An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last week showed the libertarian congressman receiving 18 percent of the vote in a race against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — a number that came mainly at Romney’s expense. In a two-way trial heat, Obama led Romney by 6 points, 49 to 43 percent. But that margin doubled when Paul was tossed in, with Obama opening a 44-to-32 advantage over Romney. Notably, Paul fared much better than another potential third-party candidate, Michael Bloomberg, who netted only 13 percent.
Paul also bantered with Hannity about definitively ruling out a third-party run for president. Although Paul said that "it's not going to happen," that it "wouldn't be worth it," and that he had "no plan" to run, he refused to definitively rule out the bid.At The Los Angeles Times, Paul West and Seema Mehta write:
"I have no intention of doing that," Paul repeated above Hannity's laughing protests. Asked why he wouldn't completely close the door, Paul joked, "well, I guess to just keep you guessing a little bit."
"But it's not going to happen, it's just not going to happen," Paul added.
Mark Meckler, a national co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said that some in the movement are talking about supporting a third-party candidate if Romney becomes the GOP nominee. "One thing you can say for certain is it would cause a drop-off of enthusiasm" in the general election, he said. "How far people would take that drop-off is impossible to predict."
But others decline to go that far. Kathi Kelly, 58, a Davenport secretary, said she was weighing a vote for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota or former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in Iowa's Jan. 3 caucuses. Kelly has ruled out caucusing for Romney because of his record as Massachusetts governor, notably his healthcare overhaul's individual mandate to have insurance."I'm not convinced he's a conservative," she said. Yet she would back Romney in the general election.
"I will support him wholeheartedly," Kelly said. "I don't want Obama to have another term. He's destroying our country."