President Ron Paul

Here’s a shocker: pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that in a race between Barack Obama and Ron Paul, 42% of likely voters would vote for Obama and 41% would vote for Paul. This, despite the fact that Paul gets lower support from Republicans (66%) than Obama does from Democrats (79%). Paul has surprisingly high substantive identification: 39% have favorable feelings toward him, 30% unfavorable feelings.

Will Ron Paul be the Republican nominee? No, although his son Rand Paul may very well win the Republican nomination for Senate next month in Kentucky. And he runs far worse than Republicans do in Rasmussen’s generic ballot question, in which Republicans lead Democrats by a whopping 45%-36%. Rasmussen’s tight likely voters screen tends to produce a more Republican sample than do most other pollsters, who at this stage of the cycle tend to look at registered voters or all adults. Still, the specter of the incumbent president leading a fringe figure by Ron Paul by a statistically insignificant 1% is pretty amazing.

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