Friday, January 04, 2008

Pundits Give Hopeful Post-Iowa Marks to Ron Paul

Sean O'Brien, executive director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia (and soon to be head of the new Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier) was a guest on the 11:00 news on WCAV-TV in Charlottesville, commenting on the results of the Republican and Democratic caucuses in Iowa on Thursday. He had some positive things to say about Republican contender Ron Paul.

As everyone knows by now, the winner on the Democratic side was Illinois Senator Barack Obama. On the Republican side, it was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Interviewed by anchors Dan Schutte and Stephanie Hockridge (and transcribed by me), O'Brien noted:

There are candidates out there that people in New Hampshire or Virginia or California would love to have the chance to vote for, but will probably be forced to drop out because they won't be getting any money and people won't be paying attention to them. [The Iowa caucus system] really doesn't promote the democratic process....

On the Republican side, really the [television] graphic has shown four people [Huckabee, Romney, Thompson, McCain] but really five or six people are coming out on the Republican side in a good position. Giuliani never expected to do well in Iowa, so the fact that he's not in there is no big deal.

But Ron Paul, with his very fanatical fan base of supporters, coming out with 10 percent, that's going to make them feel really good, they're only just behind McCain and Thompson, who, at one time, McCain was the front runner and Thompson was seen as the savior. So they've got to be feeling pretty good. It's going to be very fascinating to watch into New Hampshire next week....

It's going to be very hard for Huckabee in New Hampshire, probably, because the "Huckaboom" phenomenon has really risen for him in Iowa. It's an evangelical state, he's an evangelical person, and so that may not play as well in New Hampshire, so it's going to be hard for him. But I'm sure he's on a plane right now.
On the other side of the country, analyst Christopher Costigan saw reasons for Ron Paul supporters to "look on the bright side." Costigan made seven key points:
1. Ron Paul got 10% of the vote and was within striking distance of both John McCain and Fred Thompson, the later of whom is likely to drop out of the race after New Hampshire.

2. Ron Paul came in third place in Johnson County, which perhaps has the closest demographics to that of New Hampshire. It is home to the progressive college town of Iowa City, full of young voters who Paul's campaign is reliant on.

3. He beat Rudy Giuliani by a landslide and Giuliani is considered the frontrunner nationally. And like Rudy Giuliani, Ron Paul did not focus as aggressively on the state of Iowa.

4. Wolf Blitzer of CNN called Ron Paul's showing "impressive".

5. With McCain and Thompson tied for 3rd, Ron Paul technically came in 4th place.

6. There were some counties in Iowa where Ron Paul excelled.

7. Iowa is not an Internet state and the inquiries coming in for Ron Paul (and Internet traffic in general) is not very heavy from Iowa. The great news is that the most significant search inquiries for Ron Paul were coming in from Texas, California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Tennessee, Massachusetts and California.
The Iowa caucuses are a terrific throwback to a purer, more personable form of democracy. The caucuses are more than just early cogs in the presidential nomination machine. Watching C-SPAN tonight, one would have seen a Democratic precinct caucus in Des Moines debating various resolutions aimed at influencing the state Democratic party's platform, on issues like road maintenance, education, and health care.

Still, because they have arcane rules and attract so few participants, they are not an accurate bellwether for future primary contests. New Hampshire, as Sean O'Brien noted, is different from Iowa. And Virginia is different from New Hampshire. Whether they use caucuses, conventions, or primaries, there are fifty different contests (more, if you count D.C. and the territories) in each party leading to the presidential nomination. Iowa is just the first in line.


CR UVa said...

I'm not going to go on a detailed rant, but one thing you said stands out: "There were some counties in Iowa where Ron Paul excelled."

The problem there is with a fifth place finish, Paul also must have done very poorly in the rest of the counties. Paul has found some small pockets of support, but if he did the same thing in the general election, his campaign would tank. And no, it is not simply because of this; it is also because Paul will never garner the support of the Republican base.

Rick Sincere said...

Are you saying that the Republican base has lost sight of the values that animated it in the past? Are Republicans no longer the party of Goldwater and Reagan? Is small government and respect for the Constitution something of the distant past, rather than something of the GOP's future?