My general disposition to the Republican primaries has been "wake me up when it's over" but the Ron Paul factor is making it interesting. WKMA predicts a Paul victory in the Iowa caucus this evening. Though Romney is winning in some polls, the fact that voters in the caucus conference and discuss their choices before writing the candidate's name on a piece of paper benefits candidates that have grassroots supporters with a passion and a clear understanding of their candidate's views, especially when their candidate has been dismissed and demonized by the corporate media. There is also the possibility that conservative evangelicals will come together and coalesce around a candidate, most likely Rick Santorum, who in such a scenario has a chance of winning the caucus.
Ron Paul has a 60% disapproval rating amongst GOP voters but had at the last filing date the third most money, behind Romney and Perry, and he uses that money effectively to get the message out in primary states with ads like this one:
Even if Paul runs second in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will raise a mint on the internet which will enable him to run ads in larger media markets. Paul is interjecting arguments into a campaign that otherwise weren't there (save for the more liberal but less successful Gary Johnson) and there's no model for predicting his success. He's run before but there are two policy-related factors that are in his favor, that the media doesn't mention: a vast majority of GOP voters were against the federal bailout of Wall Street, and Paul is the candidate who has most persistently agreed with them; and a majority of GOP voters have actually become anti-war in recent years, and only Paul agrees with them. It is unclear how many of the 60% who say they disapprove say so because of a rigid disagreement with Paul's radical economic and foreign policy views rather than as a result of the media's characterization of him.
Paul and Perry have ran negative ads against Newt Gingrich in Iowa and Paul's in particular have struck a lethal blow to Gingrich's chances, which in and of itself is a service to the union:
With potentially poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, Gingrich, whose campaign has always had little money, is counting on a Jan. 21st South Carolina victory to revive his candidacy going into the Jan. 31st Florida primary, where has maintained a lead. Santorum has had little support in those states but a strong Iowa performance would potentially anoint him as the evangelical conservative choice in those states. Most likely, the outcome of Iowa will cause Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry to stay in the race, splitting the conservative field in SC to enable Romney to either win or finish a strong second, then win Florida, and then argue that the party should coalesce around him. Santorum, like Gingrich, has little or no money. Perry has money as he is a natural at peddling influence but, unfortunately for his presidential chances, resembles a parody of a politician in a B movie comedy.
One thing I want to emphasize is that W. proved in 2000 that evangelical, conservative voters constituted enough support in the Republican primary to win outright with a little help. Having the most money and being the son of a president didn't hurt either. But my point is that Romney probably couldn't win a two person race with a well-funded, well-organized evangelical conservative candidate. His strengths in the primaries are in the Northeast and the Midwest, which in such a two person race would not be enough. The fractured, unfunded field of lackluster conservative candidates is the reason why the folks at Intrade are giving Romney a 80.2% chance of winning the nomination at the moment. I emphasize this, though, because very few delegates are actually chosen this month, and if such an evangelical conservative consolidates unified support against Romney they would have a chance. The problem is that candidates who appeal to evangelical conservatives are invariably utter hypocrites who have used religious symbolism to feast on the weak of the world and make a ton of money from bribery, and that only needs to be pointed out in each case, as Paul did for Gingrich and which will inevitably be done for Santorum, before their PR house of cards collapses.
I have caught up with only a bit of the ink that has been spilled on the "Ron Paul bargain" for anti-war liberals (I note this and this). Whether it's a question of Obama having leverage to reduce foreign imperialism or undermining his excuses for foreign imperialism, a general election showdown with Paul is just the ticket. Such a blow to American military imperialism would be an major boost to labor movements around the world, who are literally subject to extrajudicial killings as I write this in far-flung places like Egypt, Honduras, and Colombia, with the tacit support of US operatives. The Paul candidacy represents the most significant historical opportunity for the public to overcome the military-industrial complex since Ike's speech (below), with the possible exception of 1968 which like this year had the element of youth activism, and this opportunity coming from the Republican party gives it a unique strategic component. The Paul candidacy provides the campaign cycle's only critique of the rollback of the Bill of Rights which has been even more horrifically rapid in the Obama administration than Bush's. Even though I agree with those that say Paul has a chance of beating Obama which is at least comparable to other GOP candidates, Obama would most certainly hammer away at Paul's opposition to Social Security (which pays for itself and is not in trouble, often raided for other programs) and Medicare, and the result would be beneficial to Democrats in close legislative districts concerned about too much power in the hands of Paul to eliminate the social safety net.
WKMA reserves the lowest designation of presidential performance for those who suspend habius corpus and create a precedent for extrajudicial killings of US citizens and then lose to Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich in the general election.
Update - Midnight: As I write this Santorum is leading Romney by 63 votes with Paul four points behind, 4% to be counted:
Looking at state by state counts of religion, no state that has more Catholics by percentage than Iowa has more Evangelicals by percentage. So Iowa is the perfect spot for Santorum, a Catholic that has an overwhelming lead amongst Evangelicals in the Iowa exit polls. While that source has 23% Catholics in Iowa and this has 17%, the percentage of Catholics in South Carolina is tallied at 7% and 4%. No state rivals Iowa in this mix of Catholics and Evangelicals although the closest are nearby states like Indiana, Kansas, and Missouri, states that are far north enough to have received Western migration of Catholics from Northern European latitudes back in the day but are also Southern in large pockets.
Santorum won over middle class voters with some college education, Romney won the oldest and the richest, and Paul won almost half of the young voters and almost a third, a substantial lead, of voters earning less than $50K. People earning a lot of money don't want to rock the economic boat, but Paul's numbers will carry over into Southern and rural states where there are more poor, Protestant, anti-TARP voters. Some number of young voters will register Republican to vote for Paul. Do you sense I'm rooting for a candidate?
Paul suffered from a gender gap, leading amongst males while Romney and Santorum tied for the lead amongst females.
Update 12:30: Romney has taken a lead of 41 votes, Perry appears to be quitting the race, Gingrich, one to bring on the nasty, is staying in the race and planning an all-out onslaught against Romney with the help of his SuperPAC. As Santorum will receive more scrutiny, there is a benefit to not being the front runner but a win for Paul would have raised more money and garnered more publicity.
Update 12:44: Santorum up by 5 votes with 1% to be counted. Looking at county by county suggests Santorum now has the upper hand in the Great Plains primaries, while most of Romney's and Paul's support was closer to the Mississippi.
Update 12:30pm: I state the obvious in saying that the corporate media is considerably more forgiving to racist statements made by war hawks than peace activists. Rick Santorum says on January 1, 2012: "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money." and "Rick Santorum racist" gets 639 results on Google News while "Ron Paul racist" gets 1,690 results for unattributed statements in his newsletters several decades ago that he repudiated (thankfully gay activists have done a nice job with Santorum's result on the main Google search). Santorum in April 2010: Evangelist Franklin Graham calling Islam a "wicked and evil religion" was a "reasonable statement at the time." Santorum last November "all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis."
Update 2:15pm: I originally said here that Perry would stay in the race then "viewed as foreshadowing" last night like the others ... "Rick Perry said Tuesday night he was headed home to Texas to “reassess” his candidacy, a statement widely viewed as foreshadowing an end to Perry’s presidential ambitions. But a tweet Wednesday morning from a Twitter account Perry has been using said: “Here we come South Carolina!” New Hampshire residents are relieved. Lots of people gave Perry lots of money and as Gingrich and Santorum inevitably self-destruct he might as well slog it out a little longer, which will help Romney and Paul in that order.
Update 1/5: The NAACP's condemnation of Santorum's remarks has received a trickle of back page coverage in the corporate press while I note "Nelson Linder, president of the Austin, Texas NAACP, says he has known Ron Paul for 20 years, and reports that he is “not a racist.” Santorum's potential voters don't like the NAACP, of course, and they have The New York Times telling them voting for Santorum doesn't make them a homophobic, witch-burning, Islamophobic bigot, which the Times knows is the sort of free pass they're looking for.