Texas Congressman Ron Paul scored a spectacular victory in New Hampshire, placing second in the 2012 state GOP Primary, further validating his claim of electability. His success is sure to be a thorn in the side of mainstream media pundits who have tried to suppress Dr. Paul’s candidacy. Media spin rooms will undoubtedly seek to downplay the significance of Paul’s victory, but the Ron Paul Revolution can no longer be ignored.
The Paul campaign has made great strides in New Hampshire since Paul’s run in 2008. Previously, Paul finished 5th out of 6 GOP candidates and found himself the object of ridicule by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. While these philosophically neo-conservative entertainers still mock Congressman Paul, they do not deny that he is a major force to be reckoned with inside the Republican party. In unspoken tribute to Dr. Paul, these hosts are today unwittingly advocating many of his policies that they previously laughed to scorn - such as ending the Federal Reserve and gutting various federal agencies.
Paul is seen favorably by Independents and cross-over Democrats who agree with him on his non-interventionist foreign policy and libertarian style, limited government philosophy. This cross-party appeal makes Paul a more threatening candidate to President Obama than Mitt Romney. Approximately 45% of New Hampshire Republicans identify themselves as either “moderate” or “liberal” and 77% of all NH Republicans identify themselves as “non-evangelical”. These demographics in the “Live Free or Die” state provided fertile soil for Paul’s libertarian message.
This election cycle, out of the state’s 10 counties, Paul focused primarily on the southeast, around the cities of Manchester and Portsmouth. This part of the state is home to many colleges. Youth and independent-minded voters flock to Ron Paul.
Rick Santorum had focused his attention on blue collar workers and Catholic conservatives in the south. These are the same demographics that helped Pat Buchanan score an upset victory over Bob Dole in the 1996 primary. This week the Paul campaign began airing blistering ads attacking the corrupt history of former senator Rick Santorum, hoping to pull back support the senator gained after his second place finish in Iowa.
With limited funds and a message that has failed to resonate elsewhere, Jon Huntsman staked his entire campaign on success in New Hampshire. Huntsman put the most money (more than $740,000) into television advertising, nearly double the next candidate. It remains to be seen whether or not his third place finish here will be enough to help him succeed anywhere else. Huntsman is widely assumed to be a one-state wonder. The former Utah governor is even currently trailing comedian Stephen Colbert in South Carolina polls.
With an endorsement from the influential Manchester Union Leader, Newt Gingrich surged in November – only to sink again in the polls. Gingrich’s strategy here was to try to slow Romney’s momentum going into South Carolina.
Rick Perry made the costly mistake of skipping New Hampshire. If he doesn’t place in the top three in South Carolina, his campaign is over.
New Hampshire was Romney territory. He owns a summer home in the state and has spent considerable time campaigning here since he lost to John McCain in 2008 by only 3 percentage points. Though first place went to Romney, a significant victory by Paul cannot be denied. He has risen from obscurity to become an unstoppable political powerhouse. Paul has already knocked off Michelle Bachmann, mortally wounded Rick Perry and pummeled Newt Gingrich back down from his November-December surge. It is recognized that, aside from Mitt Romney, Congressman Paul is the only candidate with the financial resources to wage a nationwide campaign at this point.
Consider Paul’s long-term strategy. He did extremely well in the Iowa Caucuses and placed second in New Hampshire. Admittedly, South Carolina is an early problem for Paul. Historically, South Carolinians favor politicians with aggressive foreign policy positions and who tend to inject religious overtones into their speeches. Though Paul is a committed Christian, he does not wear his religion on his sleeve for political advantage – and it has cost him some support. The most recent Real Clear Politics Average shows Ron Paul in a distant 4th place. However, he still has a week and a half before the SC Primary. His momentum coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire may be enough to boost him into 3rd place contention.
Ten days after South Carolina is the winner-take-all Florida Primary. With Paul trailing in 4th place, he has wisely chosen not to spend considerable time or money in the state. Instead, Paul has been working to build a strong organization in Nevada, another caucus state. Paul generally has performed better in caucus states compared to primary states. Fortunately for the Paul campaign, following the February 4th caucus in Nevada are caucuses in Maine, Colorado and Minnesota. There are three additional state primaries in February, followed by the Washington state caucus on March 3rd. Then comes infamous Super Tuesday, when 10 more states hold caucuses and primaries on March 6th. Beyond Super Tuesday, Paul’s campaign is the only viable alternative to Romney’s.
Following the results of the New Hampshire Primary, Paul’s National Campaign Chairman, Jesse Benton, called on the other candidates to drop out of the race and throw their support behind Ron Paul. He said:
“Ron Paul has won more votes in Iowa and New Hampshire than any candidate but Mitt Romney. Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have been shown in national polls to be the only two candidates who can defeat Barack Obama. And Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are the only two candidates who can run a full, national campaign, competing in state after state over the coming weeks and months. Ron Paul’s fundraising numbers — over $13 million this quarter — also prove he will be able to compete with Mitt Romney. No other candidate can do all of these things.
“Ron Paul is clearly the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney as the campaign goes forward. We urge Ron Paul’s opponents who have been unsuccessfully trying to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney to unite by getting out of the race and uniting behind Paul’s candidacy.”
Even if Paul were to ultimately lose the nomination, his winning strategy will have put him in the position of having a significant impact on forming the new party platform at the August 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.
While the apportionment of convention delegates varies from one state caucus or primary to the next, Paul’s basic strategy is to earn enough delegates to stuff the convention with his supporters. As was thoroughly demonstrated in the 2008 cycle, Paul supporters are savvy in their knowledge of parliamentary rules and procedures. Paul’s delegates to the National Convention will capitalize on this knowledge to inject the Texas congressman’s constitutional-based philosophy into platform debate and plank development.
Paul is seeking to change the very heart of the Republican Party and return it to its conservative roots – less government and more personal liberty. While the mainstream media support coalesces around Mitt Romney, the voters of New Hampshire have sent a powerful message to America: the race is far from over. Ron Paul is on the rise.
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Jake Morphonios has worked as a political consultant and campaign strategist for over two decades and is the author of ”Organizing a Grassroots Political Machine”, used in the Steve Forbes 2000 Presidential campaign.
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