Uhh.....seriously? Ron Paul??
You almost have to feel sorry for these people. I've heard of scraping the bottom of the barrel, but it's just getting ridiculous. Paul has of course been a libertarian cult figure for years, but has never shown much appeal beyond that. The one thing that might make him interesting to the smarter sort of Republican is that he does attract some support from the left, for his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and so might pull in a few left-leaning voters. But not many liberals are such blind single-issue voters as to support Paul over Obama. Paul has a good stand on one of my own pet issues -- legalization of drugs and prostitution -- but he's basically just another right-wing crank who rejects evolution and global warming science, wants to ban abortion, and would have the government do even less to address the crisis of skyrocketing economic inequality than it already does. His positives in a few areas where libertarianism deviates from the right-wing consensus are just another of those stopped-clock-right-twice-a-day things.
It goes without saying that he'd be a disaster against Obama in the general election. The last thing centrist voters want is someone who wants to cut the government safety net even more than most Republicans. Those racist newsletters are still out there. And on election day he'll be 77 years old, so if age was such an issue for McCain, it certainly will be for him.
How much chance does he have to be the nominee? A lot of his radical-right stands will resonate well with the teabaggers, and unlike many libertarians he's not soft on illegal aliens (the issue that helped sink Perry and has wounded Gingrich), nor does he have the sexual-hypocrisy baggage that so many Republicans carry these days. The fact that he couldn't win in November might not make much impression on a right-wing base more interested in ideological purity. I really can't see it, though. His isolationist approach to foreign policy could easily be portrayed as leaving the US vulnerable (as it, in fact, would). The cultish behavior of his supporters must surely be off-putting even to conservatives of other stripes.
And he doesn't culturally resonate with the Christian Right base the way Bachmann or Perry do. Gingrich is still way ahead of the pack in South Carolina and Florida, states far more typical of the Republicans' stronghold in the South than New Hampshire and Iowa are. Gingrich isn't a true fundie either, but he plays one on TV more convincingly than Paul does.
So I'm betting that it is Paul who will turn out to be just another not-Romney flash in the pan who will quickly fade, while the Nutty faction will continue to coalesce around Gingrich, as the Sanes already have around Romney. Once Paul fades, unless there's a Santorum surge next, it's hard to see where else the Nutties can go.