the primaries. I knew he had some wise reasoning behind it.

    Maybe this will finally shut up all the whiners complaining about how Ron Paul “should have” run third party.

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  12. WhistlinDave says:

    September 2nd, 2012 at 4:58 pm (#)

    Is he bound to honor this pledge when the GOP and RNC did not honor theirs to him? You see, there's something called the Rules. It's a mutual agreement that everyone in the party agrees to. Every party member agrees to abide by the rules. It is a contract, a pledge. And then many members of the party breached that contract. They ignored the rules, broke the rules, and then even fraudulently changed the rules by ignoring proper procedure. So, they are free to break their pledge to Dr. Paul and party members who supported him, but he is still bound to his pledge? To my knowledge, that is not how contract law works. The GOP and RNC breached their agreement first, and in my opinion, this frees Dr. Paul from any obligation to honor his contractual obligations to them.

  13. Tyler Beddo says:

    September 3rd, 2012 at 1:32 am (#)

    I doubt that has anything against a vice presidency; just think about the momentum of a Johnson and Paul Ticket!!!