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Has Ron Paul thought of this?

Posted: January 12, 2012 10:52 a.m.
Updated: January 13, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Dear voter: Are you dissatisfied with the possible presidential choices facing you in November? How about, say, a Ron Paul-Hillary Clinton ticket?

I put that question to the top officers at Americans Elect, the innovative alternative website project that is gearing up now for a political "convention" on the web in June. If all goes as planned, the online convention's nominee will be on the ballots in all 50 states.

But don't call Americans Elect a "third party," explained CEO Kahlil Byrd, a Republican who used to work for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. "We're a second nominating process."

Indeed, Americans Elect prides itself on a blue-ribbon list of prominent, independent-minded participants from both parties. If they belong to any party, by my reckoning, it is the Washington Establishment party. If anything, they tell me, their experience in and around political circles only makes them more frustrated with partisan gridlock over how best to answer thorny issues like deficit reduction, immigration or job creation.

"We're creating a content-neutral platform for political expression in American politics," said chief operating officer Elliot Ackerman, a decorated Iraq War veteran and son of the group's chief funder, investment banker Peter Ackerman. "No ideology, no platform, but the delegates craft a platform out of their questions to the candidates."

Fine. I wish them luck. Their idea has wide appeal at times like these when, as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee recently put it, approval of our Washington leaders is "just barely above a pedophile."

But I am skeptical that adding another candidate selection process will solve more headaches than it creates, although from a journalist's standpoint, it could be fun to cover.

That's why I was not joking with my Paul-Clinton ticket question. A web-based alternative nominating process is almost tailor-made for Texas Rep. Ron Paul's army of web-savvy supporters if he loses his Republican presidential bid, as widely expected. A groundswell of support for him already is beginning to appear among Americans Elect delegates.

So is a similar push for Secretary of State Clinton. The former First Lady also came out the winner of a mock balloting by the website POLITICO in an October imitation of Americans Elect. Maybe her victory indicates buyer's remorse among some disappointed Democrats or mischief by some desperate Republicans. Either way, she has big appeal across partisan lines, which Americans Elect says is the sort of candidate they seek.

A Paul-Clinton pairing also would fit Americans Elect's rule that the top vote getter must choose a running mate from another party or "political sphere," as Ackerman put it. Considering how Paul is a Republican who supports libertarian ideas that most of the Grand Old Party does not support, like cutting defense budgets and legalizing marijuana, he arguably sits outside just about everybody's political sphere but his own. That's why his supporters love him.

And after years of diplomacy with exotic regimes overseas, Secretary Clinton should be well-suited to bipartisan work here, even with the exotic Paul's following.

So, when I posed the possibility to Byrd and Ackerman, they chuckled and asked, "Who'd be on top?"

Indeed, with those two strong personalities, it would be hard to imagine. Besides, I take Clinton at her word that she's pulling out of political life after Obama's first term. If she's drafted by Americans Elect, I expect her to graciously decline. But, well, anything's possible in politics, right?

Either way, with the November elections expected to be close, it is not surprising that both parties are worried about a third party bid that could hurt their party's chances.

Conservative consultant Dick Morris said on Fox News, for example, that a Ron Paul bid with Americans Elect would be a "disaster" for the GOP. The same could be said by Democrats about a credible liberal of Clinton's stature.

But if the goal of Americans Elect is to respond to public frustration about too little getting done in Washington on behalf of the voters, it's hard to imagine that a Paul or a Clinton would have any more luck getting legislation passed than Obama does now. We would only have some new names to blame for it.

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