Why Ron Paul’s Campaign Has No Future Beyond Iowa And New Hampshire

Ron Paul is doing well right now solely because of the unique characteristics of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Byron York digs into the some recent polling and finds a pertinent point about Ron Paul’s supporters:

In an analysis accompanying his most recent survey in Iowa, pollster Scott Rasmussen noted, “Romney leads, with Gingrich in second, among those who consider themselves Republicans. Paul has a wide lead among non-Republicans who are likely to participate in the caucus.”

The same is true in New Hampshire. A poll released Monday by the Boston Globe and the University of New Hampshire shows Paul leading among Democrats and independents who plan to vote in the January 10 primary. But among Republicans, Paul is a distant third — 33 points behind leader Mitt Romney.

In South Carolina, “Paul’s support is higher among those who usually don’t vote in GOP primary elections,” notes David Woodard, who runs the Palmetto Poll at Clemson University.

In a hotly-contested Republican race, it appears that only about half of Paul’s supporters are Republicans. In Iowa, according to Rasmussen, just 51 percent of Paul supporters consider themselves Republicans. In New Hampshire, the number is 56 percent, according to Andrew Smith, head of the University of New Hampshire poll.

The same New Hampshire survey found that 87 percent of the people who support Romney consider themselves Republicans. For Newt Gingrich, it’s 85 percent.

So who is supporting Paul? In New Hampshire, Paul is the choice of just 13 percent of Republicans, according to the new poll, while he is the favorite of 36 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats who intend to vote in the primary. Paul leads in both non-Republican categories.

“Paul is doing the best job of getting those people who aren’t really Republicans but say they’re going to vote in the Republican primary,” explains Smith. Among that group are libertarians, dissatisfied independents and Democrats who are “trying to throw a monkey wrench in the campaign by voting for someone who is more philosophically extreme,” says Smith.

This doesn’t necessarily hurt Paul in Iowa, where one can participate in the Republican caucuses next Tuesday night merely by showing up, or in New Hampshire, which has both an open primary and a long tradition independent and libertarian-minded voters participating in the Republican (and Democratic) primaries. Once you get beyond there, however, it becomes exceedingly clear that Paul’s candidacy simply isn’t viable, and that even the suggestion that he could continue to garner 15-20% of the vote through the entire course of the primary process doesn’t necessarily hold water. Consider, for example, this from South Carolina:

What’s true in New Hampshire is also the case in South Carolina, where Paul is 28 points behind Gingrich in the most recent Palmetto Poll. “The economic positions of libertarians are popular here, but Paul’s positions on gay marriage, abortion, illegal immigration, and national defense are all antithetical to South Carolina’s conservative culture,” says Woodard. “About 13 percent of the GOP primary electorate are military veterans, and they don’t want to bring everyone home. We have a strong pro-life network, and it is knit into the Republican Party at its roots, and the amendment declaring marriage to be something between a man and a woman won with over 70 percent of the vote in South Carolina.”

South Carolina does have an open primary, and Paul arguably could benefit from independent voters coming out to vote there, but right now he’s polling a very,very distant third in the polling in the Palmetto State. Additionally, it doesn’t seem likely that there will be all that big of an independent voter turnout there to being with. In 2008, exit polling showed that the Party ID breakdown for the GOP Primary was 80% Republican, 18% Independent, and 2% Democrat. If that’s even close to what the turnout in 2012 will be like, then there’s simply no way Paul will do well in South Carolina. After South Carolina, we move on to Florida, which has a closed primary. As one might expect, Paul isn’t doing well there at all.

This is a pattern that is going to repeat itself as the race goes on. Ron Paul may well win Iowa and come in second place in New Hampshire, but that’s going to be his high water mark. The fact that he only appeals to what some conservative bloggers are derisively, and incorrectly I would submit, referring to as “mischief voters” means that when it comes down to races where winning the primary means convincing the Republican base in a race where you have only one or two opponents, Paul has a nearly irresolvable conflict. Either the voters go with the moderate conservative Mitt Romney, or they go with the guy who stands in opposition to cherished conservative positions on national defense, terrorism, and the role of government. Given the choice, I’m fairly certain that even the most conservative Republican will pick Mitt Romney over Ron Paul, just as they picked John McCain over Ron Paul in 2008 (remember, Paul didn’t drop out of the race until just before he had to run in the Texas Primary for his House Seat in 2008).

Paul supporters perhaps have a point when they point to his ability to attract support outside the party, but that’s not how you win the Republican nomination. You win the nomination by appealing to Republicans, and it’s becoming eminently clear that both mainline and conservative Republicans want nothing to do with Ron Paul.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. I wonder how many of Paul’s supporters are former Republicans? In my case, I went from voting pretty much voting a straigh Republican ticket in 1996 (the first major election I could vote in) to switching to independent registration and only voting for Republicans about a third of the races in 2010.

    The reasons I no longer consider myself a Republican are pretty much the same reasons I think Ron Paul is the best of the remaining candidates.

    Of course, the party still isn’t ready to deal with those reasons.

  2. Herb says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “Of course, the party still isn’t ready to deal with those reasons. ”

    Just curious….do you support Paul because you see him as a corrective to a GOP who has lost its way? I only ask because some of the commentators I’ve seen (who aren’t traditional Paulites) seem to be under the impression that they’re supporting Paul to right the GOP ship, so to speak.

  3. Jeff P says:

    One thing we do know, as it stands now, Paul has a 50% in Virginia. LOL I love my Commonwealth.

  4. Mike says:

    So Ron Paul appeals to a broad range of voters; Rep., Dem., Ind., making him the best choice to challenge Obama. But the Neocons will insist upon a “Not Ron Paul” candidate, that no one is enthusiastic about. Because they must have War! War! War! What a way to lose an election. But the Neocons have always been a selfish, small minded, hateful little bunch.

  5. Herb says:

    Because they must have War! War! War!

    Well, neocons do think war is the answer.

    But can I just point out for the 100th time that it’s incredibly naive to think that Ron Paul’s foreign policy preferences are synonymous with peace. Sometimes peace must be fought for and defended with deadly seriousness. Paul’s approach might have kept us out of Iraq….but it wouldn’t have kept Soviet nukes out of Cuba.

  6. @Herb:

    Some of us are more worried about keeping us out of Iran in 2013.

  7. ghostclown says:

    American citizens, stay tuned to the bought and paid for corporate media for more instructions on how to vote.

  8. Herb says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    “Some of us are more worried about keeping us out of Iran in 2013. “

    Then why consider voting Republican at all?

  9. Tsar Nicholas says:

    There also are the issues of Paul’s supporters mostly being college and grad school kids and a majority of the remainder being basement-dwelling conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites and assorted other forms of mental patients and wingnuts. Not exactly a recipe for political success over the long haul.

  10. lester says:

    He has a very strong pro life advertisement that he will no doubt tun in SC.

  11. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Don’t forget the golden opportunity to forge regime change and plant the tree of liberty in NK. And the good part for the GOP is that we can do it while killing Korean kids instead of ‘murkin ones.

  12. While I do think that Paul’s chances are not, ultimately, all that good, I would argue a bit with the analysis from York for one simple reason: a lot of the voters in question who “do not consider themselves Republicans” are likely still steady Republican voters over time, but they just don’t self-identify that way

    The notion that there are vast pools of truly independent voters in either state is flawed (if by “independent” we really mean voters who do not lean heavily towards one party or the other).

  13. superdestroyer says:

    Considering that the Republicans have no chance of winning n 2012, why focus on Ron Paul as having no future.

    In reality, the Republicans have no future. That is why the Democratic Party puts zero efforts into trying to appeal to any segments of the Republican Party. The Democrats know that demographics and cultural trends are all in their favor.

    A better question for the libertarians is what will they do when the U.s. becomes the one party state with a very instrusive government and very high taxes, what will people who do not want to pay high taxes do.

  14. Craig says:

    Article is hilarious. Now we are instructed (what we are instructed to believe changes every week) that Ron Paul’s campaign will not go further than New Hampshire because too many of his votes aren’t coming from Republicans. But then I’ll go to another mainstream media hit piece telling me why I can’t have Ron Paul and I’m told to believe that he can’t win the general election against Obama if he got the nomination because he has the least appeal to take votes from Obama. I mean which is it? There is a collective case of schizophrenia with the media here.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    Just what is your solution, SD? I mean, we know you’re a hardcore racist. S what is it you’re looking for? Ship the black people off to concentration camps? The suspense is killing me.

  16. @Steven L. Taylor:

    The question of course is whether those voters are registered Republicans in states with closed primaries, and how big a percentage of the electorate they are in conservative states like South Carolina. The available evidence suggests the numbers of both are small.

  17. @Doug Mataconis: First, I am a bit confused by your response in terms of which voter, exactly, it is you are talking about.

    Regardless, I would argue, like in a previous thread, that you are making too much of the open/closed primary business as well as the degree to which open primaries attract substantially difference voter pools, partisanship-wise, than do closed primaries. I would submit that voters adapt to the differing rules and that the main difference between closed and open primary states is that it is simply easier to consider oneself “independent” or “nonpartisan” or whatever one prefers, but that typically we find those types of voters are in large numbers actually reliable Dems or Reps.

    Paul’s problem is not so much the open/closed primary dynamic as it is that his appeal is actually quite limited. He is peaking at the right time (over the holidays) after a long string of Not Romneys.

    Further, his advantage in IA, in particular, is that the contest is a low turn-out one by definition and his adherents are dedicated (as we know from the comments thread on any given Paul post) and therefore likely to participate.

    I just don’t think it is really an open/closed issue.

  18. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I was addressing your comment about the likelihood that Paul’s voters would constitute anything other than a minor force in Republican primaries beyond Iowa and New Hampshire. It is the limited appeal you’re talking about that I’m referring to. In a closed primary limited only to registered Republicans, the fact that Paul attracts independents is likely to be largely irrelevant. Similarly, as the 2008 exit polls from South Carolina show us, independent voters are not going to help him very much once he leaves IA and NH.

  19. @michael reynolds:

    Would you please not call him SD? I don’t want to be confused for him.

  20. @Doug Mataconis: Gotcha.

    However, I am arguing that the actual effects of “independents” in IA and NH is perhaps overstated.

    I still think that the single most significant factor for Paul in IA is the very structure of the contest coupled with the fact that GOP selectorate is not happy with its choices.

  21. @Stormy Dragon: That strikes me as a fair request 😉

  22. Steven,

    If Iowa were holding a caucus rather than a primary, then Ron Paul would not be anywhere near the front of the pack

  23. @Doug Mataconis:

    If Iowa were holding a caucus rather than a primary, then Ron Paul would not be anywhere near the front of the pack

    I am guessing you meant “primary rather than a caucus”–and yes, that’s my point. We are in agreement.

    The only point of contention, such as it is, is that I think you are putting too much credence in the open/closed issue.

  24. Sigh. Yes, that’s what I meant. I think this means it’s time to sleep.

  25. Don says:

    When will we all see the value of staying out of war and keep our kids home. Does the majority of the south really think we must occupy 130 counties. They feel this is more important then taking care of our own problems first , I do not understand .

  26. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:


    There is no solution. The only discussion should be on the impacts. As the U.S becomes a one party state how will politics work. Is Chicago the model that will be followed, or maybe Mass., or will a country like Mexico where one party ruled for 70 years be the model. Then one has to think of the impacts on policy of being a one party state. How high will taxes do. What percentage of the workforce will work for the government. How will become the targets for the government. And last, you should consider how groups will adapt to the U.S. being a one party state. What do people do when they can longer affect the government? How do they avoid extremely high taxes and an instrusive government. What groups are best situated to prosper in a one party state and what groups will be in the worst situation.

    There is no point in conservatives trying to affect policy, laws, or regulations since eventually the Democrats will get everything they want. The questions is what will the U.S. be like when the core groups of the Democratic Party do get everything they want.

  27. sam says:

    @superdestroyer ad nauseum:

    Supedacious D in the Pickaninnies of Destiny

  28. Folderol & Ephemera says:

    @superdestroyer: This may be the most insane comment I’ve ever read here, and that’s saying a lot. Um . . . congratulations?

  29. superdestroyer says:


    Progressives advertise themselves as being the rational, fact-based crowd but refuse to face the fact that demographics is destiny.

    Asking what conservatives would propose today would be the same as asking white urban dwellers in the 1960’s what they would do to end white flight. There is no solution there is only adaption.

  30. sam says:
  31. superdestroyer says:

    @Folderol & Ephemera:

    What is insane about asking the question is what would happen to the U.S. if the entire country tried to function like Chicago? As the demographics of the U.S. in the future resemble the demographics of the U.S. today, why not ask how the U.S. will function.

    As the U.S. becomes a one party state, corruption will most assuredly increase and the private sector will probably shrink. The question for the future is not what can be done about it because demographics have locked the U.S. into its future. The question is what impacts will those changes have. Look at California made the mistake of thinking that Hispanics and whites have the same impact on the economy.

  32. DRS says:

    Well, superdestroyer, you could emigrate. Right now. Don’t wait. Just start packing and go somewhere white…uh, I mean welcoming. Don’t tell anybody where you’re going. And don’t post anymore because they might be able to trace your location. Don’t worry about us. We won’t tell anyone you’re gone.

  33. Folderol & Ephemera says:

    @superdestroyer: Meh. You should amp up the insane survivalist determinism and go easier on the overt racism if you want to keep your crown of “craziest commenter” instead of just being a garden variety supremacist.

  34. @superdestroyer:

    What is insane about asking the question is what would happen to the U.S. if the entire country tried to function like Chicago?

    As usual, your theories are rife with contradictions.

    You rant on and on and on about “demographics being destiny” and claiming that the main route to the “one party state” is the browning of America, but your example is usually Chicago. Say whatever else you will about Chicago politics, but I am pretty sure that the Daleys were white and that that if one goes back in time to the glory days of the mafia yesteryear one would find a bunch of other white people as both the foot soldiers and leaders of the mob.

    Indeed, Chicago is less corrupt now than it was during the era of dead people voting and its is almost certainly more racially diverse now than it was then. These facts play havoc with your theories.

  35. michael reynolds says:


    Um . . . More brown people does not equal single party, and all-white does not equal all-conservative.

    Let’s see if we can find a current example or two: The state of NC is both racially diverse and possessed of two highly-competitive parties. Ditto VA. Ditto Florida. Ditto Ohio. Lots of brown and lots of politics.

    Diverse but Democratic? California. (Although: Reagan.)

    Let’s flip it and see whether we can find an all-white state that is essentially single party but Democratic: Vermont.

    All white Republican? Alaska, Montana.

    The problem isn’t brown people, it’s racist morons. If it were not for the existence of so many like you, the GOP would be able to recruit black and brown people.

  36. James in LA says:

    “As the U.S. becomes a one party state…”

    At no time in superdestroyer’s rants does he acknowledge the fairly obvious fact regarding his definition of “conservative policies,” as preached: they do not work, and no one wants them.

    Conservatives could get back in the game overnight by calling for the repeal of the Patriot Act, Authorization of Forces, Citizen’s United, end the drug war, and work tirelessly to make sure SOPA is killed in the crib. These are going to be the new civil rights issues in the 21st century, and the high ground has not yet been taken. They are American issues, and their champion is already a winner before we know who they are.

    I encourage superdestroyer to focus on this sort of future. The preoccupation with the failed past clearly inspires only grumpiness, bearing false witness against his fellow citizens.

  37. superdestroyer says:

    @James in LA: @James in LA:

    Yes, it would be nice if the Republicans would discuss issue and discuss them from a consistent political position. However, if the Republicans are doing to sppport legalizing drugs, then they should also support the elimination of government funding for drug treatment and rehab. The idea that the government should organize the interent so that it benefits copyright holders in Hollywood is also foolish.

    However, the positions you are discussing would not affect one black, Hispanics Jewish, Asian, academic, or public sector employ voter. The issues you discussing are upper middle class white voter issues and could be used to attract some upper middle class voters. HOwever, allowing hippies to use all the drugs they want while fully funding government health care you alienate virtually every social conservative. In addition, legalizing drugs would also alienate all of the middle class married couple votes.

    In reality is that conservatives are a minority and any attempt to attract new voters will probably alienate more voters than it gets. However, as long as the Democrats have $3.5 trillion dollars of government money to spread around, they will always have more people supporting the left than the right.

  38. superdestroyer says:

    Let’s see if we can find a current example or two: The state of NC is both racially diverse and possessed of two highly-competitive parties. Ditto VA. Ditto Florida. Ditto Ohio. Lots of brown and lots of politics.

    North Carolina is 21% black. If North Carolina was 30% black like Maryland, it would be just as blue as Maryland no matter what the conservative whites in the state did. Given the increasing Hispanic population in North Carolina it will eventually be a blue state. Florida is also destine to be a blue state due to the growing Hispanic population and the resent of Cubans by all other Hispanics. Ohio is 85% white as is a state where Republicans can hang on for a while. However as the private sector shrinks, there will be fewer people interested in conservative politics and when conservative realize that they are irrelevant, they will eventually start voting in the Democratic primary just like moderate whites do in Mass.

    Diverse but Democratic? California. (Although: Reagan.)

    California is lost to the Republicans forever. Even the total number of whites is doing down and that is abouting all of the Iranians and Armenians as white and they have zero interest in conservative politics.

    Let’s flip it and see whether we can find an all-white state that is essentially single party but Democratic: Vermont.

    You should also include Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachuetts, Oregon, and Washington. There are many cities where the Democrats dominate and there are over 100 Congressional districts where the Democrats get 70% or more of the vote. The Republicans just do not have the same margins even in states that are red.

    All white Republican? Alaska, Montana.

    Montana has a Democartic governor and Senator. Not exactly an all Republican state. I think you meant Idaho.

    In the long run no conservatrive party can survive in a country where less than 50% of the population is white and the government still has affirmative action and racial set asides. No matter what the Republicans or any conservative say, the Democrats message of taxing the gringos and giving them the money will carry all of the non-white voters in the U.S.

  39. michael reynolds says:

    Actually, we have morons like you to thank. Yep, we’re going to kick your butts. Thanks to people like you. Thank you for alienating culturally conservative African-Americans and Hispanics. Keep up the good work.

  40. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You did not answer the question of how can any conservative be seen as not alienating blacks and Hispanics when blacks and Hispanics demand that the government tax whites and give them the money. Look at the websites for the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Virtually every position is about delivering government goodies to either blacks or Hispanics.

    There is nothing that any conservative can do to appeal to the two most liberal groups in the U.S. The only question is what is the impact of the U.S. becoming a one party state with the Democratic Party fully in charge. Will the Democrats be more moderate when all of the former Republicans start to vote in the Democratic primary or will be government go to the left since incumbents will not have to worry about re-election and poltics will be about entitlement spending and government goodies.

  41. An Interested Party says:

    You did not answer the question of how can any conservative be seen as not alienating blacks and Hispanics when blacks and Hispanics demand that the government tax whites and give them the money.

    You really expect anyone to answer a question based on lies? You really think that the only reason that Hispanics and blacks overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party is simply because both groups are promised goodies at the expense of white people? You yourself prove why those groups don’t support the GOP…

  42. superdestroyer says:

    @An Interested Party: @An Interested Party:

    Hispanics say that they vote their economic interest. The democrats met the economic interest of Hispanics by support affirmative action, quotas set asides, and other forms of separate and unequal.

    No conservative party will be able to ever outpander the Democratic party for the votes of Hispanics. No matter how high unemployment goes, no matter how lousy a neighborhood gets, Hispanics will remain very loyal voters to the Democratic Party. Just look at the websites of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus or the Congressional Black Caucus. Lots of talk about government programs and benefits. Little talk about economic growth, growing the private sector, or low taxes.

  43. Jeremy says:

    Sure the evangelicals picked McCain over Paul 2008. Romney aint McCain. Romney`s a Mormon at the end of the day. No bible thumping evangelicals will let Romney win South Carolina. More evangelical women than men vote in the SC primary, No way they will let Gingrich the adulterer win the win. Romney, Paul and Gingrich are the only ones with SC organization. Paul`s not a adulterer and Paul`s not a Mormon. As long as Paul`s had a consistent record on the 2nd amendment and Pro life, SC will be a piece of cake. December 31st 2007, Jon McCain was in 4th place with 13% SC real clear politics average. 19 days later McCain won SC with 33% of the vote. Wow SC polls are reliable. Those evangelicals are going to love Dr Paul`s pro life commercial, They will highlight how he delivered 4,000 babies.

  44. I support Ron Paul says:

    I do hope that independent voters come out and vote for Ron Paul both in NH & SC. The thing that I like most about Ron Paul is his limited government message. In any type of society, be it capitalist, communist, socialist, monarchist, democratic etc corrupt people are always attracted to institutions of power. In democracy, government is obviously the center of power. If the power of government is restricted the impact that corrupt people in the governments have on society is restricted. If we dont restrict the size & power of government the day wont be too long when the US will start looking more like a third world country. And Ron Paul is the only one who has any concrete plans