Bill Bennett: Surging Ron Paul Could Take Third-Party Route

Thursday, 15 Dec 2011 05:17 AM

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Conservative pundit Bill Bennett says surging Texas Rep. Ron Paul might very well win Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses because of the organization he has put on the ground. The former education secretary and drug czar also told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Wednesday that those who do not view Paul as a serious presidential contender, should, because he could become a third-party candidate and split the anti-Obama vote.
“I think Ron Paul could win this — because of organizations he has put it all in to it — and he could win this,” Bennett said. “I think it’s very possible that with [Rick] Perry coming on a little bit — everybody says Perry is coming on a little bit [and] it’s tightening between [Mitt] Romney and [Newt] Gingrich — that Paul slips in with 22, 23 percent.”

Bennett noted many do not take Paul seriously because of what has been deemed hi isolationist foreign-policy views and some domestic-affairs statements that do not place him directly within the Republican establishment fold.

“But they should . . . if he wins Iowa, the reason that could be important obviously — he's leaving things undecided,” Bennett said. “He may then get a big hit and decide after several more states that he’s going to go in to be a third-party candidate — and then you're giving the election to Barack Obama.”

The former presidential official also said he believes Gingrich could finish ahead of Romney in Iowa — but not in New Hampshire.

“I think Newt may well finish ahead of Romney in Iowa — I think Romney will finish ahead of Newt in New Hampshire — and I think it goes further. Remember, we have proportional representation,” Bennett said. “But taking the big picture, let’s remember what we want this election to be about: We want this election to be about big issues — the big questions, the questions before the country right now. And mainly, what Barack Obama has done to this country — we do not want it to be about personalities.

“It’s going to be very rough — but when we get to the general [election], what’s the general going to be about. And I think the biggest weakness Newt has, is that we don’t want the general election to be about his idiosyncrasies whether he’s the new Newt or the old Newt,” Bennett said. “And there will be Newt stories — there will be endless battle Newt stories.

“ I like Newt — I think he’s a fountain of ideas,” he continued. “But I also think that it will be about him — I also don’t think he can beat Barack Obama.  I wish Mitt Romney had a better conservative history, had a better record. But I think right now, he’s a better candidate.”

Bennett also said he is not endorsing Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum “is probably the closest to my views.”

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