Ron Paul wins Iowa! Does that matter?

Ron Paul's final victory in Iowa – Mitt Romney won the caucuses, but Paul got most of the delegates – could affect how hard Paul supporters push to get their issues on the agenda at the GOP's national convention.

LM Otero/AP
US Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas smiles as he takes the stage to speak during a breakout session of the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 7. Congressman Paul suspended his presidential campaign in May, but he gave a speech to the Texas GOP convention. His supporters have continued amassing delegates to the party's national convention.

Ron Paul won Iowa! At the Iowa GOP convention over the weekend, supporters of the Texas libertarian walked away with 23 of the state’s 28 national convention delegates. Under state Republican rules, those delegates are unbound, meaning they can vote for Congressman Paul in August in Tampa, Fla., if they please. It’s another example of how Paul’s strategy of getting his people organized at the grass-roots level has (somewhat) paid off in the end.

But does this Hawkeye State victory come too late to really much matter in the larger scheme of GOP politics?

We’d say yes, no, and no. But before we explain that, let’s stop for a moment to consider Iowa’s multiple 2012 Republican caucus results. We don’t know what they’re putting in the pork cutlets there these days, but looked at as a whole this year’s Iowa vote was positively hallucinatory.

Remember? The first announced result following Iowa’s traditional caucus kickoff to the presidential nomination cycles was that Mitt Romney won by eight votes. Then two weeks later Rick Santorum was certified as winner by 34 votes.

But those caucus votes were a straw poll. Now, months later, it turns out that the people who stuck around and get themselves picked to go to this week’s state convention were overwhelmingly Paul supporters. So that brings us to the third and final Iowa victor, Ron Paul. (Too bad they couldn’t figure a way to let Newt Gingrich win it for a few days, too, just as a gesture to GOP inclusiveness.)

Ron Paul’s campaign is hailing the Iowa results as a big win. “Dr. Paul’s victory in the Hawkeye State affirms his delegate-attainment strategy and it has the added benefit of having occurred in the first-in-nation voting state, also a swing state,” asserts a campaign press release.

But we’d argue the straw poll results had a bigger impact on the GOP horse race than this late-in-the-day delegate win. Michele Bachmann had to do well to survive, and didn’t. Rick Santorum, by contrast, did do well, and kept rising.

“Santorum’s tie/win/close second in the January vote was what affirmed him as the anti-Romney,” writes Timothy Carney on the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog.

However, we’d also argue that the final Iowa results could have an impact on how Ron Paul’s army views their candidate – and that in turn could influence the tone of the pro-Ron Paul rally in Tampa now scheduled for Aug. 26.

Paul himself announced Paulstock (our term) in a video to supporters last week.

“We’d really like a large turnout for this. Numbers are important... We should not be disruptive but neither should we be pushed around,” he said.

The Iowa results could also affect how hard Paul's forces push inside the convention to get some of their pet issues – control of the Federal Reserve, Internet freedom – recognized in the party platform.

Interestingly, the Paul forces may have identified an adversary in this effort, and it isn’t Mitt Romney. It’s Rick Santorum.

In the aforementioned video to supporters, Paul mentioned that Santorum has vowed to rally conservatives to oppose some of Paul’s moves. At this, Paul took umbrage.

“It is true the Santorum people are principled. They’re also authoritarians. They want to use the government to impose their will on us as individuals,” said Paul.

Paul generally has refrained from punching at Romney, and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, has endorsed Romney. Holding up Santorum as an opponent could give his supporters someone on whom to vent their ire without jeopardizing a possible Ron Paul speaking slot at the convention or Rand Paul’s future in the party.

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