With Ron Paul announcing that he will not seek re-election to his congressional seat, some are speculating that this opens him up for a third-party run. I am not sure what the consequences would be regarding ballot access if he changed from being a Republican to another party.
I have thought from the beginning that he should run outside of the Republican Party. Specifically, I think he should run for the Libertarian Party's nomination. He would most surely get it and the party is already well established which would make it easier for ballot access. With the vast amount of money he has already raised, getting on all of the state ballots would not be that challenging and expensive relative to what past Libertarian candidates have had to deal with.
While I think there has been a slight mood shift in the Republican Party, most Republicans outside of the Ron Paul circles are still mostly pro-war. While many are against Libya and some have even soured on Afghanistan, it is hard not to be skeptical and think that it is mainly because Obama is in charge and not a Republican. Because of this sentiment, I think it will be hard for Ron Paul to win the Republican nomination. He will probably do better than many expect and he will probably change some more minds, but I am doubtful that it will be enough.
Imagine on the other hand if he runs as a Libertarian. This wouldn't have worked for him in 2007/2008. He was virtually unknown then, at least outside of his district and outside of the libertarian community. Now that he has name recognition and hundreds of thousands of highly-dedicated supporters, he would still raise many millions of dollars operating outside of the Republican Party.
If someone like Mitt Romney gets the Republican nomination, it would make Paul's run as a Libertarian offer a real choice for people. If someone like Michele Bachmann were to get the nomination, it would make a third-party run a little harder because of her fiscally conservative rhetoric. Even though she is a statist, it would be more challenging to paint her and Obama as being cut from the same cloth.
Now I am wondering if there is any way that Paul can participate in all of the early debates, just as he is doing, and then drop out at the last minute and announce he will seek the Libertarian Party's nomination instead. This would give him public exposure in the debates before seeking a third-party run. I don't think this is his plan at all, but it is an interesting speculation.
I like that Paul has decided not to seek re-election for Congress. He will deserve the break, assuming he doesn't win the presidency. This will also allow him to focus all of his efforts on this presidential run and he can also speak freely, not that that has ever been an issue for him before.
Regardless of what he decides, it is important to support him and advocate his pro-liberty positions. I don't think it is necessary to elect a pro-liberty person to get real change. The most important thing is to educate others on the benefits of liberty and that is just what Ron Paul has been doing and will continue to do.