Will Ron Paul pick up many of Rick Perry's voters?

While Perry has endorsed Gingrich, Ron Paul stands to benefit somewhat from his fellow Texan's departure from the Republican race. But then, so do the rest of the candidates. 

By , Staff writer

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    Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas greets supporters after speaking at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., Thursday. Will he benefit from Rick Perry dropping out of the presidential race?
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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.

Recommended: The roar of Ron Paul: Five of his unorthodox views on the economy

Strictly speaking, Paul certainly will benefit from Mr. Perry pulling out. Mr. Gingrich won’t get all of Perry’s support. Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum will all pick up a share.

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.

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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.

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