Ron Paul reminded us of someone else the other night in finishing second in New Hampshire, another older politician who captured the enthusiasm and energy of young voters.
He was Gene McCarthy, the anti-war candidate who ran for president in 1968.
Of course, McCarthy didn't get the nomination -- but he may have cost the Democrats the election that year, because his supporters gave up on Democrats when Hubert Humphrey won the nomination.
All the energy that McCarthy brought to the Party was lost, and Richard Nixon beat Humphrey in the general election. Republicans should remember this, because even though many of them don't like Ron Paul, no one can deny the power he has with a big chunk of young voters, 47% of whom voted for him last night in New Hampshire.
If Paul loses the nomination and Republicans ignore his entire platform, the way establishment Democrats ignored McCarthy in '68, his young voters and campaign workers won't show up on Election Day.
Now, Rush Limbaugh and others have pointed out that a lot of the Ron Paul voters will never vote for a Republican other than Paul. That's absolutely true. But if Republicans give Dr. Paul influence in developing the party platform on issues like the debt or the Federal Reserve, that could bring a fair number of his young supporters to Republicans in the fall.
It may be true that youth is wasted on the wrong people, but youthful energy is also a terrible thing to waste.