The outcome in Iowa has Ron Paul solidly established and in an ideal position to move forward with confidence. If you’re watching the race at all, you’ve noticed that the GOP establishment has brought out the long knives, with Gingrich calling Paul’s supporters ‘indecent’, and Santorum saying that Paul is ‘disgusting‘. Virtually every ‘news’ story referencing Paul includes a declaratory statement that Paul cannot be nominated, or ‘almost certainly’ cannot. TV talking heads such as Politico’s Roger Simon were at least honest about the shared intent of the media and the GOP establishment: ‘If Paul wins Iowa we’ll just take it out (of the picture)’. Iowa’s own governor downplayed the importance of his state’s caucus outcome, should Paul win – something no other governor has done in American history.
In spite of the relentless assault against him, Paul’s support held up well, with a result mirroring most of the polls leading up to the caucuses. His supporters can’t possibly be discouraged – Paul’s support grew steadily over the months, and he finished near his peak. Santorum’s turn as ‘flavor of the week’, coming right after voters got another look at Newt Gingrich, came at the perfect time, further fracturing the establishment vote.
The Iowa results boost Paul’s chances for long-term success for a number of reasons.
- A lot of the negative attention that was aimed at Paul will now be focused on Santorum. The media may give Arlen Specter’s most important political ally a break, for now, but his opponents won’t. To the media, Santorum is a perfect GOP candidate – one they can easily trash when the time comes. His current appeal is a mile wide and a millimeter deep; there’s nothing of substance driving it – no scheme like Cain’s ’9-9-9 plan’, no great legislative achievements, nothing aside from the perception that he’d be ‘tough on terror’, that he speaks in earnest, and that he’s not Gingrich or Romney. As long as Santorum is in it, Romney and Gingrich will remain in, they likely think that Santorum’s chances to actually secure the nomination are nil.
- Romney’s finish makes any ‘inevitability’ talk look ridiculous. He seems to have a ceiling of 25%-30% of GOP primary voters, with no noticeable crossover enthusiasm from democrats, and little appeal to independents. The undecided voters will continue to ping-pong between the other candidates, with some sticking to Paul with each bounce. It seems that no matter what Romney says, does, or spends, he can’t gain any broader traction. He isn’t trusted by most republicans, for far better reasons than the GOP establishment posits for opposing Paul. There’s little prospect that Romney can change that fact, but he’s still going to grind it out.
- There isn’t much the GOP establishment can do to derail Paul going forward. Ballot registration deadlines are passing, and the look of a real race means the appearance of a new entry (from a bench that is shallow and all-establishment) is less likely. The GOP has shown an interest in gaming the convention, but they have already deeply alienated many of Paul’s supporters, who will easily constitute the difference in the next election, whether Paul is on the ballot or not. The more the GOP does that seems designed to deny him a fair chance at the nomination, the more people they will alienate. The damage may already be done; it’s hard to find any Paul supporters who show any enthusiasm for any other candidates. They know that this actually isn’t just like every other election, a choice between two evils. Our country is in the grip of something awful which transcends Obama, and we’re approaching the event horizon. For millions there is one way out and one captain, everything else is a distraction from reality.
The cake may already be baked for the GOP. They’ve made support of something akin to our current foreign policy the new litmus-test for respectability in the GOP. The damage they’ve already done to their party, with their wholesale abandonment of the party’s long-held ’11th Commandment’: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any republican”, may be too much to undo. If they are not yet worried and introspective, they should be.
- All of the candidates except perhaps Bachmann and Perry will remain in the race. They all realize that 15%-20% of GOP primary voters are up for grabs in any given month, and Bachmann and Perry’s supporters would add 15% or so to that pool. Paul should hope that the establishment vote remains divided for as long as possible, as he steadily builds his support.
- Gingrich’s finish, well behind Paul, makes it more likely this will be viewed as a two or three-man race, minus Gingrich. So he’s likely to get even more desperate. He’s the literal face of the establishment, bragging about his past ‘successes’ as our country circles the drain – he’s the GOP’s Obama. Gingrich’s remaining supporters are probably the least likely to support Paul. They’re comfortable with their man calling an elder statesman, who enjoys respect across the political spectrum, ‘indecent’. The longer Newt Gingrich hangs on, the better for Paul.
- The respectable Iowa finish gives Paul’s supporters hope for future success, and they will continue pushing hard. Every day that passes is another in which more people take a closer look at Ron Paul, and like him. His support can only grow; once attached, his voters aren’t easily shaken loose. Once you come to agree with Paul, you see the vast gulf between him and the other candidates. For most people, crossing that gulf is a one-way trip.
Paul’s message will improve and his arguments will crystallize in voters’ minds as he moves forward. He will paint a vivid picture of what life under constitutional government will be like for Americans, and show them a credible way to transition to that reality. Eventually, most voters will soberly compare the importance of Paul’s mismanagement of a newsletter with the establishment’s mismanagement of everything. Further moves against Iran will not sit well with war-weary voters, particularly if gas prices are affected. Backing off from confrontation with Iran bolsters Paul’s message that our policy is erratic, and that conflict is not inevitable. If conflict comes, Paul is also vindicated, since it will be far from ‘necessary’ and will have little to do with America’s security. It will be hard for the GOP to complain about anything Obama does to Iran; they have established their respect for undeclared war repeatedly, and they’ve been banging the war drums for months. Obama’s mistakes in Iran will be their mistakes as well. At home, private central bankers will continue to kick the debt can down the road, with more damaging intervention into the economy and more ‘money’ creation to fund the establishment’s fiat-money Ponzi scheme. Things are likely to unfold much as Paul has said they will, further enhancing his credibility.
In their hearts, most voters believe that at best, things might get a little better. And most of those voters only see the edges of reality. They are asleep to the depth of the rot and ruin that has been sowed by a ruling class which feels little for them but disdain. Though Ron Paul’s supporters share a greater awareness of this reality, they are also the only people in American politics who share a genuine hope about the future. Everyone else is knowingly faking it, their consciences paralyzed by fear of unknowns, such as constitutional government. Much of the confidence in Paul is based on his record of being right, and offering a proven path back to sanity – the restoration of constitutional government.
If our recent history were a disaster movie, the standard audience reaction would be quite predictable: most viewers would be hoping that the characters who didn’t warn about the disaster or do anything to avoid it would finally shut up, and let the guy who’s been right since the start of the film take over. Take the politics out of it and it becomes quite simple. On a purely rational level, this would be the only major issue in the campaign: Is there anyone competent running who saw how and why we got into these messes, has any idea what to do about them, and has the sand to do it?
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