To listen to Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s speech after placing a strong second in the New Hampshire primary you would have thought that he had just won the contest. Filled with his usual attacks on the Federal Reserve, Military/Industrial Complex, the bloated federal government, and an ever expanding police state, Dr. Paul’s speech was also an inspiring rallying cry for his ever growing base of fervent supporters. In many ways he did win the New Hampshire primary. He tripled his vote total from four years ago. He finished a strong, undisputed second behind a candidate with home field advantage and tons of Wall Street cash. He also proved wrong the naysayers who have been preaching for months that he is unelectable. Most importantly, the New Hampshire primary results have made the race for the GOP nomination for president a two man contest between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
Look at the facts so far in this race. Ron Paul is the only other candidate besides Mitt Romney to do well with two totally different bodies of voters. In Iowa, both men garnered support from evangelical and socially conservative voters, and in New Hampshire, from more socially moderate and fiscally conservative voters. For his part, Paul got the most support from disaffected Democrats and independents of any Republican running. This trend bodes well for him since as many as 13 states hold open primaries and caucuses where his support outside of his own party will be a distinct advantage in those states. Overall, in the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, Dr. Paul has collected 25,000 more votes than his nearest competitor, Rick Santorum.
In addition to broad support, financial backing also differentiates candidates from one another. The Paul campaign reported that it raised $13 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. The only Republican candidate to raise more was Mitt Romney. The sum Paul has collected in donations has allowed him not only to purchase air time in South Carolina, but to jump ahead and spend money on direct mail in Louisiana, Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Washington, and North Dakota. Additionally, a pro-Paul Super PAC, Revolution PAC, plans to spend millions more on the congressman’s quest for the presidency. And recently the Santa Rita Super PAC, which was just created on January 4, bought over $300,000 worth of ad time promoting Paul’s candidacy in South Carolina .
Then there are the recent poll results. A CBS News poll released a day before the New Hampshire primary found Romney and Paul to be the strongest Republican contenders against President Obama. Romney leads the president 47 to 45 percent while Paul trails Obama by 45 to 46 percent. But even more important to the moment, an American Research Group poll conducted over the last two days indicates that Congressman Paul is getting a massive bump from his strong showing in New Hampshire. The good folks of the Palmetto state are now paying attention to the race because their turn to vote is coming up quickly. In less than one week Paul’s support in South Carolina has risen from 9 to 20 percent, placing him third in that race.
To be sure, the campaign for the presidency is a long, drawn out affair. Staying power is essential. After South Carolina, lower tier Republican candidates will begin to drop out or become irrelevant. Two things will happen: their supporters’ votes and money will need a new candidate, and all media attention will focus on Romney and Paul. Given Paul’s appeal to a broad base of voters, and conservatives’ mistrust of Mitt Romney, I like the Texas Congressman’s chances. In fact, it is highly probable that he will deliver
many more inspiring, rallying cries for his ever growing base of fervent supporters.