Ron Paul Third in New Hampshire?
Ron Paul could finish third in New Hampshire, which “would embarrass Rudy Giuliani and steal media limelight from John McCain and Mitt Romney, who are battling for first place,” contends New Hampshire Union Leader editorial page editor Andrew Cline.
This would seem rather far-fetched. Paul is a distant fifth in the New Hampshire polling averages and no better than than fourth in any reputable poll there:
This doesn’t matter, Cline argues, because Paul is a special case:
Many Republican operatives in New Hampshire, even those affiliated with other campaigns, think Mr. Paul is headed for an impressive, double-digit performance. That he has been polling in the high single digits for months is discounted, because the polls may be missing the depth of his support.
Why? For starters, he appears to be drawing new voters. Polls that screen for “likely” voters might screen out many Paul supporters who haven’t voted often, or at all, before. Many of Mr. Paul’s supporters appear to be first-time voters. They will be able to cast their ballots because New Hampshire allows them to register and vote on the day of an election.
I don’t doubt that Paul’s poll numbers likely reflect more depth than those of the other candidates. Most of us are trying to settle on one of the top tier candidates despite strong differences on core issues, whereas most of Paul’s supporters are truly enthusiastic about their man.
Still, I’m rather dubious of claims that the polls are that skewed.
Further, voters in Iowa and New Hampshire see themselves as gatekeepers, deciding for the rest of the country who the legitimate candidates are. It strikes me as unlikely that so many of them would turn out for Paul — who’s invisible in most of the national polls — rather than lending their imprimatur to one of the major candidates.
Still, the New Hampshire primary is notoriously unpredictable and stranger things have happened.