Do you see a Ron Paul third-party run happening next year? how do you imagine it would effect the race and the national conversation? I'm hoping you'll tell me it's inevitable and that it'll give Obama a landslideWould Paul jump? That goes back to the earlier post: it's hard to get inside their heads. What we can say is that on the one hand, Paul certainly hasn't displayed long-term loyalty to the GOP (since he ran as a libertarian before), and he doesn't have a political career to lose by doing it, especially since he's already announced his retirement from the House. On the other hand, a jump would presumably hurt his son's status within the Republican Party. Hard to know how much he cares about any of that.
If he did it...well, he'd be a poorly financed general election candidate with a very strong but very small base of supporters, but the advantage of a ballot line everywhere (presumably strong Paul supporters would secure a spot in those states in which the Libertarian Party doesn't already have a line). 5% plus or minus 4% seems like as good an estimate as any -- but of course there's a huge difference between a candidate who takes about 9% from one side and a candidate who takes 1%. At the end of the day, I'd suppose that he would be unlikely to cost Republicans the presidency. If the election appeared close, Republicans, even the most libertarian-leaning of them, would drift back to Mitt Romney or whoever the nominee was. Meanwhile, if Obama is generally unpopular and getting clobbered, some liberal civil liberties fans might drift to Paul, but that will dry up if Obama is popular enough to have a fighting chance.
I guess what I want to say that how many votes Paul would get is probably a function of what else is going on. If the election is winnable for Republicans, the Republican nominee will wind up popular enough among Republicans that most will come home, and same for Obama and Democratic voters. Of course, if the election is very close, then it's certainly possible that the difference between a Paul at 2% or 3% vs. a no-name libertarian at 1% might turn a key state or two, but once the contest is that close then all sort of stuff can flip it.