On January 11, Congressman Ron Paul filed incorporation papers to create a presidential exploratory committee. This allows him to raise money for a campaign to seek the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. He has not yet actually announced that he will seek that nomination, but it seems likely that he will.
Paul describes himself as a lifelong Libertarian who has been elected to Congress as a Republican. He was the only Republican member of the U.S. House to vote against Dept. of Defense appropriations for fiscal year 2007, and he is strongly opposed to U.S. policy in Iraq.
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. The denial of injunctive relief is reported as US Taxpayers Party v Garza, 924 F Supp 71 (1996).
However, the opinion does not discuss the fact that the true candidates in November are running for presidential elector, not president. A presidential candidate’s name is not listed on the November ballot in his or her role as a candidate. Instead, the name is an identifier for specific slates of candidates for presidential elector.
Since Congress has repeatedly recognized that presidential electors may vote for anyone who holds the constitutional qualifications to be president (by always counting the votes for so-called “faithless electors”, except in 1872 when some electors voted for Horace Greeley even though he was deceased), it seems plain that no state can tell a slate of presidential electors that they cannot label themselves with the name of anyone they intend to vote for. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court said in Anderson v Celebrezze that a single state has a lesser state interest in blocking a presidential candidate from its ballot than from blocking candidates for other office. 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.