There is talk of having fewer GOP debates, which generally would be a good thing. This is perhaps Dr. Paul's most important function in the election cycle: where GOP debates are supposed to be a way to use free air time for an hour long ad for war drums and right-wing corporatism, Paul uses the forum to interject opinions which are not permitted on the four networks, receiving loud applause and winning over half the young voters in Iowa. Inevitably, the elites will try to emphasize the Paul opinions that benefit them, like Right to Work, and not his foreign policy. David Gregory in the Meet the Press debate asked Paul about Right to Work and then summarized the least compelling of Paul's arguments on Iran and allowed only Santorum to respond.
While the public has been desensitized to the Mitt Romney-Steve Forbes element that pays off media out of pocket to take them seriously, or media moguls like Bloomberg and Berlusconi holding office, the Citizens United ruling has brought us the first of the "Daddy, can I be president? You promised!" candidates, Jon Huntsman, whose billionaire father can spend unlimited money through a SuperPAC if his son shows that he has a chance. Huntsman will probably come in third tonight in New Hampshire and mostly be a nuisance to Romney, as they're both Mormons who are trying to stake out the "socially moderate, economically conservative, pro-war caretaker who pretends to be a little edgy like the guys in the J Crew catalog so the Northeast has no better choice" ground. Romney's a nuisance to everyone else so he deserves it. For Huntsman to be such a spoiler he has to stage a good campaign somewhere other than NH which seems unlikely.
Romney is beating all comers in head to head runoffs in South Carolina in a new PPP poll (pdf), which suggests he could put this race out of its misery soon. He has bought a lot more air time there up to this point tho and things can change. Gingrich's negatives are so high now that he's pretty much done for, but Santorum has a chance to win there if Gingrich pulls out. Paul is polling a solid fourth but anti-war is pretty much heresy there. PPP asked if the endorsements of McCain, current Gov. Nikki Haley, past Gov. Mark Sanford, or Sen. Jim DeMint would help or hurt, and respondents said each would hurt the candidate save for DeMint's, who usually comes to the attention of WKMA when he makes bizarre statements about Latin American affairs, not Gov. Sanford's kind of Latin American affairs, or if that's not good enough material as SC GOP is either funny or sad there's Gov. Sanford's eloquent response to a CNN question:
In a way that interview summarizes the last 30 years of American politics well as there's been very little difference in executive economic policy during the entire era, and you see the result.
DeMint may be even more of a nut job than Santorum and PPP suggests Santorum could benefit from an endorsement but there's bad blood there.
This is not to say you shouldn't drive 40 minutes off Route 95 to eat the BBQ buffet at Brown's in Jim Clyburn's district when in SC.
Paul is not running in Florida and will focus on Nevada and Maine in early March, where cheaper media markets reward grassroots campaigns more. Florida lost half of its delegates for moving up without permission so it's half a 'beauty contest' for well-heeled candidates that can buy several large media markets.
Update about 20 minutes later: This fact sheet on the 2000 SC GOP campaign suggests that Karl Rove may be of the opinion that being booed in NH (like Santorum) for opposing gay marriage may be good for a Republican candidate there, since rumors were spread that McCain went both ways and that he had fathered a child with an African-American maid, referring to his adopted daughter from Bangladesh. Well, whatever Rove thinks, it probably doesn't hurt a Republican in SC, but looking at Santorum's high favorability ratings there and his trailing in the polls suggests that not campaigning the extra week in SC was a very bad idea.
Update 1/10: Politico just ran a headline "Romney may face long, hard slog." My point above is that if no one can beat him in a poll one on one in SC than there isn't really much of a race left. Is Gingirch or Santorum going to be viewed more favorably in a month? How could that possibly happen? I obviously want Paul to get his message out and win the nomination. Later in the article, party figures say that it's not in the GOP interest to give up the free media of a race, which may be more to the point.
Update 1/10: Obama's new Chief of Staff "told a Senate panel in 2010 that he did not believe that deregulation led to the financial crisis. He said that 'the problems in the financial industry preceded deregulation'." Before deregulation... that'd be what? The mid-70s?
Update 1/10 9:30pm: Paul outperformed every poll that was ever taken in NH, tho there a few polls which had Paul close to his final number that showed 10% or so undecided. Though a lot of this has to do with 47% of voters being Independents and 4% being Democrats, he ran a close third amongst voters who decided in the past few days, something which was a problem in Iowa as the stern lectures of TV spin doctors about the newsletters were hitting the news cycles. What's interesting is that the 4% that were Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Huntsman (41%) to Paul's 24% and Romney's 14%. It's not clear whether this was a vote for gay civil unions or people thought that Huntsman was the best way to make mischief, as he can only cause problems for Romney... I'd guess the latter. Paul led amongst Independents by 3 percentage points over Romney.
Paul took 47% of the voters 29 and younger and lost only 32%-36% amongst ages 30-44, not bad considering he's as Lightnin' Hopkins says "a long way from Texas" and Mitt is a quick helicopter ride from his old governor's mansion.
Santorum campaigned in New Hampshire but didn't run TV ads, which has turned out to be a blunder as WKMA predicted, especially if Gingrich continues to narrowly beat him out for 4th place.
Update 1/11: As I said below, Paul is eyeing a two man race: "National campaign chairman Jesse Benton called on Paul’s conservative opponents to drop out of the race and get behind Paul as the conservative Romney-alternative. 'It’s been our goal to consolidate this into a two-man race, and we’re there now,' he said."
I'd assume that's directed at the voters because there is no chance of Gingrich or Santorum endorsing Paul, as Paul has been attacking the two much more than Romney, and the two have institutional and K Street ties to defense and the financial industries. But as I also said, Paul can use the debates and events to redefine conservatism in his image as much as can be pulled off.
Update 1/12: Santorum getting booed in NH and then taking 5th behind Gingrich may have been what gave Gingrich a bounce in SC polls, and when the word spreads that Gingrich has a better chance to beat Romney there he will bleed more supporters from Santorum, which may be enough for Gingrich to win SC.