Ron Paul’s obnoxious supporters like more traditional political activists can spin and delude themselves about election results. But the Iowa caucus results could not be clearer: The vast national desire for political change is manifesting itself through support for both Democratic and Republican change-candidates. Despite Paul being flush with money and having a large number of workers in Iowa, he was solidly rejected as the leading change agent.
Even with a huge historic turnout of about 348,000 participants, Paul did not attract significant numbers of independents that could easily participate in the Republican caucuses. They went to Obama, Edwards and Huckabee.
On the Democratic side, of some 232,000 people that turned out for the caucuses, nearly doubling what it was four years ago, about 70 percent wanted change and went for Obama and Edwards, roughly 150,000 participants.
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On the Republican side, of the 116,000 participants, about 40,000 change-voters went for Huckabee, compared to 11,600 that chose Paul, giving him fifth place. That 10 percent for Paul was very close to the 9 percent found in a Des Moines Register poll of likely caucus voters (margin of error 3.5 points). Interestingly, like Paul, Huckabee also wants to eliminate the federal income tax.
In both parties, change-voters totaled about 200,000. So Paul received just 6 percent of that large fraction, and just 3 percent of the total of all caucus participants in Iowa. Paul was first in only one county, Jefferson, with 36 percent
Edwards was absolutely correct when he summed things up this way: “The one thing that is clear from the results in Iowa tonight is the status quo lost and change won.”
With all the hoopla from Paul supporters about younger people being for Paul, that’s not what the Iowa results showed. Younger people seeking change and inspiration flocked to Obama, in particular. There was no demographic in Iowa that overwhelmingly went for Paul. Sure, Paul beat Giuliani, but Paul’s effort in Iowa was much bigger than Giuliani’s.
None of these results will impact Paul’s supporters nationwide. Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote a great article on Alternet.org: “Ron Paul is Scary, But Those Who Cheer Him Are Even Scarier.” He was right when he said: “The scariest thing about GOP presidential contender Ron Paul is not his fringe, odd-ball racial views. It is that people take him seriously.” But now Iowa has thankfully shown that the vast majority of Americans, especially those seeking political change, reject Paul.
After losing badly in Iowa Paul said: “The other candidates talk about tinkering with the status quo. We don’t want to tinker; we want to change the status quo.” He said that his campaign is on the upswing and gaining support among independents, frustrated Republicans and unhappy Democrats. Just one very big problem: The Iowa results show that all these people are much more likely to vote for other Democratic and Republican change-candidates.
Paul’s supporters claim that he will do much better in New Hampshire where Libertarian Party members hold a number of offices. I don’t think so. Several polls taken before the Iowa results found Paul at just 5 to 9 percent. Will Paul get a big boost from Iowa? I don’t think so. Paul had predicted he could finish in third place in Iowa, and many of his supporters think he will do that in New Hampshire. I don’t think so. Paul will likely finish fifth in New Hampshire, in large part because more independents will go to Obama and McCain.
When Paul first ran for president as the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988, he won just 0.54 percent of the vote. Iowa shows that his second presidential bid will not produce much better results. Paul is definitely not tapping in a major way into the national populist movement, major desire for political change, anti-status quo sentiment, or even the anti-Iraq war issue. Clearly, other Democratic and Republican change-candidates are doing much better. This reality will not affect Paul’s passionate, cult-like followers that are solidified like cement in their belief that Paul can and should be our next president, something that Paul himself probably never really believed.
Joel S. Hirschhorn can be reached through www.delusionaldemocracy.com.
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