Monday, December 19, 2011

Ron Paul Takes the Lead in Iowa

After threatening to do it for a while, the liberty-minded septuagenarian Congressman/doctor from Texas is now leading in Iowa according to the Real Clear Politics poll averages.  And he's gaining ground at the expense of Newt Gingrich, who has sunk from the high 30s in Iowa to third, and in the low-to-mid-teens (with a persistent Rick Perry breathing down his neck).

I think you now have to consider Dr. Paul the prohibitive favorite in Iowa.  Even when he was running a few points behind, the fact was that his caucus numbers were going to be better than his poll numbers because of the organization and dedication of his supporters.  Now, with an actual lead, I'd be surprised to see anyone else win Iowa. And I think Dr. Paul has a chance to poll in the mid-30s on caucus night.

So, if that happens, what's next?  The negative hit pieces of course! I emphasized that in my last post.  I've actually been a little surprised to see some good, positive articles about Dr. Paul. One interesting one is from Real Clear Politics: Can Ron Paul Win New Hampshire? It is a legitimate question.  Can you imagine Fox News if that happened?  It would be more hilarious than a meltdown on the Bunker (my Auburn sports pay site of choice.  And, as this article points out, it isn't too far out there.

If Ron Paul wins Iowa he'll get a big bump in his New Hampshire support, especially if Gingrich greatly under-performs.  There's a legitimate chance that Perry, who is more organized and has spent more time in Iowa, knocks Gingrich down to 4th.  Let's assume Ron Paul culls together the kind of support he is capable of and Iowa finishes something like this:
1) Paul-30%
2) Romney-24%
3) Perry-13%
4) Gingrich-12%
5) Bachmann-8%

Ron Paul should be polling in the low 20s in New Hampshire at this point, with Romney in the mid-30s.  But if Gingrich bombs Iowa, a state he'd been assuming he would win (and saying so), I think his New Hampshire support, which is currently around the low-20s/high-teens, evaporates.  Gingrich is too arrogant to drop out after Iowa, but if he flops in Iowa as I think he will, I think you'll see him implode in New Hampshire.  Where does his support go? I think some of it goes to Ron Paul, and a smaller portion to Romney (let's remember that the Gingrich voters were always anti-Romney voters anyway).  And something else will happen.  I think Bachmann drops out after Iowa.  Some of her support goes to Ron Paul, but I think most finds a home with Perry.  Huntsman will also be hurt more than he knows by a Ron Paul win in Iowa. That's because I think a lot of moderate, anti-war voters in New Hampshire will decide that if they want to support someone with a shot at winning, they need to hitch their wagon to Dr. Paul.  So I really think Huntsman, in the case of a Paul win in NH, takes a big hit in NH support, which is a shame, because I like the guy a whole lot more than most of the non-Paul candidates.  With a little bit from Gingrich, a little bit from Bachmann, and a little bit from Huntsman, we could be looking at Ron Paul gaining 8-10 points without taking anything from Romney.  And Ron Paul will take support from Romney in New Hampshire as the moderates, independents, libertarians, and anti-war conservatives rally around him.  The big knock on Ron Paul, and the big plus for Romney, has been electability, but a win in Iowa changes that. I think what we end up with in New Hampshire is a toss-up.

While the caucus system is great for Ron Paul's dedicated, organized supporters, the fact is that New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, probably presents the best collection of voters who think like Dr. Paul.  New Hampshire would be a significant upset, but if Ron Paul wins Iowa, it won't be as big as some people think.  I think if things go right, Ron Paul can win New Hampshire by pulling about 36-38% of the vote (with Romney just a point or two behind).  Ron Paul won't win South Carolina, and probably won't win Florida (though if Gingrich drops out before Florida, anything is possible).  After five of the eight contests before Super Tuesday are caucus, and Ron Paul will perform well there.

If Ron Paul wins Iowa, he will make a lot of noise and will challenge Romney until the final horn.  I still think the backlash from the establishment GOP and press will ultimately prevent Ron Paul from winning the nomination.

One last (slightly-extended) thought.  There have been some criticism of the new Public Policy Polling poll that placed Ron Paul in first place in Iowa.  This article argues that the PPP poll was an outlier, and that it should be ignored based on the fact that Ron Paul leads on the strength of Democrats (40%) and Independents (34%) and not Republicans (19%).  The argument is that this poll is inaccurate because traditionally self-identified Republicans are majority of caucus-goers. What that article fails to realize, though, is that Dr. Paul is building a coalition of people of all stripes.  This will not be your standard nomination process. Ron Paul is bringing people to the Republican Party.  In all truth, this should be a reason that the GOP wants him to win the nomination. After all, aren't we looking for someone who can bring in a large portion of the moderates and independents who supported Obama in 2008? Wouldn't this diversity of support be a good thing?  I guess common sense shouldn't apply to politics, though.  Oh, and that PPP wasn't an outlier.  Insider Advantage has Dr. Paul polling at about the same spot.  It is pretty funny, because there were more than a few articles declaring the PPP poll unreliable right after it came out, and then the Insider Advantage poll comes out and blows that theory up.

It's going to be very interesting.  January 3rd might be Christmas for Ron Paul supporters this year.

Let me just take this chance to give myself a little pat on the back.  Dr. Paul announced his candidacy in early May of this year.  A couple of weeks later, I posted the following on my Facebook:

Ron Paul polling well in one of the crucial, early-primary states. This is going to be more than a token campaign for the good doctor this time around. I still think predicting a Ron Paul as the GOP candidate wouldn't exactly be the smart bet, but this country is different than 2008 and so are Dr. Paul's chances.
Glad I was right (or at least on the right track).

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