Will Ron Paul benefit from Rick Perry dropping out of the presidential race? There’s been lots of talk today about how Newt Gingrich might pick up voters from the Perry campaign’s demise, but less about how it might affect the libertarian from Texas, who – it must be noted – is now one of only four major candidates left in the race.
Congressman Paul himself joked about picking up Perry supporters Thursday morning. Asked for his reaction to the Perry news by a CBS News reporter, Paul said, “I’m glad, I’ll have all his votes!” Then he laughed. Clearly, he was kidding.
“If somebody else likes a Texan maybe [they’ll] come to me,” Paul continued, then kept moving along shaking hands with supporters.
According to just-released Public Policy Polling tracking survey results, Gingrich is the second choice of about 26 percent of Perry voters in South Carolina. Mr. Romney gets about the same slice – 26 percent of the now-former Perry supporters.
Paul is in line to pick up 10 percent of Perry’s Palmetto State votes, according to PPP. Mr. Santorum will get 15 percent, with 23 percent unsure who they might pick instead.
So, bottom line: the other candidates are predicted to pick up more Perry voters than Paul will, at least according to this survey. None of them will get a huge boost, however, as Perry was only getting about five percent of the total South Carolina vote, anyway. That’s why he dropped out. So the pie that is getting divided up here is snack-size to begin with.
Paul in any case is unlikely to make a run at the top spot in South Carolina. The state has a large military presence, and Paul’s non-interventionist views have not played well among Republicans there. That’s why his answers to foreign policy questions at times drew boos from the crowd during Monday’s South Carolina GOP debate. (However, Paul himself is now the only veteran in the race, as well as the only Protestant.)
Nate Silver, polling expert at the New York Times, has crunched a number of recent polls, and pronounces Paul’s chances of winning the South Carolina primary to be zero. He has Romney and Gingrich essentially tied, each with about a 34 percent chance of a victory.
For Paul, the race in South Carolina may be against Santorum. If the libertarian could edge out the social conservative for third, he might be able to declare some kind of victory.
But Paul's campaign has not put much emphasis on South Carolina, or the upcoming primary state of Florida, where he’s polling only in the high single digits. Instead it is looking to Nevada, Maine, and other caucus states as places where its committed supporters can produce delegates. Paul’s big advantage at the moment is cash: unlike Santorum, or even Gingrich, he has a well-lubricated fund-raising machine that looks as if it will enable him to keep campaigning as long as he wants.
Watch this video by Monitor Staff photographer Ann Hermes on the key issues on the minds of social conservative or values voters in South Carolina.
There are times when a few votes can make an enormous difference in a political race. Just ask Al Gore, who won the national popular vote in 2000 but likely lost the presidency over the Florida recount involving a tiny number of paper ballots. Hanging chads, anybody?
Such is not the case with the rejiggered results of the Iowa caucuses, except perhaps for bragging rights as the remaining Republican hopefuls prepare for Thursday night's debate in South Carolina.
For the record, here are the numbers – with one big caveat involving missing results from eight precincts.
Initially declared the winner by just eight votes out of more than 120,000 total, Romney now winds up 34 votes behind Santorum, according to party officials in Iowa.
But as Jennifer Jacobs, chief politics writer for the Des Moines Register, writes: “There are too many holes in the certified totals from the Iowa caucuses to know for certain who won.”
Results from eight precincts are missing – any of which could hold an advantage for Romney – and will never be recovered and certified, Republican Party of Iowa officials told Iowa’s leading newspaper.
“GOP officials discovered inaccuracies in 131 precincts, although not all the changes affected the two leaders,” Ms. Jacobs writes. “Changes in one precinct alone shifted the vote by 50 – a margin greater than the certified tally.”
“In the near term, the results are a shot of encouragement for Santorum, as well as the other anti-Romney candidates, who no longer have to contend with the idea that Romney won an unprecedented one-two victory in Iowa and New Hampshire,” writes Alexander Burns at Politico.com. “If Newt Gingrich were to win South Carolina, the early-state scoreboard would suddenly look rather different than it did at the start of the week.”
But just as important, Mr. Burns writes, “The botched vote count is a real embarrassment for Iowa and its caucus process, which lured candidates to devote weeks and months of their time to the state and spend an awful lot of money there. What did they get in exchange?”
The other thing about Iowa is, it’s so two weeks ago.
Think of what’s happened since then. The New Hampshire primary. Four debates. Three candidates dropping out (Bachmann, Huntsman, and Perry). New questions about Romney’s wealth and the tax rate he enjoys. Gingrich’s second wife going public with her version of an affair with the congressional staffer who became his third wife. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart satirizing the whole business.
In any case, the results in Iowa might more accurately be called a “split decision.”
“I think people realize it’s a tie,” former Iowa Republican Chairman Richard Schwarm told the Associated Press. Besides, he adds, “It’s a straw poll that has no impact on how we pick delegates.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio Wednesday did a sharp about-face and withdrew his support for the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the face of widespread Web protests that the Senate bill and a companion House measure would restrict Internet freedom.
This being a political blog, not a techie one, our question is this: Does Senator Rubio’s flip-flop help or hurt his chances of becoming the GOP’s 2012 vice-presidential candidate?
First, some background: Rubio was one of the original co-sponsors of the PIPA legislation. Supporters say PIPA would help stop international electronic piracy, which is sapping dollars and jobs out of the US movie, music, and publishing businesses. Opponents say it would go too far by, among other things, empowering the US government to decide whether to block access to foreign websites it deems suspect.
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Florida has a big movie industry presence. (Disney World, anyone? Perhaps the Universal Studios tour?) But Rubio for weeks has faced pressure from constituents and some conservative commentators to oppose PIPA and its government-centric solution to the Internet piracy problem.
On Wednesday, the day Wikipedia went black and homework came to a halt, Rubio was one of the first of a string of senators who decided to change their minds. He announced the change on his Facebook page, saying, “Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.”
For his part, Rubio has long been mentioned as a prime veep choice – he’s young, telegenic, a tea party favorite, and hails from a swing state that commands a lot of electoral votes. He’d be a great complement for a northern ex-governor who is kind of stiff and not the first choice of conservatives. Not that we’re naming names, but his initials are Mitt Romney.
We think Rubio helped his chances with Wednesday’s PIPA switch. That’s because some conservative commentators who had vowed to oppose even his reelection if he supported the bill hailed his reversal as evidence of his fitness for higher office.
“Senator Marco Rubio of Florida showed again why he is a real leader and listener within the conservative movement,” wrote Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative RedState blog and a fervent PIPA opponent, on Wednesday.
Other conservatives noted that one of the primary lobbyists supporting PIPA and its related House bill, the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) is Chris Dodd, the motion picture industry’s top person in Washington and a former Democratic Senator from Connecticut.
So that’s what Rubo’s gained: He’s positioned himself against more government control of the economy, and against a guy who is a bête noir of Republicans for his co-authorship of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which established a new government consumer watchdog group, among other things. Sounds like a VP possibility win-win, in our book.
However, we should note that opposition and support of the anti-piracy bill doesn’t break down easily along partisan lines. A conservative Republican, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, wrote the House’s SOPA bill. Two Democrats – Rep. Anna Eshoo of California and Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon – blacked out their congressional websites on Wednesday in support of the fight against the legislation.
RECOMMENDED: How five websites protested SOPA
Well, there is some evidence that may be the case. But it is preliminary, and may actually reflect a tightening of the race that has been underway for some time.
First up is a new CNN/Time poll, which finds that, in South Carolina, Mr. Romney is now the choice of 33 percent of likely Republican voters, down from 37 percent in early January. Ex-Speaker Gingrich, by contrast, is now the choice of 23 percent of GOP South Carolinians, up from 18 percent in the previous survey.
Yes, this poll shows that something may be going on. But as polling expert Nate Silver of The New York Times notes on his Twitter feed, pollsters started work on this survey on Jan. 13, so it’s impossible to tell whether there’s been a sharp rise in support for Gingrich since the debate.
It’s possible that the gap is even closer than the CNN results show. If it isn’t, Gingrich still looks likely to finish in second place: a 10-point gap is fairly large with only days to go before the vote.
Mr. Silver tweets that Insight LLC has showed him a poll that shows big movement toward Gingrich, but has small sample size. Again, that would be a hint of something, but not a definitive proof.
Bottom line: Silver has adjusted his rolling prediction of South Carolina’s results. He now says Gingrich has an 11 percent chance of winning, up from 8 percent. Romney’s chance of victory is 87 percent, according to Silver.
Which, we will point out, is pretty high. But not 100 percent, by any means.
Meanwhile, national polls are showing mixed signals about Newt-mentum at the moment.
Gallup’s five-day rolling average still has Romney with a comfortable lead over Gingrich, 33 percent of voters to 16 percent. That’s down a few points over the last three days.
Rassmussen Reports has a snap poll out Wednesday that shows much bigger movement, however. It puts Romney only three points ahead of Gingrich, 30 to 27.
The bottom line? There’s somethin’ happenin’ here. What it is, ain’t exactly clear.
Where is Ron Paul?
On the eve of the final debate of the South Carolina primary, Congressman Paul wasn’t barnstorming the state, like his rivals in the Republican presidential primary.
Instead, he headed back to Washington to lend his voice to a resolution certain to have no impact – not the first lost cause for a lawmaker known in the House for his lone dissenting votes.
It’s all but impossible for the GOP-controlled House to block President Obama’s request for a $1.2 trillion hike in the national debt limit. Paul said as much when he took to the floor on Wednesday to back a resolution of disapproval.
“We’re here today to try to prevent the national debt from going up another $1.2 trillion, but in a way it’s a formality, because most people know that the national debt is going up $1.2 trillion,” he said, in the same measured tone he has used to admonish his colleagues on limited government since coming to the House in 1976.
In effect, this battle was lost on Aug. 1, when 174 Republicans joined Democrats in backing the Budget Control Act, which laid out a path to take the nation back from the brink of the first-ever default on the national debt. It allows the president to raise the debt limit $1.2 trillion on his own, unless Congress passes a resolution of disapproval with veto-proof two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate. If Congress fails to pass a motion of disapproval, the debt ceiling will increase on Jan. 27.
But for Paul, this vote – and the GOP presidential race – is also an opportunity to make a case for less government and, over time, build support for a more limited view of government.
“The crisis we’re in has been building for a long period of time, and it’s very bipartisan,” Paul said. “We used to be able to get away with it, but now we’re nonproductive. The good jobs are overseas and the spending is increasing exponentially.”
“We need to stop the spending,” he added. “I believe we’re in denial here in the Congress. If we had the vaguest idea how serious this crisis is financially for us and the rest of the world, we would stop the spending.”
Democrats called the resolution a charade, a pretense and a sham. “This legislation is to pay bills that we’ve already incurred,” said House minority whip Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland on the floor of the House. “Whether it was incurred with your votes or our votes, we have incurred those expenses.”
Rep. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona, who, like Paul, often breaks with Democrats and his own party on spending issues, conceded on the floor that even the controversial budget proposed by House Budget Chair Paul Ryan, which House Republicans passed in 2011, would have required hikes in the national debt limit to avoid default.
The resolution of disapproval "is a charade," he said during Wednesday's floor debate. "But at least we had a discussion."
The measure of disapproval passed the House on a near party line vote, 239 to 176 – well short of the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a presidential veto. The Senate takes up the measure next week, where it is expected to fail.
Did Sarah Palin really endorse Newt Gingrich Tuesday night on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show? A lot of folks in the "lame-stream media" are leaping to the conclusion that she did, but we’re not so sure.
Yes, Todd Palin has already said he’s backing the former speaker of the House. And when Mr. Hannity asked Ms. Palin if she would follow suit, the former Alaska governor said this: “If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I’d vote for Newt.”
But the context is interesting here. First of all, Palin made it clear that what she really wants is for Mitt Romney to continue to have an array of conservative competition. The debates should keep going, she said, because “iron sharpens iron and steel sharpens steel.” More to the point, continuing competition would mean that maybe voters would get to examine the potential problems of potential nominees prior to the actual nomination.
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“With the front-runner and with all the candidates, there are still too many questions,” said Palin, adding that these questions have to do with “their business dealings ... and their experience while serving in office.”
“Front-runners and whoever it is have to have everything out there,” Palin said.
Palin did not mention Romney by name. But all the other non-Ron Paul candidates remaining in the race got a shout-out from John McCain’s 2008 veep choice. She had something good to say about all their performances in Monday night’s South Carolina debate.
“Somebody must have been able to import it to him because he was on fire with some of those segments he participated in,” Palin told Hannity.
Rick Santorum? “Santorum, too, he had an opponent up on the ropes,” she said, without mentioning that that opponent might have been – you guessed it – Romney.
Palin was on for 10 minutes or so, and near the end, Hannity asked her directly whether she’d just endorsed Gingrich. She skittered around the question like, well, a politician.
“You know, I want that process to continue,” she repeated.
Our bottom line: Palin is pushing the guy she likes most, but wants to leave open her options to maybe swerve and go with somebody else if that somebody else looks like a better option.
She’s even leaving the door open a crack to a Romney endorsement. Asked if she’d back him if he were the nominee, she did not say no. She said, “I have said ... from the beginning, anybody but Obama.”
RECOMMENDED: Eight of Newt Gingrich's unusual ideas
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No doubt about it, Mitt Romney has walked into a buzz saw of bad publicity over his income taxes.
First he hems and haws about revealing his returns, before agreeing to release them in April – knowing all along, certainly, that he would have to. Then he lets drop that he pays an effective rate of 15 percent, because his income derives mostly from investments rather than a salary. That’s well below the 25 percent President Obama paid and the 23.4 percent Texas Gov. Rick Perry paid in 2010 -– and, of course, well below what middle-class working stiffs pay.
And how about those speaking fees? Mr. Romney also casually mentioned that he makes money giving speeches, “but not very much.” Turns out Romney’s definition of not very much is $374,327.62, the amount he made from speeches between February 2010 and February 2011, according to his financial disclosure forms.
RECOMMENDED: How much do you know about Mitt Romney? A quiz.
Romney’s opponents for the Republican presidential nomination have roughed up the former Massachusetts governor as best they could over the tax issue – as has Team Obama, which expects to face Romney in November.
But here’s why, in the end, the whole tax kerfuffle probably won’t matter, both in the Republican nomination fight and, if Romney gets the nod, against President Obama.
Voters already know that Romney is very wealthy, with a stated net worth of between $190 million and $250 million. That information is already baked into their assessment of him, both as a potential president and in that elusive measure of “likability.” Now that they know his (low) tax rate, chances are Republican voters aren’t suddenly going to decide that he’ll have a harder time beating Mr. Obama than the other GOP candidates in the field.
Knowing Romney’s tax rate doesn’t change the fact that he is best equipped to take on Obama in terms of money-raising and organization. It also doesn’t much change the calculus going into November. At heart, Obama’s reelection chances rest on how Americans are feeling about the economy, not on the tax advantages his wealthy opponent has, if it’s Romney.
The fact that Romney pays only a 15 percent tax rate may breed some resentment, but assuming that he is playing by the rules, it’s not his fault that the IRS treats investment income more favorably than paid work. In fact, if some of the other GOP candidates had their way, and eliminated taxes on capital gains, Romney would be paying even less in taxes.
Romney was never going to score well on the proverbial measure of “someone you’d want to share a beer with” – or a root beer, in the case of the teetotaling Romney. Knowing his tax rate doesn’t make him seem any less relatable than he already was.
Americans have a complicated relationship with the wealthy. They may envy them, but many also admire them and want to be like them. That’s why Obama’s arguments about raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires aren’t as universally popular as one might expect.
Still, the Democrats are going to ride Romney’s new nickname – Mr. 15% – as long as they can. And because Romney’s wealth is a result of his years at Bain Capital – which involved not only helping build successful companies but also entailed closing businesses and firing people – there’s a nice one-two punch for attack ads and stump speeches.
Furthermore, as The New York Times reported last month, Romney continued to reap income from Bain deals through February 2009, nearly 10 years after he left the company. If Romney’s advisers can teach him one thing, it’s going to be to watch the “rich guy” rhetoric – references to multiple homes, lawn-care services, and making “not much” income from speeches.
The White House has already begun punching over Romney’s taxes. At his briefing on Tuesday, press secretary Jay Carney revealed a bit of opposition research on the history of presidential candidates and their tax returns.
“I think it was a tradition that was initiated by then-presidential candidate George Romney back in 1968, who released 12 years of tax records in ’68, as I understand it,” Mr. Carney said.
Former Michigan Gov. George Romney, of course, was Mitt Romney’s father.
Newt Gingrich thinks Mr. Romney’s linguistic skills are a big deal, all right. The ex-speaker has a new ad up called, “The French Connection,” that does its best to link Romney to failed Democratic presidential candidates Mike Dukakis and John Kerry. One way in which it does this is to play the French theme, hard.
The ad’s background music is accordions, the kind of thing they use in the soundtrack of low-budget films to say “Paris at night.” It puts up the famous clips of Michael Dukakis in a tank, looking like a chipmunk, and John Kerry windsurfing. (Is windsurfing a French sport?) It ends with this line: “Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney will say anything to win, anything... And just like John Kerry, he speaks French too.”
Then there’s a quick clip of Romney saying “bonjour,” followed by him announcing his name in French.
First off, we’ll say that if Romney speaks French, it’s only barely. In the ad it’s hard to tell if he’s saying his name or ordering a croque monsieur.
But European links indeed are a bad thing, at least to many in the GOP base. Europe is the home of European social democracies, which is what President Obama wants to turn the US into, which is why he’s a socialist. (We’re just repeating the argument.)
You’ll hear “Europe” and “France” invoked as negatives by many speakers at the GOP convention later this year. Just wait.
Plus, to link a US politician to Europe is to say implicitly he’s not the sort of person you could sit down at a sports bar with and have a discussion about whether Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis should retire.
South Carolina has a much more conservative electorate than does New Hampshire. In 2008, 60 percent of South Carolina voters in the GOP primary described themselves as “evangelicals.” This year in New Hampshire, only 22 percent of primary voters described themselves as such.
So it is possible that the Palmetto State could respond to this negative ad. It is kind of pitched to their world view. But it’s also possible they won’t, since negative ads about Romney don’t seem to be hurting him in South Carolina. At least, they aren’t hurting him yet. There’s been lots of talk about the ads funded by a pro-Gingrich super PAC that hit Romney for “heartless” behavior when he ran Bain Capital, but so far Romney’s polls are holding up OK.
A new Rasmussen survey has Romney in the lead in South Carolina, with 28 percent of the vote, compared to Gingrich’s 21 percent. In the RealClearPolitics rolling average of major polls, Romney has dropped a couple of points in the state from his high, and Gingrich has turned up a bit, but Romney would still be rated a comfortable favorite.
But we did see today an interesting piece on another aspect of Romney, personally, that could be a problem for him down the line. That aspect is financial: He’s rich, and voters know it.
A long post at the polling blog, Monkey Cage, suggests that Romney is vulnerable to charges that he’s a member of what the Occupy folks call the one percent. Seventy-two percent of respondents to a poll conducted by George Washington University political scientist John Sides and UCLA’s Lynn Vavreck said the phrase “personally wealthy” described Mitt Romney very well. (Some 45 percent said it described Barack Obama very well.) Furthermore, 89 percent said that the phrase “cares about the wealthy” also applied to Romney. (Fifty-five percent applied that phrase to Obama.)
Now, that would not be so much of a problem if voters also thought that Romney cared about people like them. But in the Sides poll, only 41 percent of respondents agreed with that statement.
So here is the problem that Romney confronts. Americans perceive him as personally wealthy more than they do Obama. They perceive him as caring more about the wealthy, but less about “people like me” and the middle class, than does Obama.
In part, it is due to polls such as these that many analysts believe that attacks on Romney’s record at Bain are just beginning, and will only accelerate if he wins the nomination and faces a well-funded and rested Obama machine in summer and fall.
IN PICTURES: Repeat contender: Mitt Romney
Newt Gingrich does not appear to be backing down from his attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital. In an interview with Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren on Thursday the ex-speaker doubled down on his assertions that Mr. Romney had broken companies and thrown people out of work, saying that he was talking about the actions of one individual as opposed to all of free enterprise in general.
“This isn’t about capitalism. This isn’t even about private equity funds. This is about one person who wants to be president of the United States,” said Mr. Gingrich. “He owes the country an explanation. Why were certain decisions made? How were they done? What was the consequence of them? Does he stand by them in retrospect?”
This assault on Romney’s business credentials will get a lot more exposure in South Carolina – the next state to hold a GOP primary – beginning today. The pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future on Thursday plans to start airing ads based on a 27-minute “King of Bain” video that includes interviews with workers who claim they lost their homes and livelihoods due to Bain actions.
There’s some evidence that Gingrich’s aggression is working. A new InsiderAdvantage poll of likely GOP voters in South Carolina has him at 21 percent, with Romney at 23 percent – a statistical tie.
But other polls still have Romney with a comfortable lead in the Palmetto State. He appears to be way ahead in Florida, next up on the primary schedule. Some hold-out conservatives are beginning to rally around Romney in the face of anti-Bain attacks from Gingrich and Rick Perry.
Is Gingrich thus only hurting himself with his decision to resort to campaign trench warfare?
For one thing, it’s a truism in politics that even effective negative ads can rebound and hurt the attacker as well as the attackee. And Gingrich has made it very clear that he approves of the anti-Bain ads, even though they’re funded by a Super PAC over which he has no control, technically-speaking.
It may already be happening. In New Hampshire, a plurality of 27 percent of voters said that Gingrich ran the most negative campaign in the state. Yet, as Slate’s Dave Weigel pointed out yesterday, Gingrich in fact did not run any negative ads in New Hampshire.
“Voters were reacting to the Bain talk,” wrote Mr. Weigel on Wednesday.
Plus, Gingrich is opening himself up to retaliation. The Super PAC associated with Romney, Restore Our Future, is well-funded and has already shown that it has no compunctions about going after Romney’s GOP opponents. It’s already airing an ad in South Carolina titled “Desperate” that quotes conservatives saying Gingrich’s anti-Bain attacks are “disgusting,” and so forth, and reminds viewers once again of Gingrich’s own political liabilities, such as his multiple extramarital affairs.
“Newt attacks because he has more baggage than the airlines,” says the ad’s narrator.
Finally Newt may be doing harm to Gingrich, Inc. Many in the GOP are upset at his actions, saying that he’s carrying water for Democrats. The Bain ads are surely a preview of what the Obama campaign would produce in a general election contest with Romney, they point out. In that sense Gingrich may be only softening up the party’s probable nominee for November.
Imagine how Gingrich’s many Washington-based business ventures might fare if Romney is the nominee, but loses. He might be shunned by former allies. Or what if Romney wins? Under a Romney administration, Gingrich-linked firms could become companies non grata.
In his Fix blog today Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza quotes a senior GOP figure thusly: “If [Gingrich] persists in trying to launch Newt nukes, then there will be those who react firmly in cutting off diplomatic relations and impose sanctions: invitations not extended, speaking opportunities cut off, certain TV opportunities don’t appear, help in clearing up campaign debt isn’t offered,” said the anonymous Republican.
IN PICTURES: Newt, now and then
Ron Paul did pretty well in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday. He placed second, slightly outperforming pre-election polls, and – perhaps more importantly – he tripled the number of votes he got in the Granite State when he ran for president in 2008. More and more, many in the GOP are realizing that this time around Ron Paul is a significant phenomenon that’s not going to fade away once the early primaries are over.
They’re also realizing that it’s counterproductive to dismiss the Texas libertarian’s followers as cranks, college students in favor of drug legalization, or disaffected liberals. The 2012 general election is likely to be close, and the GOP will need all the voters it can get.
Thus some in the GOP are beginning to make conciliatory noises about the Paulites. Tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina on Wednesday said that the Republican presidential candidates need to listen to Ron Paul and might do well to adopt some of his ideas, particularly on economics.
“One of the things that’s hurt the so-called conservative alternative [candidates] is saying negative things about Ron Paul,” said Senator DeMint on conservative Laura Ingraham’s radio show. “I’d like to see a Republican Party that embraces a lot of the libertarian ideas.”
How badly does the GOP need Paul’s voters? Consider this: In New Hampshire, Paul won 47 percent of voters aged 18 to 29.
Making inroads into Barack Obama’s appeal to younger demographics is high on the Republican National Committee’s to-do list. Keeping Paul adherents on the reservation would be one easy way to do that.
Plus, as the National Journal’s Major Garrett notes in a story Tuesday, young voters equal enthusiasm – and the GOP looks like it might actually have a developing enthusiasm problem.
Turnout in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries was fairly strong, but still less than what top Republicans in both states had predicted. If Mitt Romney becomes the nominee, as now appears likely, the party may need as many exciting surrogates as it can get on the campaign trail to try to inject energy into the race.
“Paul isn’t the only remedy. But he’s undoubtedly part of it,” writes the National Journal’s Garrett.
Paul could also be a means to keep committed fiscal conservatives happy with the GOP ticket if Mr. Romney is the eventual nominee. Paul’s non-interventionist views on foreign policy are out of step with many Republican voters, but his call for deep cuts in government spending, and his distrust of the Federal Reserve, are not. It’s possible some of Paul’s economic positions could find their way into the party platform.
Paul won 32 percent of voters in the New Hampshire primary who said the budget deficit was the one issue that most decided their vote. That result was a hair behind Romney, who won 34 percent of such voters. But Paul cleaned up among voters who said the one quality they most wanted in a candidate was for him to be a true conservative. The Texan took 41 percent of that vote. Romney got only 13 percent.
Hmm. It looks like Paul voters aren’t all Democrats who are disaffected with the current administration, does it?
As a last bit of evidence as to why the GOP needs Ron Paul voters, look at the Republican nightmare: Romney as the nominee, and Paul as a third-party candidate.
In mid-December, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found Romney versus Obama to be a toss-up, with each candidate winning 47 percent. Inject a Ron Paul third party bid into this equation, however, and Obama wins, taking a plurality of 42 percent to Romney’s 32 percent and Paul’s 21 percent.
“Should Paul decide that his cause is best championed via a third party bid for president, the impact would be disastrous for Republicans next fall,” wrote Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza on Wednesday in a story titled “Ron Paul is the most dangerous man in the Republican Party.”