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Irony is winning the Iowa caucuses

Irony is winning the Iowa caucuses

How ironic would it be if a month-long onslaught by conservative media and attack ads run against Newt non-stop by a Mitt Romney supporting SuperPAC resulted in Ron Paul winning the Iowa caucuses?  Paul also is running attack ads, but without the rest of the pile on, they would not have done much damage.

That’s what the latest PPP polling is showing, with Newt down to third at 14%, Romney at 20% and Paul at 23%.  Santorum, Perry and Bachmann each have 10%.

I’d still wait for more polling before concluding that the damage has been so extensive to Newt, but there is no doubt he has been hurt.  Some other good analyses are at National Journal (which says don’t count Newt out yet) and Nate Silver.  (added) Ed Morrissey also questions PPP polling sample. (See also, Debunking PPP in Iowa)

So why would this be ironic?  Not because Paul will win or Newt will not win.

First, it’s ironic that Romney still is not able to push his numbers even to the 25% he won in Iowa in 2008.  So by going all out in Iowa to bring Newt down, Romney may end up proving the weakness of his own case for the nomination.  My guess is that is a price he is willing to pay, but it reminds us once again that this campaign is a search for someone other than Romney, even to the extent that close to a quarter of the Iowa caucus goers are willing to stand up for Ron Paul.

Second, the GOP establishment has so invested itself in Romney’s candidacy that it has increased the likelihood of the one thing that would hand Barack Obama the election, a Ron Paul third party candidacy.

Paul has never completely shut the door, only saying he has no present plans and finds it hard to imagine a scenario in which he runs third party.  I believe Paul is being honest, but I also see a clear scenario in which he runs, captured by the title of this column today by Tim Carney, GOP will take off the gloves if Ron Paul wins Iowa:

The Republican presidential primary has become a bit feisty, but it will get downright ugly if Ron Paul wins the Iowa caucuses….

But neither his establishment-irritating adherence to principle, nor his hawk-angering foreign policy, will be the focus of the anti-Paul attacks should he carry Iowa. His conservative critics and the mainstream media will imply that he is a racist, a kook, and a conspiracy theorist.

Paul’s indiscretions — such as abiding 9/11 conspiracy theorists and allowing racist material in a newsletter published under his name — will be blown up to paint a scary caricature. His belief in state’s rights and property rights will be distorted into support for Jim Crow and racism.

Many of Paul opponents will take heart in concluding that Paul cannot get more than 25 percent in any state, and so he can be dismissed as a spoiler. But for the enforcers of Republican orthodoxy, a Paul victory in Iowa will be an act of impudence that must be punished.

If Paul is treated as badly or worse than Newt has been treated, expect a backlash and desire to vindicate his name with a third party run,  and expect his supporters, who represent about 10% of the party nationally, to push hard to get even.

I still believe, nothwithstanding everything that has happened, that Newt is the most conservative candidate who is electable, both against Romney and Obama.

The ultimate irony is that in the feeding frenzy spurred on by the GOP establishment desire for a Romney nomination, we may end up with a Ron Paul third party run and an Obama victory.


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As usual Professor, you have nailed it. Ever notice the similarity between Obamabots and Paulbots?

Bitterlyclinging | December 19, 2011 at 9:33 am

(Redstate has a little different take on it.)

“The problem with the poll is that it’s just not likely to be true, though. We have a benchmark for evaluating this poll: 2008 Iowa caucus entrance polls. The partisan alignment is all wrong: In 2008 the caucuses, being closed of course, included 86% self-identified Republicans, 13% self-identified Independents who presumably registered Republican to caucus, 1% Democrats, 1% “Other.” PPP’s poll drops the Republican proportion to 75%, raises Independents to 19%, and raises Democrats to 5%. Guess who’s helped by both of those shifts, which are far outside the Margin of Error and so predict genuine, large shifts in the partisan makeup of the closed Iowa caucuses. That’s right: Ron Paul, who wins 40% of Democrats, 34% of Independents, but only 19% of Republicans according to the poll.”

    Beat me to it. Stevens is a good poll-reader kind of guy so I trust his analysis.

    valleyforge in reply to Bitterlyclinging. | December 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    You’re kidding, right? In 2008 there was a contested Democratic caucus that drew twice as many people as the Republican caucus. This year those Independents and Democrats have no reason to turn out for a Democratic caucus, so if they want to send a message, guess where they can go?

    Talk about fighting the last war.

while i agree with prof re newt i have always held out hope for perry. i think he will be iowa surprise. rombots have always feared perry the most thats why newt surprised them.

2 weeks ago I was beginning to feel hopeful, now I am pissed!

I bet some of the GOP insiders would have a stroke if Paul wins. If they think Newt is too much of a lose cannon one can only imagine what they think of Ron Paul.

The only way I can see Paul having any chance at winning Iowa is if the race ends with flat results – where there isn’t much space between #1, #2, #3, & #4.

As far as Paul running third party – the guy has already said he’s hoping for a short primary due to his age. I strongly doubt Paul will want to run as a third party. Given that, it would seem to me that Gingrich winning the nomination would be the thing most likely to persuade Paul to run third party. Paul seems to have a special dislike of Gingrich.

As a Perry supporter, things keep looking better and better.

Another consideration working against a potential Paul 3rd party run is his son, Rand Paul, currently on everyone’s roster of GOP up-and-comers. A Ron Paul 3rd party effort would help Obama and no one else, and would earn Paul the enmity of Republicans and conservatives everywhere. I’m not sure Ron Paul wants to so denigrate the Paul name that son Rand is held guilty by familial association, a la ‘the sins of the father…’. Unfair, but a lot of people couldn’t or wouldn’t allow the distinction.

This is a PPP poll and can be safely discounted.

freedomlovingmom27 | December 19, 2011 at 11:27 am

The following article by Jeffrey Lord in the American Spectator documents racist comments by Ron Paul. He needs to be exposed before the primaries start.

    Just as a matter of clarification, an Author in the Ron Paul Newsletter made those statements. None of them yet has been attributed directly to Ron Paul (key word: yet).

    Yes, Ron Paul’s name is the Newsletter, but that doesn’t mean that he wrote everything for it, just like Steve Forbes isn’t necessarily responsible for everything in Forbes Magazine.

    So, they’re not necessarily “racist comments by Ron Paul.”

      Henry Hawkins in reply to Chuck Skinner. | December 19, 2011 at 11:53 am

      That’s a pretty slim distinction, especially when the offensive newsletters were written under Paul’s name in the first person, they went on for many many issues, and Ron Paul only disavowed them when they began to hurt him politically.

      Do we really suppose the Dem campaign ads will honor your distinction?

      ‘It wasn’t me, it was a staff member’ is a viable defense?


        I’m inclined to believe that Reason Magazine got it right in 2008 by pointing to Llewellyn (Lew) Rockwell, Jr., Paul’s former chief of staff and founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, even though Rockwell denied writing the articles.

        Alternatively, it might have been Murray Rothbard (a libertarian theorist) or Jeff Tucker, one of the assistants.

        As for if the Democratic Opponent will make such a subtle distinction: No. I think that were Paul to become the nominee, he would be hammered with it time and again.

        However, that in and of itself might also be dangerous for the Democratic Candidate, in that the letters have a point: there is a visceral distaste for “political correctness” which sweeps the issues of the thuggish nature of many black youth, gang violence and abuse of the welfare state under the rug. The risk in bringing it up is that the Democrat Opponent would then have to talk about it.

        The socio-economic turmoil wrought by the breakdown of the nuclear, two-parent family, especially in the black community HAS led explicitly to the formation of an underclass mostly of young black men, but the latino community is rapidly catching up, who become gang members, have no respect for authority, and survive solely by theft and drug dealing. I guarantee you NEITHER party wants to have that conversation. The Democrat party doesn’t want to have it because it flies in the face of the “I can do what I want without consequences or responsibility” mentality they have fostered for 50 years, and the Republicans don’t want to have that conversation because they’re afraid of the “RAAAAACIST” label that would be hurled at them because the problem primarily presents in one race (or now two) and that race would bear the significant impact of any efforts to correct the problems.

        The people who ARE going to be out there pushing the fact that we can no longer afford political correctness are the people like me, the people who are out there on the pointy-end who deal with those black and latino youth, and who are desperately attempting to provide a strong male role model to teach manners, skills, and provide them with the education that the public schools have abandoned. Out of the 50 or so children I assist with homework and mentoring every week, I can count on ONE HAND the number of Fathers or other ‘Father figures’ involved in their lives.

        Yes, a lot of what was contained in the Ron Paul newsletters was incendiary, inflammatory and some of it was even racist. But some of it was exactly on the mark.

          Henry Hawkins in reply to Chuck Skinner. | December 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm

          I think it was more than a little racist and it is a deal killer. Paul will be rightfully hammered for it from the left and right.

          Then they’ll bring in the Alex Jones insanity by Paul.

Subotai Bahadur | December 19, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Since I do not really believe that the Institutional Republicans want to win the presidency; and being a suspicious sort; I can see Tim Carney’s scenario as being one of their contingency plans.

1) In the cases Carney cites, and others, the Institutionals have documented history of open collaboration with the Democrats if the “wrong” person wins on the Republican side of the fence.
2) Openly declaring war on Ron Paul [who for the record I believe to be nuttier than a squirrel latrine] may have the effect of driving the Paulbots into a third party run or sitting out the election. This, to the Institutionals, is a feature and not a bug.
3) There is a possible secondary effect in that if they are too blatant, they may also convince the Patriot movement that there is no hope for working within the Republican party. Which would also give the presidency to the Democrats, which would please the Institutionals, but they would not have long to enjoy their victory because they would find themselves following the path of the Whigs. Given their famous deft touch in dealings with the Patriot movement, this is not an unlikely scenario.

Subotai Bahadur

I wouldn’t worry too much about the numbers in this poll yet. Yes, the Newt bashing has taken some toll in Iowa, and yes it appears that Ron Paul is ascendant, however:

First, as BitterlyClinging and abenson229 above point out, the PPP poll is fundamentally flawed because of it’s sample, which over-represents Paul and Romeny supporters at the expense of more Conservative candidates, especially Newt and Perry.

Second, Ron Paul is not going to run as a 3rd party candidate. He’s just not going to do it. He doesn’t have the self-built organizational support, even with his small army of super-loyal supporters, he doesn’t have the resources necessary to mount a third party campaign. Further: what would it be named? “The Ron Paul Party” is just a bit pretentious. While every state has a libertarian party line, the national Libertarian Party Committee organization is having problems raising money to finish THEIR OWN BUILDING (41K short as of December 8th 2011), and I don’t think that the Libertarian Party want’s to hitch it’s wagon to Ron Paul again, like it did in 1988 when he received 0.5% of the vote.

Third: Everybody always talks a big game in the Primaries that “if [X] is/isn’t the candidate, I’ll start a third party run.” It NEVER happens because once the candidate is chosen, the donors get behind the national parties. Even with McCain, who the Conservatives abhorred, the donors got in line (although with all deference to Matthew Knee’s prior post, by the election Conservative turnout WAS depressed and Statist-Leaning independent turnout WAS increased in the 2008 election due to lack of excitement over the candidate and the media hype about the “historic” nature of the Obama election). The ONLY serious third party candidacy in modern history was Ross Perot, and he was almost entirely self-bankrolled. I’m ignoring Nader as the perennial candidate. By the way, Donald Trump won’t do it either – he’s too over-leveraged in order to free up sufficient capital to make it happen in the compressed time-frame necessary.

My guess is that Ron Paul places a distant THIRD in Iowa at 12%-15% behind both Newt and Romney Placing in the low 30%s each if Paul is lucky, and that’s only because Perry has all but ignored Iowa in favor of South Carolina (where he just got stabbed in the back by Gov. Nikki Haley).

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Chuck Skinner. | December 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    What’s your take on a potential Santorum Iowa surprise, given how he’s hit every county and has been all over the state? I don’t expect he’ll win, but is there any sense he’ll take a surprising 3rd or 2nd? On paper, at least, Santorum seems tailor made for Iowa.

      Hi Henry,

      It’s possible that Santorum could pull off a surprise showing in Iowa, but I think it unlikely:

      Santorum seems to hit most of the right notes for Iowa, but I think people think of him too much as an “also ran” candidate for him to get too much traction. He’s been to every county, if I remember correctly, which engenders good feelings.

      He’s a bit weak on tax policy, which is a big subject in Iowa due to the FairTAX supporters building their base there. Where the candidate stands on tax policy will be a big decider as to who the caucus-goers select. That’s part of the reason Herman Cain (999 plan with a consumption tax component as a step toward consumption-only taxation) did poll well there and Gingrich (Flat tax) is polling well there. He’s for a lower tax burden, but kind of fuzzy on the details.

      His Social-Conservatism plays well to the typical Iowa caucus-goer, which will help him.

      However his stance on Corn subsidies is going to damage him somewhat (he wants to phase out ethanol subsidies and start subsidizing “flex-fuel” stations). Corn subsidies are just about the “Holy Grail” in Iowa because so much of the populace are farmers, which grow literally mountains of corn.

      Predicting from today, all things being equal, I would guess that Santorum comes in 5th, behind Perry and about equal with Paul, but ahead of Bachmann. Some of that is dependent upon the weather on the night of the caucus. Most of Santorum’s supporters are likely to be older voters with whom he resonates well. If the weather is particularly bad, I kind of foresee most of Paul’s supporters staying home (younger, less invested), while most of Santorum’s will likely brave it, which could push him up.

      My best guess is the numbers will end up looking something like this: Gingrich 27%, Romney 22%, Perry %16, Paul 10%, Santorum 10%, Bachmann 7%, Cain 1% (there will be some who vote for him anyway to make a point unless he specifically endorses before then), with up to 5% being divided by “other” candidates (+/-3% for any particular candidate)

        Note: I rethought my numbers from the first post to the second post accounting for the spread in the candidates. Thus, the low 30s from the first post for Gingrich and Romney to the specific 27% and 22%.

    valleyforge in reply to Chuck Skinner. | December 19, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I don’t think Paul will run third-party either, but your reasons are not convincing. The Libertarian Party and Constitution Party would both love to nominate him (in fact, some of the state parties of the Constitution Party put him on the ballot in 2008 in MT and LA), and the reason the LP is short on funds is because their members are donating to Ron Paul ($4 million this past weekend). The Libertarians have been on 45-50 state ballots in every election since 1980, and that’s on a budget of $500,000, not the millions Paul could throw at it. Saying Paul doesn’t have an infrastructure is silly, since he built one in 2008 and has been nurturing it for 4 years, is now opening offices in February and March caucus and primary states, had over 110,000 contributors through Q3, has a very active online phone banking operation, and is said to have the best Iowa ground game.

    As to your prediction, I’ll bet you $10,000 that Paul beats Gingrich, which based on the current trajectory is not saying much. He could get 2-3 times his vote in fact.

      Hi ValleyForge,

      They’re just my opinions. I’ll pass on the bet. I’m a bit risk-averse right now. You’re entitled to think they’re not convincing. However, here’s part of the reason I think they’re on the mark:

      1.) There were a LOT of hard feelings after Ron Paul did so poorly in the 1988 Presidential race on the Libertarian line. Paul still thinks of the national Libertarian committee as “libertarian light;” that the Libertarian Party doesn’t believe in true Libertarianism, but a watered-down version of it that gives up too much to the Government.

      2.) Yes, some individual state parties did put him on the ballot, but it was in no way coordinated with any other states parties. It was a “we don’t like anybody else in the race move, so lets pick a name that’s recognizable to guarantee our eligibility for matching funds next time” move.

      3.) Yes, Ron Paul is pulling a moderate amount of money for a primary, but I don’t think that it is coming at the expense of the Libertarian or Constitution parties. I think that money is coming from Paul’s dedicated support base that are beholden to Paul’s personality (some would call it a cult) and his “let’s throw out the baby with the bathwater” stance so far. As of the end of September (the last official FEC numbers), His net total contributions were about $12.1 Million. If he’s got 110K donors, that would put the average donor at $110. That is not a big number for that size of a donor base.

      4.) There’s a difference between exuberance and infrastructure (believe me, I know it firsthand). Paul has Exuberance in his followers. Exuberance is being willing to show up for an event when the candidate is there (maybe draw 400-1000 people), and willing to donate $25 or $50. Infrastructure is having smoothly-running local campaign offices with people being willing to show up to that office every day, likely unpaid, to make phone calls, get flyers to go door-to-door (and the maps of registered party voters to do so), meet with donors, set up and take down meet-and-greets and events, and do all the other myriad little things to make the campaign run. Not a single one of the candidates right now has the infrastructure to run a 3rd party campaign, nor anywhere NEAR the money and without a serious schism in one of the major parties they won’t anytime in the near future (*ahem* TEA Partiers being ignored by the Republican Establishment might cause this). Even with infrastructure, unpaid help goes out the window when things like Final Exams, Spring Break, bad weather, or personal issues come up. In order to have proper infrastructure, the candidates should ALREADY have offices open in every state, and every major-metro area.

      5.) You can’t even run a decent Mayor’s race in a medium size city for less than $200,000, and that’s with 60%+ name recognition starting out. I’m willing to stand on a claim that 99.5% of the population doesn’t know that the Libertarian party even exists. The Libertarian party gets by with just enough signatures to get their candidate on the ballot, but they have zero promotion ability. Even if Ron Paul were to end his campaign and work exclusively on raising money for the Libertarian party, I’m reasonably confident he would not be able to exceed $30 Million even if he raised money right up to the general election next November. If Paul isn’t a major 2-party candidate, the money will wither on the vine.

      6.) I would be VERY skeptical of the claim of Ron Paul having the best ground game in Iowa. Both Santorum and Bachmann have spent more time there, and put more resources there. Just because the Paul-bots are loudest, doesn’t mean that they’re convincing, or even reaching, the most people.

      I will be very much surprised if Ron Paul breaks 15%, even in Iowa. I will be absolutely shocked if Ron Paul comes in first. Again, just my thoughts on the subject.

[…] thing that would hand Barack Obama the election, a Ron Paul third party candidacy.” – William Jacobson, Legal InsurrectionEverybody chill, OK? It’s merely a poll. And despite the impressive increase in Ron […]

Just a thought, but is it possible that a Paul third party run takes a good chunk out of the dem vote as well as the gop? All the Paul supporters I know are liberals who support Paul for his foreign policy views alone. (Granted, this is on a college campus.) Has there ever been any polling done is this regard?

Paul would draw primarily from the ranks of independent me-too-ers who do not grasp how his criminally naive foreign policy would get us all killed, who ignore or are woefully unaware of Ron Paul’s crazier aspects, vis-a-vis his endorsement of much of Alex Jones’ insane conspiracies, and ignore/are unaware of his newsletters from the 80s and early 90s, much of which was nastily racist and hands any opposition all it needs to knock Paul down and out. Paul denies authorship of the mewsletters, but they appear under his name, are written in the first person, and were serial – many issues – not just one issue with patently racist content that might be plausibly blamed on an unsupervised staffer.

In other words, beyond his perrennial Paulbots, any additional support for Paul as a third party candidate would come primarily from anti-establishment rebels without a clue (AERWACs) and would amount to few votes. They, like the 60s and early 70s hippies of my youth (also AERWACs), tend to hoot and holler a lot and not bother to actually vote.

ARG confirms Paul’s lead and Gingrich’s plunge:

Paul 24
Romney 18
Perry 16
Gingrich 13

Ron will not go third party – he’ll want to lay the groundwork for a new face to lead his movement and becoming the next Ralph Nader won’t help that.

Even if he did, he’d draw a lot of civil liberties and anti-war types who are sick of Obama but revile Republicans even more, so the net effect would be unpredictable. Remember, Reagan had no trouble in the end despite John Anderson.

Sorry, I meant Insider Advantage in Iowa. ARG has a NH poll today with Paul taking second and Newt dropping to third.

BannedbytheGuardian | December 20, 2011 at 2:33 am

Paul winning would be god news for a new entrant.