Ron Paul: How badly does GOP need his voters?
Many in the GOP realize that Ron Paul is not going to fade away once the early primaries are over. If Ron Paul doesn't win the primary battle, they'll need his voters to win in the general election.
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.Skip to next paragraph
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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.