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Ron Paul vs. Donald Trump: Who's got a better chance of being president?

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Alex Brandon/AP

(Read caption) Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington Friday.

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Ron Paul versus Donald Trump – it’s the hottest feud going among possible GOP presidential candidates, now that Rick Santorum has forgiven Sarah Palin for calling him a “knuckle-dragging Neanderthal.”

The Donald kicked the whole thing off, if you haven’t heard. He told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week that while he liked Mr. Paul personally, the Texas congressman had a “zero” chance of getting elected president.

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Folks in the audience booed. Paul won the CPAC straw poll anyway.

Then Monday Paul hit back. On MSNBC he pointed out that people said he wouldn’t win his House seat, either – and he’s been elected 11 times.

“How many times has Donald Trump been elected? Does he have, really, the right to go and criticize others and say they’re [unelectable]?” said Paul.

Well, Paul has kind of a point there, in the sense that all credit belongs to the man whose hair is in the arena and all. That means if you haven’t actually slogged through a campaign, shaking hands with babies and kissing supermodels and so on, then you shouldn’t take the stage at a political gathering and criticize somebody else’s effort.

And, according to some statistical measures, Trump is wrong. Paul does not have a zero percent chance of getting elected president. He has a 2 percent chance. That’s the same chance that Vice President Joe Biden has of getting elected president, we might add.

Where does this come from? It comes from the numbers on Intrade, an online trading exchange that functions as a kind of Dow Jones Index of presidential chances, among other things. As of Feb. 14, Ron Paul’s chances of winning in 2012 are 2 percent, while President Obama’s are 59.7 percent.

Donald Trump isn’t listed on Intrade, so you can’t measure his numbers against Paul’s directly. But the “Crystal Ball” website of respected University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato lists all the potential GOP candidates, split into tiers – and the bad news here for Paul and Trump is that neither of them do very well. Mr. Sabato puts them both in the fourth tier, his lowest category. They’re behind people like just-elected Florida Senator Marco Rubio, little-known Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, and moderate Jon Huntsman, who just resigned his post as Obama’s ambassador to China.

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Paul’s negatives are that he has views on some subjects that are outside the GOP mainstream, that he’s not young, and that he has run and lost before, according to Sabato. Trump’s negatives are that he’s had no experience in public office and has had a colorful life that the media will gleefully explore. Plus, his talk about maybe running is “perceived as a stunt,” according to Sabato.

But Paul gets some measure of revenge here. He’s rated as the top of the Sabato’s fourth tier. Trump? He’s dead last.

We’d make a “you’re fired” joke here, but that would be cheap.


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