While almost all of the political class talked about the effects that the top three Republican candidates, Sen. John McCain, Gov. Mitt Romney, and Gov Mike Huckabee, had on the race, Congressman Dr. Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy may have had an important early effect in this year’s primary season.
Paul received ~10% of the vote in the Iowa caucus on January 3rd, and he received 8% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary on January 8th. Huckabee won the Iowa contest with 34% of the vote followed by Romney with 25% and former senator Fred Thompson and McCain at 13% each.
Did Paul’s numbers have an effect on Iowa? Many people have identified three main wings of the Republican Party today. There is the defense wing represented by McCain, the social values wing represented by Huckabee, and a limited government business wing represented by Romney. Look at potential republican voters distributed among the three wings, in many ways, Romney and Paul both were appealing to the limited government business wing of their party.
Let’s look at Paul’s numbers. Paul received more than 20% of the vote in Montana and North Dakota, and he received from between 10% and 19% in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Who won those states? Romney won six states, Huckabee won two and McCain won one, Pennsylvania, after Huckabee and Romney had dropped out of the race.
If Paul had not won, it is conceivable that the Paul voters in the states mentioned would have saw Romney as being the candidate closest to Paul out of the three main candidates in contention. Paul’s votes added to Romney’s in Iowa makes Romney the winner of that state and adding Paul’s 8% to Romney’s in New Hampshire makes Romney the winner of that state as well. On Super Tuesday, Paul’s 4% in Missouri given to Romney’s would have given Romney the victory over McCain in the “Show Me” state.
Paul’s candidacy hurt Romney’s campaign in a secondary way. Paul’s strong showing in Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, and North Dakota on Super Tuesday delayed knowing who had won those state’s Republican contests until the next day. When people turned off the evening news in the Eastern and Central Time Zones, Romney had been given only two states: Massachusetts and Utah, which the pundits dismissed since Romney was the former governor of Massachusetts while Utah was overwhelmingly Mormon. When people turned off their TVs that night McCain and Huckabee were the big winners and Romney was the odd man out. Conceivably with Paul out of the race, the visuals on election night would have looked much better for Romney and made him appear more competitive than Huckabee.
If Romney had won either Iowa, New Hampshire or both, the Republican presidential calendar could have played out differently. McCain not winning New Hampshire possibly could have given both Guliani and Thompson stronger legs to run on. Earlier notices of Romney’s Super Tuesday wins would have also helped.
There are reasons to disagree with this analysis but the mainstream press has not been discussing Paul’s effect on the Republican contests as much as is warranted.
By ED MIHALKANIN, Ph.D
Photos courtesy RonPaul2008.comEmail | Print