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May 9th, 2008
Ron Paul effect?

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.


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4 thoughts on “Ron Paul effect?

  1. You’ve made a huge (and very incorrect) assumption, that most or all of Ron Paul’s supporters would rally behind Romney. Of all the Ron Paul supporters I’ve worked with here in San Marcos, I doubt any of us would support Romney.

    The Republican Party really has really four wings: Neoconservatism, the “Religious Right”, Paleoconservatism, and Right-libertarianism. Romney is a mixture of the foreign policy of the neoconservatives (interventionism, the Bush Doctorine, etc), and the economic policy of the paleoconservatives (minus the opposition to the income tax). Huckabee lands squarely in the Religious right, and McCain straddles the line between neoconservative and outright liberal.

    The single greatest reason poeple support Ron Paul is his foreign policy: the “Anti-war Republican” moniker raised a few eyebrows and got him alot of support. I would not have voted for Paul if he preached the “stay the course” doctrine of the neoconservatives. Romney either played it safe and didn’t attack the war, or honestly believes the rhetoric of the neoconservatives, either way I would never vote for him.

    Paul’s effect on the Republican race didn’t cost Romney the nomination. It did cost Augustus Cho his congressional primary (to B.J. Lawson in NC). It will cost Joseph Pennacchio his senatorial primary (to Murray Sabrin in NJ). Want a local example? Try Craig Young beating Linda Kinney for the Hays County Republican Party Chairmanship.

    Ripples are already moving through the water. The media may be ignoring it, but neoconservatives in party leadership are already panicking. This one presidential campaign was a short-term project. The “Revolution” will take some time. You’re just seeing the beginning.

  2. I find it very amusing that many of the RP signs highlight the “evol” in revolution. That they would highlight what could be interpreted as “evolution”, something that he doesn’t believe in, is hilarious. I seriously doubt it’s supposed to be “love” either, although that would be funny too. Damned hippies . That’s the whole thing about him and his supporters. It’s just not thought through. Why are we even discussing him? He’s a non-factor.

  3. I have to agree with Griffin. I think that Dr. Paul’s supporters would have voted for him regardless if he were Republican, Democrat, Green, Whig, Tory – you name it. The appeal of Paul has nothing to do with Republican politics, it has to do with his stance on protecting the constitution, limiting government, and a return to sound monetary policies.

    Dr. Paul ran as a Republican so that he could keep his house seat as he never seriously felt he would get elected President. Switching parties or running as an independent would have hurt his Congressional campaign.

    I believe that Ron Paul supporters would have more likely voted in the Democratic primaries had he not been in the running with the Republicans. The average voter’s distaste for where politicians are taking our country is the appeal.

    As far as Romney, his campaign was, in my opinion, never meant to be a serious run for President. It was meant to build name recognition for future runs and more importantly to weaken the “infiltration” of independent candidates. It was Romney that hurt Paul and not the other way around.

  4. Thanks for the comments. I agree with the comments that the Paul supporters in Texas would NOT have voted for Romney or most other republican candidates. But, I wasn’t writing about TEXAS Paul voters. I was writing about Paul voters in states like Montana, North Dakota, Alaska, Minnesota and others. We should not make the mistake that either main party’s supporters are monolithic blocs and interchangeable from state to state. I would bet that a North Dakota Paul supporter, for example, would be older, on average, than a Paul supporter in Texas.
    I try never to confuse how I would act as a voter with how other people would act as voters. Secondly, even if Paul is a “non-factor” meaning he isn’t going to afffect the party platform or policies, Paul was NOT a non factor if it can be shown that he pulled votes from one of the top candidates.
    Thanks for all of your responses. I appreciate all of them.

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