What If Ron Paul Wins Iowa?

A lot of scenarios have been conjured up for how Mitt Romney loses the GOP nomination. Too many of them have been based on swings in national polls of GOP voters. If we have learned nothing, I hope we have learned that national polls are virtually meaningless in presidential primaries and results in Iowa and New Hampshire, because they are first in the nation, have outsized importance (corn ethanol in your gasoline did not happen by accident.)

With these central political horserace handicapping tenets in mind, whenever I see a writeup about swings in the GOP presidential race, my first question is always "what does it mean in Iowa?" My second question is "What does it mean in New Hampshire?" So now the news is Newt Gingrich is "surging" and my questions remain the same. Bloomberg has an Ann Selzer poll answering the question for Iowa:

Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are in a dead heat as the top choices for Iowans likely to attend the Jan. 3 Republican presidential caucuses. A Bloomberg News poll shows Cain at 20 percent, Paul at 19 percent, Romney at 18 percent and Gingrich at 17 percent among the likely attendees with the caucuses that start the nominating contests seven weeks away.

Some important points - the Republican "Iowa caucus" is not the ridiculous affair that Democrats stage where you have to stay all night. Here is a description:

In the Republican caucuses, each voter officially casts his or her vote by secret ballot. Voters are presented blank sheets of paper with no candidate names on them. After listening to some campaigning for each candidate by caucus participants, they write their choices down and the Republican Party of Iowa tabulates the results at each precinct and transmits them to the media. [. . .] The non-binding results are tabulated and reported to the state party, which releases the results to the media. Delegates from the precinct caucuses go on to the county conventions, which choose delegates to the district conventions, which in turn selects delegates to the Iowa State Convention. Thus it is the Republican Iowa State Convention, not the precinct caucuses, which select the ultimate delegates from Iowa to the Republican National Convention. All delegates are officially unbound from the results of the precinct caucus, although media organizations either estimate delegate numbers by estimating county convention results or simply divide them proportionally.

As you can see, the Iowa GOP caucus does not actually select any delegates to the GOP convention. But even if it did, the number of delegates at stake is miniscule. But the media reports the results. And at this stage, that is what matters.

Which brings me to my title question - "What If Ron Paul Wins Iowa?" It would be an interesting event to say the least. But I think the Media would do its best to make it meaningless. You'll notice that the Media has never given Ron Paul his turn in the sun, no matter what his polling.

In some ways, that approach is defensible. Ron Paul is almost certainly not going to be the GOP nominee. But then again, neither is Herman Cain.

>Even now, it seems to me that the second favorite for the GOP nomination behind Romney is still Texas Governor Rick Perry. Strangely, Perry has not thrown himself into an all chips in Iowa strategy though his team must know that if Romney wins Iowa, the race is over.

In a month and a half, we may know who the GOP nominee will be as the results roll in from the Iowa caucuses the night of January 3, 2012. If Romney takes Iowa, the race will be over. If it is "Not Romney," then you have to consider who the "Not Romney" is. A Rick Perry win in Iowa could lock up the nomination for him.

Anybody else and unless Perry shows well in Iowa, I'm inclined to call ballgame for Romney.

Remember what comes after Iowa - New Hampshire where Romney will be strong. If Perry wins Iowa, he can survive a Romney win in New Hampshire, South Carolina follows and there is a general distaste for Romney in the GOP. Barring that, I'm not seeing a path for the Not Romney.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I think the better question is (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 01:17:29 PM EST
    what happens if John Hunstman wins NH

    Some subversive soul will run a peeled (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by oculus on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 02:24:49 PM EST
    onion under his nose til he "tears up."  

    Hopefully (none / 0) (#1)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 07:12:14 AM EST
    the media will give some attentino to his foreign, national security and civil liberties policy views.

    He is crazy on economics and social policy but any attention to his opposition to wars, torture, and foreign engagements 24/7 would be a weclomed addition to our politics.

    I've never (none / 0) (#2)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 07:32:59 AM EST
    understood the media blackout of Paul because in reality a lot of his ideas are no less crazy than someone like Michele Bachmann.

    I can well imagine Paul winning IA simply because he seems to have a devoted band of followers.

    HIs ideas on foreign policy, defense (none / 0) (#3)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 09:21:23 AM EST
    and civil liberties are sane.  Too sane to be taken seriously.

    Indeed... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by kdog on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 12:10:43 PM EST
    Saner than the Brand R and Brand D party lines combined on those important issues.

    We know what we get when we elect a D or R with the Military Industrial Drug War Prison Complex stamp of approval...call me crazy but in a Ron Paul v. Barack Obama two horse race my arse is voting for Paul...the bones we'd possibly get are much more appealing.

    But we know the GOP would never let him win the nomination no matter what the voters of Iowa or NH or anywhere else have to say...the majority of their paymasters would never stand for it.

    If Paul was serious about wanting to be president he should work to get on the ballot with the Libertarian Party or as an Indy.  Like his left wing pariah counterpart, Dennis Kuchinich, he must suffer from self-loating to be in the party he is in.


    I think he will run indy (none / 0) (#15)
    by BobTinKY on Wed Nov 16, 2011 at 03:23:02 PM EST
    he's getting old for this, last chance.  Ofc ourse the GOP could now take it out on his son & that may prevent him from running as an independent or Lib.

    I sitll wouldn't vote for him, or Obama.  Just don't see enough to get me to go out & vote for anyone.

    I am convinced if Obama gets the affirmation of re-election he will destroy whatever remains of the Democratic Party.


    The Republican caucuses in Iowa don't do a (none / 0) (#4)
    by Farmboy on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 09:38:45 AM EST
    very good job of predicting the eventual nominee. Out of the last 36 years where there was a contest (i.e., not in years where the Republican incumbent was running unopposed), the caucus goers picked the eventual nominee only three times. The other three times they missed. Also, only once out of all those contested years did anyone, nominee or not, get over 40% support. May as well go to the casino and drop your paycheck on red.

    Ron Paul, along with Gingrich and Cain, is seeing an uptick in the polls because of the "anybody but Romney" pushback in the party. None of these three are viable nominees. If Paul does win the Iowa Republican caucus, the only outcome will be to further lower the accuracy of the caucus as a predictor of the eventual nominee.

    Kind of silly analysis there (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 10:13:14 AM EST
    Only 50% of the winners of the Iowa caucus won the nomination???? Wow.

    Now add the winners of New Hampshire.

    So either win Iowa or New Hampshire or you do not win the nomination right?


    Wrong. The criticisms that you and others (none / 0) (#6)
    by Farmboy on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 11:46:03 AM EST
    in the media make about the "outsized importance" placed on the Iowa caucuses are based on the assumption that the Iowa caucus goers are picking the nominee before anyone else gets a chance. The facts show that only three times in the last 36 years, when there are multiple Republican candidates, has the winner of the Iowa caucuses gone on to win the nomination. And one of those three was when Ford as an incumbent was challenged by Reagan. That's some pretty weak preempting of the selection process.

    It isn't the "first in the nation" status that draws the circus to town; it's that the circus follows the media. If the news media would ignore flyover land, like everyone else on the coast does for three out of every four years, so would the candidates. Or do you honestly believe that someone like Romney or Gingrich is really that into what some hick in the heartland thinks?


    Only 50% of Iowa caucs winners (none / 0) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 04:50:40 PM EST
    get the nomination.

    Only 1200% of candidates who win neither Iowa or New Hampshire get the nomination.

    You're right, nothing preemptive there.

    Sheesh. You really are being foolish here.


    1200% of candidates who win neither Iowa or (none / 0) (#14)
    by Farmboy on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 06:25:53 PM EST
    New Hampshire get the nomination? For nothing, my advice is to stick to law. Math may not be your friend.

    Just looking at years like this one, where the GOP doesn't have an incumbent in the race (80, 88, 96, 00, 08), the winner of the Iowa GOP caucus has gone on to the win the nomination twice. That's two out of five times, or 40%. That's not very good accuracy in predicting the eventual nominee.

    In those same years the winner of the New Hampshire primary has gone on to win the nomination three out of five times, or 60%. While better than Iowa's results, it's still a failing grade. Only once in those five contests has a candidate won in both Iowa and New Hampshire, Bush Sr. in 88, and as we know he did go on to be the nominee. So while it could honestly be said that winning both states guarantees the nomination, you can't validly plot a line using just one data point.

    That's why, despite the media and the circus, there just isn't enough data in those five previous GOP primary seasons that resemble this year to draw any sort of valid statistical conclusion.


    if John Hunstman wins NH (none / 0) (#9)
    by NYShooter on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 01:55:24 PM EST
    That would give us two "firsts:"

    First first.....it would be the first time a candidate scoring 1% of the voters wins a primary


    Second first.....it would be the first time Iowa voted for a candidate who spoke in grammatically correct sentences.

    I haven't lived in Iowa for quite a while now (none / 0) (#12)
    by Gisleson on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 05:09:40 PM EST
    but there's nothing ridiculous about making people who want to vote stay for the whole caucus (and that's not true every year but again, I haven't lived there in a while).

    The Iowa Caucuses exist so the two major parties can identify and organize their most motivated supporters. The national press corps has sensationalized the presidential aspect to a ridiculous and absurd degree and yes, the parties have used that for fundraising purposes.

    Caucuses work very well in rural states. They're not for everyone, but they've served Iowa very well. Despite having only one-third of the state's registered voters, the Democrats hold their own thanks to the Caucus system giving them a new supply of volunteers every two years (people who show up in non-presidential years are very motivated and make great party workers).

    Running scared (none / 0) (#13)
    by diogenes on Tue Nov 15, 2011 at 06:22:40 PM EST
    I guess Mitt Romney really scares the Democrats if they're drumming up momentum for Ron Paul to win in Iowa.